The Different Ways To Consume Cannabis
Cannabis 101

The Different Ways To Consume Cannabis

There’s no denying that smoking is the most popular method of consuming cannabis, and that’s probably not going to change. The thing is, not everyone enjoys smoking a joint or taking a hit from a bong. Good news, though. There are ways to consume cannabis other than just smoking. And hey­, if you are someone who enjoys smoking, that’s totally fine. There’s no right or wrong way to consume cannabis as long as you’re doing it responsibly.


fresh Cannabis joints

Like we said, smoking is the most popular method of consuming cannabis. You can smoke cannabis in a joint, pipe, or a bong. It all works the same once it gets inside your body. Cannabis needs to be decarboxylated (or heated up) in order for the active compounds to be effective. When you smoke cannabis, you’re burning the bud and activating these compounds. Odds are you’ll likely feel the effects within seconds to minutes. This is because your body absorbs the cannabinoids almost immediately into your bloodstream through the lungs. Could this be why smoking is so popular? We’re willing to guess yes.

Absorption: through the lungs

Onset times: second to minutes

Duration of effects: up to six hours (or longer depending on the person)


Vaping has become more popular, too. Though the cannabinoids are absorbed the same as if you smoked cannabis, the way you inhale them is a bit different. When you vape dried flower, the cannabis is heated to decarboxylate the active components, but the flower is NOT burned. The cannabinoids are then inhaled as a vapour rather than smoke, which can lower the exposure to combustion by-products you when inhale from smoking.

In addition to vaping dried flower, you can also consume cannabis with extract vapes. Extract vapes contain cannabis extract, which is where you’ll find the cannabinoids. The same idea happens here, where you inhale the vapour created by heating this extract. No matter which way you vape, the effects and onset times are the same.

Absorption: through the lungs

Onset times: seconds to minutes

Duration of effects: up to six hours (or longer depending on the person)


an illustration of edible cannabis products

Ingesting cannabis isn’t necessarily new. Everyone’s heard about (or experienced) unwanted reactions to a brownie their best friend’s cousin’s neighbour’s co-worker made in high school. However, ingesting cannabis doesn’t just mean edibles. There are a few types of ingestible products on the market right now, like oils, softgels, and chocolate. Then factor in that gummies, salt, and sugar are on their way– ingesting cannabis will no doubt become much more popular.

Whenever you ingest cannabis, no matter the method, it needs to travel through your digestive system where the cannabinoids get processed by your gut and liver. This can take a little bit of time, so you probably won’t start to feel the effects for at least 30 minutes and in some cases up to 2 hours.

As new edible products hit the shelves, you might notice some are marketed as‘fast-acting.’ This means you could feel the effects of the cannabis much quicker than a traditional edible, so it’s always important to start low and go slow with new products.

Absorption: through the gut and liver

Onset times: 30 minutes to 2 hours

Duration of effects: up to 12 hours (or longer depending on the person)


It’s strange to associate a topical with ‘consuming’ cannabis, but it is technically a way to get the cannabinoids in your body, so it’s important to know. Topicals are some of the newest cannabis products and can be applied to your hair, skin, and nails. Some people use topicals to treat certain aches and pains, but there’s no concrete evidence to back up their efficacy for that type of treatment.

Regardless of why you’re using a cannabis topical it’s going to work within your body the same way. Unlike with smoking, vaping, or ingesting cannabis which provides an all-over effect, using a topical will generally provide local affects on the area where it’s applied. Topicals are absorbed through your skin and bind to cannabinoid receptors in your immune system, which are part of the endocannabinoid system (the system in your body that allows you to feel the effects of cannabis).

Absorption: through the skin

Onset times: dependent on person

Duration: not currently known, dependent on the person and the product

No matter how you choose to consume cannabis, always remember that everyone’s reaction is different. Start with a low amount and slowly increase once you know how a certain product affects you. And yes, this includes topicals!

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