Cannabis: A Brief Introduction

What can you do with cannabis?

Let’s talk about some of the ways to consume cannabis. The most common ways are combustion, ingestion, topical application and vaporization.

Combustion refers to the process of igniting cannabis and inhaling the resulting smoke.

Ingestion refers to eating a food that has been infused with cannabis.

Topical application refers to balms or salves that contain cannabis and are applied to your skin.

Vaporization refers to heating a cannabis material just until the cannabinoids (of which THC is one) turn to vapour so that they’re available for inhaling.

The easiest to compare are combustion and vaporization since both involve inhaling the result. When cannabis is burned all of the plant matter and any other chemicals (such as those that could be in rolling paper) are inhaled. The resulting smoke can cause irritation to the respiratory system. After combustion only ash is left behind. Effects can become noticeable right away or take up to 20 minutes depending on the individual and the strain.

When cannabis is heated to produce vapour none of the toxic byproducts of combustion are present. As a result there is less odor and reduced irritation to the lungs. Additionally, after vaporizing cannabis flower there is still material left that can be used again. Effects can become noticeable right away or take up to 20 minutes depending on the individual and the strain.

Edibles forgo the whole inhaling process and allow you to consume your cannabis through the digestive system. The traditional ‘special’ gummy bears and brownies are often what comes to mind, but in reality there are all sorts of recipes that can include cannabis. Professional chefs have even been getting in on the growing trend of gourmet cannabis foods. The biggest difference to be aware of is that the effects from edibles can take anywhere from 20 minutes to up to 2 hours to become noticeable and everyone reacts differently. Start with a low dose and increase it slowly.

Topicals are applied to the skin to help with localized pain relief of aches and pains. They can also be applied to damaged skin to aid in healing and pain relief. There is no high associated with using topical cannabis. Balms are easy to make at home with infused oil and beeswax.

What should you vaporize?

There are multiple forms of cannabis that can be vaporized. The choices are oil cartridges, extracts or dry herb.

Oil cartridges are made with a process that infuses Propylene Glycol with cannabis to create something referred to as ‘Vape Juice’. Vape juice may contain solvents and other chemicals to aid in vaporization n.

Extracts are high potency concentrated cannabis. They are made by gathering the most desirable parts from cannabis flowers, often using a solvent. Extracts are usually referred to by the texture of the final product, such as shatter, budder or crumble.

Dry herb refers to the cannabis flower buds. This is the most common form of cannabis. These are the flowers (buds) from the cannabis plant that have been dried and cured. Dry herb is also what is smoked in pipes and joints.

How do you choose?

The best way is to try a variety of options to see what you prefer.

Oil cartridges can be as easy as twist on and go if you have a trusted supplier with a reputable manufacturer. Otherwise cartridges can leak and vape juice could contain unknown chemicals.

Extracts are more potent e with robust flavours. Although costs may appear higher for extracts, you use a lot less of it than you do dry herb. The extracts themselves can be sticky, gooey and generally difficult to manipulate. There is a trend toward solventless extract processes because that would eliminate the risk of chemicals being left in the final product.

Dry herb is the most common form of cannabis. You can grind up the cannabis flowers for a large variety of smoking, vaping or eating options. Dry herb does have a distinctive odor and working with ground cannabis can sometimes be messy.

I personally prefer dry herb vaporizers. Cannabis flowers can be grown at home or picked up at your local store and the likelihood of additives is low. An added benefit is that the remaining herb is reusable for edibles and topicals.