Cannabis and hemp have been used for both medicinal and recreational purposes for thousands of years. Historically the community was built around circles as we passed joints and glass pipes. But as legalization continues to spread across the world, so does the whole variety of other consumption methods. One of these ways is eating THC (the psychoactive compound in cannabis). But how is that different than smoking?
When you smoke cannabis or hemp, you light the dried leaves and flowers of the plant and inhale, whether on a pipe, joint, or other medium. The smoke contains various chemicals, including THC, which enters the bloodstream through the lungs. Likewise, the effects are felt almost immediately and can last for a couple of hours.
The main advantage of smoking is its immediacy: You feel its effects within a few seconds. Smoking is also one of the most efficient ways to consume marijuana because it delivers the active compounds directly into the bloodstream. Plus, it can be a social activity–i.e., the circle of friends–and many people enjoy the ritual of being together.
However, inhaling also has some outright disadvantages. It can be harmful to the lungs, and the smoke can contain toxins and carcinogens. Smoking can also lead to coughing and throat irritation. Plus, you have to contend with the skunky strong odor that can be noticeable to others, unless you work on the Vegas strip. Water pipes make it much better to filter out tar and other particles–and they’re great during dry months–until you spill bong water on the couch.
Vaporizing means heating concentrate to a temperature that releases the active compounds in the form of a vapor. It’s less harmful to the lungs than smoking and produces less odor. But the jury is still out on the full safety or harmful side effects, as some users report difficulty breathing. In the past, newer extraction companies have been known to erroneously produce their cartridges or extracts with harmful solvents or additives, often due to inexperience. So it’s important, if going this route, to purchase from established, reputable brands.
Edibles are food products infused with THC (example, your uncle’s signature pot brownies). They come in various forms, such as candy (like the ValuSesh Delta 8 and Delta 9 Gummies), chocolates, and baked goods. When you consume edibles, THC is metabolized in the liver and converted into a more potent compound, 11-hydroxy-THC, which can produce a stronger and longer-lasting high than smoking.
There are other ways to ingest THC. Tinctures, for instance, are liquid extracts that can be taken orally. They come with a dropper, and you can add them to food or drinks. Tinctures are fast-acting, and the effects can be felt within 15-45 minutes. On the other hand, capsules are pills that contain THC, and they work similarly to regular edibles. The effects can take longer to set in, but they can last for up to eight hours and are often EXTREME the first time.
The main advantage of ingestion, is that it offers a more discreet and convenient way to consume, not to mention, better for your lungs. Popping a gummy takes 2 seconds. There’s no smoke or strong odors, and it can be done almost anywhere. And even better, given the length and intensity of the high, you don’t have to circle back for another hit like you would with a pipe.
However, there’s always some disadvantages. The effects of THC can take longer to set in than smoking, which can lead to overconsumption if you’re not careful. Sublingual absorption (essentially, getting a buzz as you chew and salivate) can jumpstart the effects, but it’s often not until 30-90 minutes later that they really kick in. And for those just starting out with edibles, it can be more challenging to dose accurately. It’s what led columnist Maureen Dowd to infamously trip her face off in a Colorado hotel room back when the legal industry first began.
There’s no wrong way to eat a Reese’s, and the same is true here. Ultimately, the choice depends on personal preference, lifestyle, and individual circumstances. But it’s a good idea to explore the full spectrum of options and never assume the first method is the best (otherwise we’d all still be cheefing brickweed from soda cans).
Want to make your own edibles? We recommend this guide on both old school and new school infusion from our friend and Cannapages columnist, Cousin D.