Variety is the spice of life.
Attitudes and laws around cannabis are changing, and the market is certainly responding. Today, there are several delivery methods available and the technology for cannabis consumption is only growing more sophisticated.
One thing many cannabis users look for is an alternative to smoking.
Contrary to popular belief, cannabis isn’t something that has to be smoked. There are several options available.
You can use cannabis orally, sublingually (under the tongue), topically, and yes, you can even inhale it without smoking it.
What’s so wrong with smoking cannabis?
Yes, smoking cannabis doesn’t carry the same carcinogenic risks as smoking tobacco. That said, there still are potentially harmful byproducts produced by smoking anything, period.
There’s also a social stigma. Someone may want to enjoy the recreational or medicinal benefits of cannabis without being seen smoking it. They may also want to avoid the smell.
Both of these factors – health and social – have caused users and manufacturers to adopt different ways of consuming cannabis.
In this article, we’ll focus on the methods for using cannabis oils (oral or sublingual) and dried cannabis (vaporizing).
The method you use depends on your preference. Any of these methods are considered healthier than smoking.
For medicinal users, it also depends on their specific treatment plan. This is because the speed with which the effects are felt and the duration of the relief provided varies.
While using a vaporizer helps you feel the effects faster, it wears off sooner. This makes a vaporizer useful for people who need fast-acting treatment for issues like spasticity.
Alternatively, it takes the body more time to process ingested cannabis, but the effects last much longer. This makes orally-administered cannabis useful for people who need long-lasting relief to treat insomnia or persistent pain.
How to Consume Cannabis Oil vs. Dried Cannabis
There are several ways to consume cannabis. For the purposes of this article, we’ll be focusing on cannabis oil drops and vaporizers for dried cannabis.
What is cannabis oil?
Cannabis oil is versatile. Consumers can blend it into smoothies, mix them into juices, and bake or cook with them. Not only is cannabis oil a handy alternative to smoking cannabis, it’s a healthier alternative as well.
Users can buy cannabis oil from a licensed producer.
How does cannabis oil make dosing and usage easier?
Everyone’s reasons for using cannabis are different. Some use it recreationally, some use it medicinally, and some use it as both. Just like any other product, you want to know that you are getting value for money. Moreover, you want to know that you are getting the right utility out of a product.
In the case of cannabis, its utility is its effects. Whether you want its mood-changing or therapeutic effects, consistency is important. Taking cannabis is much easier and efficient if you know that x amount of cannabis will provide y amount of relief each and every time.
You can’t find this kind of precision with dried cannabis. While you can certainly buy the same amount of a particular strain on a regular basis, consuming an exact amount through smoking or vaping is quite difficult.
This isn’t the case with cannabis oil. You know the exact amount of CBD and THC found in the oil. So while it may take some time to figure out what the right amount is, you’ll be able to consistently purchase and consume that amount once you know it.
This makes buying your cannabis oil a rather convenient option. Store bought cannabis oil is lab-tested, and you see exactly how many miligrams of your chosen cannabinoid is present per millimetre of oil.
For example, if you were looking at a CBD oil online it would have something like, “200mg CBD per 30mL” written in the product description, so you know exactly how much you’re getting for your money.
How do you consume cannabis oil?
Consuming cannabis oil directly (not by cooking it in your food) is very simple and straightforward. You simply use a dropper or syringe to drop some under your tongue.
This is known as sublingual administration. You don’t swallow it. Instead, you leave it there to be absorbed.
Even so, cannabis oil can be mixed into juice or salad dressing, baked in dessertsbrownies, or cooked in a savory dish. It’s up to the user.
Keep in mind that determining just how much of the oil you need to take daily takes a bit of experimentation.
Through the process of trial and error, you take 1mL of oil under the tongue and see if it gives you the desired effect. If it doesn’t, you raise your dosage by a millimetre each day until you get to where you need to be.
What is a vaporizer?
Using cannabis oil is not the only alternative to smoking cannabis. Vaporizers offer another way to consume cannabis. They offer a social element as well since users can choose a stationary vaporizer that allows for group “vape sessions”.
Vaporizing cannabis means heating it up just before its combustion point. So that process of decarboxylation we discussed earlier happens by design.
A vaporizer heats up cannabis just enough to release the necessary cannabinoids without exposing the consumer to the harmful byproducts that come from smoking it.
Vaporizers use either dried cannabis or cannabis concentrates depending on the specific technology. A vaporizer heats the cannabis using one of two methods: conductive heating or convective heating.
Vaporizers that use conduction heat a metal surface electronically. That heat goes into the chamber and converts the cannabinoid into vapor.
Alternatively, a vaporizer that uses convection uses a fan to move the hot air to the dried cannabis or concentrated cannabis in order to convert the cannabinoids into vapor.
Convection prevents burning the cannabis, so it is the preferred method. Portable pen vaporizers usually use conduction while the pricier, stationary models use convection.
There are three main types of vaporizers:
- Stationary vaporizers
- Portable vaporizers
- Pen vaporizers
Comparing The Effects of Cannabis Oil vs. Dried Cannabis
Rather than comparing these two forms of cannabis, it makes more sense to compare the effects of the two delivery methods – using a vaporizer versus consuming cannabis orally.
This is because it’s the delivery method of cannabis – and not cannabis’s particular form – that determines how quickly it kicks in and how long it lasts.
With that in mind, there are four questions to ask.
- How long does it take for the effects of cannabis to kick in when you vape?
- How long does it take for the effects of cannabis to kick in when you consume it orally?
- How long do the effects of cannabis last when you take it by vaping?
- How long do the effects of cannabis last when you take it orally?
How long does it take for the effects to kick in when you vape vs. consume cannabis orally?
The Short, Anecdotal Explanation
The simple answer is:
- When you vape (inhale) cannabis, you feel the effects quicker, so it’s preferred for fast-acting relief
- When you consume cannabis, it takes a bit longer to feel the effects, so it’s preferred for long-lasting relief
Anecdotally, people report that they feel the effects of vaping within 15 minutes.
As for oral consumption through your food, which includes cannabis oil, people typically report feeling the effects after an hour.
For a better idea of why this is the case, you’ll need to spend some time learning a few things about the body’s physiology.
The Longer, Scientific Explanation
When you inhale cannabis, the effects are felt quicker because of the physiology of the lungs. Your lungs contain millions of alveoli that are surrounded by capillaries (tiny blood vessels). The inhaled cannabinoids pass from the alveoli to the capillaries, thereby entering your bloodstream and hitting the central nervous system.
On the flip side, ingested cannabinoids do not enter the bloodstream so quickly, but this method gives you additional bang for your buck. Here’s why.
When you ingest cannabis, it takes a totally different path than it does when it’s inhaled. It makes a stop at your liver before it enters the bloodstream.
There’s a longer journey for ingested cannabis, and it makes a pitstop along the way.
How long do the effects last when you vape vs. consume cannabis orally?
The Short, Anecdotal Explanation
The simple answer is:
- When you vape (inhale) cannabis, the effects don’t last too long
- When you consume cannabis, the effects last for several hours
Anecdotally, people report feeling that the effects they feel from vaping dried cannabis last for about an hour. They report feeling the effects for eight hours via oral consumption.
As you can imagine, people tend to use vaporizers for quick relief while they take cannabis orally for long-lasting relief.
But this is far from scientific. To understand how exactly different methods of administering cannabis affect the body, we’ll have to dig a little deeper.
The Longer, Scientific Explanation
Recall from earlier that our capillary-rich lungs expedite the cannabinoid journey when cannabis is ingested. It moves straight from the lungs to the bloodstream thanks to our alveoli.
On the other hand, ingested cannabis takes a much more circuitous route by paying a visit to the liver before it enters the bloodstream.
This takes time. But as they say, good things come to those who wait.
You feel the effects (whether it’s medicinal or recreational) when the cannabinoids hit your liver and when they enter your bloodstream. This is why ingested cannabis has a longer lasting effect. You get double the bang for your buck.
There’s an important distinction to make though. Just because it takes longer to feel the effects of ingested cannabis oil, doesn’t mean it takes longer to feel the effects of cannabis oil, period.
Remember: It’s all about the method.
What do we mean by this?
Let’s say Marcus takes a few drops of cannabis oil with his soup (ingestion), and Susan takes a few drops sublingually (under the tongue).
Susan should feel the effects sooner than Marcus.
Cannabis oil taken under the tongue is absorbed, not ingested. The mucous membrane beneath the tongue allows for rapid absorption.
That said, sublingual application is not the best method for sustained delivery. In other words, if you are using cannabis for some kind of long-term treatment (i.e. to address trouble sleeping, to manage chronic pain), an oral option like an edible is probably the best choice.
It’s extremely important for cannabis users to understand the difference between the onset and duration of cannabinoid effects after vaping versus the onset and duration of cannabinoid effects after consuming cannabis oil.
A person who’s only ever smoked or vaped may not understand that it takes some time to feel the effects of ingested cannabis.
As a result, they run the risk of mistaking a longer onset of action for ineffectiveness and taking way more than they need.
By the time the cannabis starts hitting the bloodstream, the effects exceed the desired amount leading to a rather uncomfortable experience.
While cannabis is not considered lethal, overdoses can lead to extreme sedation, cognitive and motor impairment, vomiting, agitation, anxiety, and cardiac stress.
This is where a lot of misconceptions about cannabis oil and edibles arise. In the popular imagination, there’s a belief that edibles made with cannabis oil are too intense, strong, or volatile. In reality, it’s mostly a matter of dosage.
Purchasing your cannabis oil from a credible supplier is one way of familiarizing yourself with proper usage. You benefit from clear labelling, expert advice, and guidance when it comes to dosing.
The Future Is Full of Options
No matter what your treatment needs or personal preferences are, the future will be full of options.
At present, cannabis usage (with the exception of medicinal cannabis) is illegal in Canada. While the current federal government is aiming for legalization by July 2018, there’s still a long way to go.
That said, the tide in Canada and abroad is turning towards legalization.
Forward-thinking entrepreneurs are already planning the role they’ll play when this market opens up, and this means that the future will present even more options when it come to cannabis research, delivery methods, and technology.