For the uninitiated, taking on the wide world of cannabis can be an overwhelming feat. Entire university courses can be, and are, devoted to various cannabis-related topics. One could devote months simply trying to learn the lingo — street slang, scientific jar- gon, dispensary and head shop etiquette — an entire language completely foreign to outsiders. Most of our readers have military or law enforcement backgrounds; worlds where the use of cannabis is not only stigmatized as something only for lazy stoners and hippies, but is absolutely forbidden. If you’re reading this, we hope you’ve at least opened your mind to the possibility that canna- bis may be able to improve your life. Our goal in this monthly feature of HeroGrown Magazine is to help newcomers better under- stand the fundamentals of cannabis. This month we will start by exploring the various methods available for consuming cannabis.
Despite the endless array of unusual new products hitting shelves at dispensaries — sex lube and suppositories come to mind — delivering the cannabis into your body comes via three basic methods: inhalation, oral, and topical. Depending on several factors, including your unique medical conditions, tolerance level, or living situation, there are various subcategories to fit your needs.
When you think of smoking “grass,” one might picture a group of free-spirited travelers passing a joint around a camp fire, after all that’s how it’s been done for millennia. The combustion of cannabis turns its chemical components into a gas, which is inhaled into the lungs and absorbed into the bloodstream. This time-honored method was once the favorite of Willie Nelson because it’s simple, cheap, and has an undeniable old school charm. But as the singer told Uncut magazine, inhaling the smoke of unfiltered plant matter can be extremely harsh on your lungs, particularly if you’re not accustomed to inhaling any kind of smoke. “I enjoy smoking. But I use a vaporizer these days; they’re better for your voice and lungs. There’s no smoke and heat on it. Even though marijuana smoke is not as bad as cigarette smoke, any time you put any kind of smoke in your lungs it takes a toll of some kind,” Nelson explained. Taking that first toke has been a rite of passage for countless new cannabis users, but if you’re sporting virgin lungs, a vaporizer might be a less painful place to start. But for you inhaling purists, we now turn to inhalation delivery systems.
Rolling Papers — A joint, sometimes called a spliff, jay, or doobie, is a rolled marijuana cigarette. According to Leafly, “Joints are cannabis rolled in a paper, the composition of which varies across an assortment of plants including but not limited to hemp, bamboo, and rice.” Joints can often be found pre-rolled from dispensaries, referred to simply as ‘Prerolls.”
Blunts, they assert, are “cannabis rolled in cigar paper made from the tobacco plant and contain nicotine. Blunt consumers often prefer the flavor and combined effects of the nicotine and cannabis; however, the medical risks linked to nicotine deter most health-conscious cannabis consumers.”
Pipes — There are several types of pipes, but most fit into two categories: hand pipes and water pipes. Many glass pipes, often referred to as simply “glass,” are literally one-of-a-kind pieces of art; something vaporizers will never be able to compete with. And although portable flower vaporizers are improving, hand pipes are still generally much easier to use, more reliable, and far less expensive. Hand pipes are small, portable, and come in countless designs and varieties. Some are designed to be easily concealed or even made to look like everyday objects. Water pipes, the most popular being bongs and bubblers, are thought to provide health advantages over hand pipes by passing the smoke though water, cooling and filtering it — that’s the claim anyway. Smoking through a water pipe still has the potential to cause lung discomfort, so it may still be wise to start slow.
Vaporizers — The future of cannabis consumption undoubtedly belongs to vaporization, particularly in the form of vaporized concentrated cannabis. Vape cartridges are sold pre-loaded with oil and attach to your favorite battery (of course we would recommend the OpenVAPE HeroGrown line). Vape pens make consuming cannabis more convenient and discrete than ever before. According to Leafly, “A vaporizer steadily heats herbs to a temperature that is high enough to extract THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids, but the temperatures are too low for the potentially harmful toxins that are released during combustion.” This makes vaporizers the best choice for people wanting to eliminate many of the negative health effects of inhaling smoke. Although it can still cause a strong reaction, vapor is generally much more easily tolerated by the lungs. Vaporizers fall into two main categories – desktop and portable. Desktop models require a power outlet but are much more efficient at vaporizing flower (the dried buds of the cannabis plant).
As with any other type of product, prices and quality of vaporizers run the gamut. For home use with flower, the highly popular VOLCANO has long been considered the gold standard in vaporizers. However, with the VOLCANO hovering around $500, this humble correspondent is extremely content with the Arizer Extreme Q Vaporizer for under $200.
The oral administration of cannabis usually comes by way of ingestible oils, tinctures, and “edibles” — food and drinks infused with cannabis. Most people might assume the oral route refers only to the latter category of edibles, but tinctures present a very effective and convenient administration option for many medical cannabis patients as well. Tinctures are usually placed under the tongue, allowing for direct absorption into the bloodstream. Whereas edibles are processed by digestion, taking longer and producing markedly different results.
Tinctures have been used in traditional and holistic medicines for hundreds of years. Traditionally, alcohol is used to extract desirable constituents from plants and the resulting tonic is taken by mouth. Cannabis tinctures are no different. Cannabis flowers are soaked or gently heated in alcohol or glycerin to release their various chemical components into the liquid. When placed under the tongue, tinctures take affect quickly and allow for increased dosing control over edibles.
Ingestible Oils — According to Leafly, “Ingestible oils are a happy medium between edibles and concentrates: they are swallowed and digested like an infused product, but often have the consistency of oil.”
The most famous ingestible oil, Rick Simpson Oil (RSO), came to prominence after Simpson used concentrated cannabis to treat his skin cancer. Also known as Phoenix Tears, RSO is made by drawing out the therapeutic compounds of the plant with alcohol, leaving behind a tar-like oil after the solvent fully evaporates.
Wana Brands is one company leading the charge to make cannabis more patient friendly with their Wana Caps line of cannabis oil capsules. These products provide a gradual release of cannabinoids over 8-12 hours creating a more comfortable and even experience.
Edibles — It should first be noted that great care should be exercised when ingesting cannabis products, especially for beginners. When the body processes THC via the liver, the psychoactive effects are said to be up to 5 times greater than when inhaled. The effects also take significantly longer to notice, so new consumers often make the mistake of eating more before giving the original dose enough time to take affect. The over consumption of edibles has a tendency to create severe paranoia, so please dose carefully.
When HeroGrown’s founder first set out on his journey to quit opioids using edibles, he thankfully had his sons nearby to assure him he wasn’t dying and didn’t need to call 911. At that time, the cannabis industry was completely unregulated and an edible’s potency was impossible to gauge before trying it. Thankfully, edibles available in dispensaries today are tested and clearly labeled with their potency. It’s best to start with the smallest dose and work your way up. You can also try making edibles at home with your flower, shake, or even the leftover plant matter from your flower vaporizer. (Bonus tip: The effects of edibles often last much longer than other delivery methods. One method used to alleviate the uncomfortable feeling of being “too high” is chewing or smelling black pepper.)
According to Leafly, “Topical cannabis administration utilizes full cannabis extract — a thick oil that has been decarboxylated to activate cannabinoids. Once cannabinoids are activated, they can be absorbed through your skin.” Topicals don’t produce the typical “high” associated with cannabis and are great for localized pain relief. Marys Medicinals is a leader in topical cannabis with a wide assortment of products used for relief from aches and pains.