Marijuana big business: legalization bridges divides between business and consumer
When it comes to using marijuana, there are many and varied ways of ingesting the cannabis plant itself, or various forms of the plant, which can affect the experience and benefits of consuming cannabis. Some methods are more popular than others, such as smoking, because of the ease or speed with which you can achieve a high. Other methods, like eating cannabis-infused foods or using a marijuana vaporizer, may be more or less popular because of their associated costs—preparation time, expensive apparatus, or varied quality of the high.
Each of the methods for using marijuana is worth considering. Differing methods will often affect the onset, intensity, and duration of your high. So, in order to make the best decision possible, you will want to be well informed. There are three main categories of cannabis consumption: inhalation, oral ingestion, and topical application.
Inhalation is the fastest way of ingesting marijuana—achieved when it is breathed in as smoke or vapor and held inside the lungs. Then the THC and marijuana’s other chemical compounds are absorbed into the bloodstream.
Smoking is the oldest, most traditional method for consuming cannabis. The first marijuana smoking pipes were discovered in Africa and date back to around 400 CE. Dried cannabis (the flower and leaves of the plant, also called the “bud”) is burned and breathed into the lungs. Hash, kief, and marijuana wax (a highly potent marijuana concentrate) can also be smoked. Depending on a patient’s individual tolerance and the potency of the cannabis used, marijuana’s effects can last between an hour and half to about 4 hours, though sometimes longer.
Is there a best way to smoke weed? Well, no, usually it comes down to personal preference. Some people like joints, others like fancy, intricate glasswork bongs and bubblers, and still others would rather test their construction skills and smoke their cannabis out of an apple. That is to say, there are many ways to smoke weed and not one in particular is superior over the rest.
However, depending on your budget, if you’re in a hurry or on the go, or happen to be an especially hands-on type of person, you might find that you gravitate toward one method over another.
This is a popular, iconic method of smoking marijuana. Portrayed in film, people who smoke cannabis are often smoking joints, whether it’s Cheech & Chong, Harold & Kumar, or movies like Half-Baked and Pineapple Express. Dried cannabis is broken up with the fingers or made even finer by using a marijuana grinder, then sprinkled into a rolling paper for a joint, or into a blunt, which is made from cannabis rolled into a cigar emptied of tobacco.
Variations on joints use homemade filters, constructed by tearing off a small strip of business card, notecard or packaging for hand-rolled cigarette papers. The strip, either folded or rolled between thumb and forefinger, acts as a mouthpiece and prevents small bits of cannabis from entering the mouth on the draw/inhale.
Another type of joint is the spliff, sometimes prepared with cannabis and tobacco—though this type of preparation is more prevalent in European countries.
Also known as bowls or regular old hand pipes, smoking pipes are one of the most common ways to smoke weed today. And it is easy to see why: they are portable and easy to use. Most hand pipes fit comfortably into your pocket. Some can even be made to resemble everyday objects for concealment purposes, like fake tobacco cigarettes. Other bowls are disguised as pens, highlighters, bracelets, and even lipstick cases. More recognizable bowls come in a wide variety of styles, shapes and colors.
Water pipes pass the marijuana smoke through water before it is taken into the lungs. Bongs have a huge range of style, shape and especially size, from handheld devices to serious instalments, glass-blown artwork, that might sit as table centrepieces or take over whole corners of a room.
As with any form of smoking marijuana (including those already mentioned), there are legitimate health concerns over inhaling toxins, tar and carcinogens, into your lungs. These toxins are formed in the process of burning, and essentially scorching, the cannabis in order to release the THC, CBD and other cannabinoids.
The health benefits of using a water pipe over conventional smoking methods—joints and bowls—are disputed. Though water does cool the smoke, harmful toxins still enter the lungs. Some studies have indicated that water does a better job of filtering out THC than tar.
DIY Smoking Methods, or do-it-yourself, are usually limited to one-time use and will push your creativity. Homemade devices can be designed as traditional smoking pipes or water pipes. Health effects vary depending on which materials are used. For example, a pipe made from plastic or aluminum is likely to have higher associated health risks than a pipe made from organic material such as fruits and vegetables.
Marijuana vaporizers are the healthiest method of inhaling cannabis. Marijuana is placed inside the vaporizer and heated hot enough to release the THC and other chemicals, then is inhaled. The temperature reached is not so hot that the plant material will burn—thus no harmful toxins or tar.
Vaporizers come in an even wider range of size and portability (and expense) than other smoking devices, due to the growing size and demand of a health-conscious market and advanced technology required for developing the product. Marijuana vaporizers can also be used to consume marijuana concentrates, like marijuana wax or oil.
Hashish, or hash, is a compressed and purified pasty substance made from heating and concentrating the original cannabis flower. Sometimes it can be distilled into hashish oil. Hash varies in quality and concentration, either smoked or vaporized depending on its form.
Orally ingestible marijuana can be absorbed through the digestive system, as with marijuana edibles and beverages, or directly into the bloodstream. The latter absorption route still starts with the mouth, though by placing the appropriate dosage beneath the tongue (as with tinctures and some oils).
Potency is definitely something you’ll want to remember when using marijuana edibles or tinctures; keep it in mind whenever you orally consume marijuana. Especially the first time you use a product or make your own, you’ll want to be careful to measure amounts and follow any instructions or recommendations for dosage.
Unlike smoking or vaporizing marijuana, the effect is not immediate, and so it can be difficult to gauge what is “enough” or when to stop. Sometimes, depending on if you’ve eaten or not, or the strength and bioavailability of the cannabis, it can take up to an hour or more to feel the effect.
Check out our delicious Medical Marijuana Recipes!
Marijuana edibles are made by infusing butter or oil with cannabis first, then using the cannabis-infused ingredient in the recipe as normally called for. THC in marijuana is fat-soluble (alcohol of at least 80 proof is also a strong THC solvent), so by cooking the marijuana bud or flower in butter, vegetable oil or olive oil, you can release THC and other cannabinoids from the plant. This is called making the THC bioavailable.
Lots of people want to know how to make brownies; the same process for pot brownies can be followed for muffins and cakes, as well as more savoury foods—just as long as the recipe calls for marijuana butter or oil as an ingredient. Where it is legal, commercialized marijuana growers have developed extensive product lines of cannabis edibles that include chocolates and candies, baked goods, ice cream and beverages.
Marijuana oils can also be directly ingested in a liquid or solidified form. Where permissible by law, marijuana extract or medicinal marijuana oil capsules are available.
Is there such a thing as liquid marijuana? Not quite, but this comes close. Tinctures are a kind of medicinal cannabis concentrate, often with alcohol as the solvent. Tinctures are applied with a dropper underneath the tongue and absorbed directly into the bloodstream. Tonics are drunk and absorbed through the digestive system. Tonics can also be infused with other herbs, spices or fruits to enhance the taste.
Topically applied cannabis comes in the form of lotions, creams, balms, oils and sprays. Applied to the skin and rubbed into the muscles, it is used for relief from muscle soreness, arthritis, joint pain, spasms, painful skin conditions, and migraines. While topically applied marijuana does result in pain relief, it does not cause the same effects on a person’s mind as other methods of marijuana use. In other words, it’s great for people who need the pain relief but don’t want the usual high.
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