Exploring Different Consumption Methods for Cannabis
September 9, 2020

Just as there are countless strains of cannabis, there are many ways to ingest the plant for its effects.

The effectiveness of cannabis can vary greatly depending on how it’s consumed. So, getting the right amount of marijuana for the effect you’re looking for can be tricky to master in the early stages of your cannabis journey.

Differences in the way cannabis is consumed can make a big difference in what’s called its bioavailability (how quickly and efficiently cannabinoids can become available to the body).

Below, we’ve outlined some of the most popular ways to consume your medicine, along with their pros and cons.

Smoking and Vaping

When most people think about marijuana, we’re sure a lot of them conjure up an image of smoking, whether it’s with blunts, joints, pipes, or bongs.

Smoking and vaping cannabis are among the fastest ways to feel the effects of THC and CBD. When you inhale the cannabis, you bring the cannabinoid molecules directly into the capillaries in your lungs, where they then enter the bloodstream. Smoking also has a high bioavailability percentage: between 34% – 56%.

Onset: Within seconds of inhalation.

Duration: Effects will generally peak within thirty minutes and diminish anywhere from 1-3 hours.

Pros: More control over how much a user is consuming. A portable option for consumers.

Cons: The smoke generated from burning papers and lighter fluid chemicals may contain carcinogenic compounds. Users with compromised immune systems or lung problems should consider other methods of cannabis.


Oral consumption of cannabinoids is a great way to consume for those looking for an alternative to inhalation, but the bioavailability of the cannabinoids ingested is much lower. When cannabinoids enter your digestive system, a large percentage of the cannabis in an edible is destroyed in the journey, or simply excreted. This makes the average bioavailability of marijuana edibles around 4–12%.

Onset: Fifteen minutes to two hours.

Duration: Roughly 4-6 hours, though unusually high doses can result in effects lasting over 24 hours.

Pros: Effects last longer than other forms of cannabis use. One the most discreet and convenient forms of consumption. Diverse variety of options available.

Cons: Edibles are not ideal for users who need immediate relief as the effects take longer to onset. Difficulty determining how much cannabis you’re actually consuming, and due to the delay in onset time, some users may be tempted to make more than necessary.


Cannabis tinctures are absorbed sublingually, or under the tongue. The difference in absorption compared to edibles is that instead of getting absorbed through the digestive system, tincture drops are absorbed through the mucous membranes under your tongue. This area is dense with capillaries, which provides a direct route for cannabis to enter your bloodstream.

Onset: The onset of alcohol-based tinctures is faster than edibles- but not as rapid as inhalation methods. Full effects are usually felt within 20-30 minutes.

Duration: Frequent users may find that effects last for a couple of hours, whereas infrequent cannabis users may feel the effects for several hours.  

Pros: Some formulas have concentrations of less available cannabinoids like THCV and CBN. Very discreet, with no odor.

Cons: Tinctures are commonly formulated with alcohol, which may not be desirable for some users. Light, heat and oxygen will degrade the THC content, so bottles must be opaque and tightly sealed.

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Medical decisions should not be made based on advertising. Consult a physician on the benefits and risks of particular medical marijuana products.