Variety is the spice of life.

And when it comes to consuming medical cannabis, there’s a variety of ways you can do so.

Smoking, vaping, oil, edibles, topicals — how do you choose?

Out of them all, no consumption method has risen in popularity faster than cannabis oil.

It makes sense, given how many benefits cannabis oil has, from its versatility to its effectiveness.

But how does it stack up versus flower? How are the effects from cannabis oil different than dried bud? What’s the cost difference?

That’s exactly what we’re going to dive in to — from differences in how long it takes to start feeling effects to how long the effects last, and more.

Which cannabis oil are we referring to?

Before we dive deep into this post, it’s important to clarify what kind of cannabis oil we’re talking about.

Sure, there are all kinds of ways you can make cannabis oil on your own, as well as concentrates.

But when we mention cannabis oil, we’re referring to the kind you specifically can’t make at home.

As in, the ultra-potent kind that’s made via medical-grade extraction methods and subject to strict testing.

(For much more about this, check out: What is Cannabis Oil?)

With that cleared up, there’s one last tidbit worth mentioning.

Since we’ll be comparing the effects from oil and flower, we’ll be using vaporizing as the consumption method of choice for dried bud, not smoking.

Graphic Illustration of Cannabis oil consumption

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.

Additionally, you may want to enjoy the recreational or medicinal benefits of cannabis without being seen smoking it.

These health and social factors have caused users and manufacturers to adopt different ways of consuming cannabis.

Which is also why, for this article we’re focusing on vaporizing for dried cannabis and oral (or sublingual) consumption for cannabis oil.

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 ailments such as 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, for example.

Any of these methods are considered healthier alternatives to smoking cannabis.

Of course, the consumption method you choose depends on your personal preference, as well as your specific treatment plan if you’re a medical user.

So, how do you consume cannabis oil?

Graphic Illustration of cannabis smoothies and edibles

One of the biggest benefits to cannabis oil is its versatility.

You can add it to your salad dressing, mix into juice or a smoothie, bake it into a dessert, or cook with it — it’s really up to you!

But did you know that you can just consume cannabis oil by itself?

Simple and straightforward, you simply use a dropper or syringe (usually provided when you buy the oil) to drop some under your tongue.

This is known as sublingual administration, where you let the oil sit under your tongue and it absorbs quickly through the glands under your lingual nerve.

Cool, right?

Once you’ve let the oil sit for a few seconds, you swallow the rest either through your saliva or by drinking something.

You’ll find that cannabis oil doesn’t taste like you’d think — it either has a pleasant, mild taste or none at all.

So how many drops of oil should you be putting under your tongue?

That depends on the what type of cannabis oil you buy, along with some 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 dose until you achieve your desired effects.

"Start Low, Go Slow"

How does cannabis oil make dosing and usage easier?

You might be using cannabis for medical reasons, enjoying recreationally, or both.

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 medical-grade cannabis oil — you know the exact amount of CBD and THC it contains.

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.

For a full look at calculating your dose, check out our cannabis oil dosage “how-to” guide.

This makes buying your cannabis oil a rather convenient option. Cannabis oil bought from licensed producers is lab-tested and regulated, which means that the cannabinoid percentages you see on the label will always be what’s found inside the 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.

What is a vaporizer?

Graphic Illustration of Vaporizers

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”.

Keep in mind that we’re talking about dry herb vaporizers — you shouldn’t use medical cannabis oil in your vape, otherwise it’ll break!

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

Graphic Illustration of the effects of dried vs cannabis oil

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.

  1. How long does it take for the effects of cannabis to kick in when you vape?
  2. How long does it take for the effects of cannabis to kick in when you consume it orally?
  3. How long do the effects of cannabis last when you take it by vaping?
  4. 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?

Graphic Illustration of a Clock

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.

Why?

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 isn’t 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

Graphic Illustration of the future of Cannabis

No matter what your treatment needs or personal preferences are, your future is full of options.

With cannabis now being legal across the country in Canada, things are only beginning.

So whether you vape or smoke, use cannabis oil, or do a combination of the two, we hope this guide has armed you with enough knowledge to help you make the best decision for your circumstances.