No, you don't have to smoke medical marijuana; 7 alternatives

I would venture to guess that the biggest misconception about medical marijuana is that you have to smoke it in order to consume it. As a result, people who would more than likely benefit from its use never entertain the idea of trying it. To all those people who fit into this category, I am here to tell you that you are wrong…very, very wrong.

Yes, you can smoke it, but smoking is actually one of the least beneficial ways of ingesting all those lovely cannabinoids and terpenes, the active and medicinal compounds in cannabis. So, without further ado, here is your list of alternatives to smoking. You’re welcome.

1. Vaporizing or vaping as it is now called.

Vaporizers work by heating marijuana to a temperature that is hot enough to evaporate the active ingredients, but cool enough not to cause combustion or burning. As a result, fewer toxins are released and it is probably healthier for the lungs. Since the lungs absorb the cannabinoids extremely fast, vaping provides almost instant relief. Dosing control is easier since you simply stop inhaling once the desired effect is achieved. Users claim to feel most functional and clear-headed using a vaporizer and the consensus of opinion is that it is one of the most efficient methods of delivery of the medicine.

2. Edibles

Cannabis cookie

Cannabis cookie

Those of us old enough to remember the 1968 Peter Sellers movie, I Love You, Alice B. Toklas, know that cannabis brownies featured prominently in the film. In 2015, you can still make brownies, but now there is an entire industry of cannabis infused food and drink. Of course, you can make your own products. I have a friend who makes her own Cannabutter and spreads it on toast. However, since this is such a burgeoning industry, the edible industry is not regulated, so be careful how much you eat and drink. It is much more difficult to control the dosing when you eat/drink cannabis.

Here are some good rules of thumb:

It takes time for cannabis to be absorbed and digested which means it may take anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours to feel the effect, depending on your metabolism. You can eat too little, but if you eat too much, you can’t “uneat it” and you may experience some very strong psychotropic effects. While you can’t overdose, you may feel very, very uncomfortable, especially if you are a novice user, until the effects wear off. 10mg is the recommended dosage to start until you figure out what works for you. Here’s the link to Medibles 101.

3. Ingestible Oils

Cannabis infused olive oil

Cannabis infused olive oil

Ingestible oils are any concentrated form of cannabis taken orally; they come in capsules or plastic applicators and can be taken directly or added to food or drink. They are similar to edibles in that it takes some time for the effects to kick in, they are potent and you have to be careful with dosing at the beginning. Here’s a link to a guide to cannabis oil and concentrates.

4. Tinctures

Tinctures are infused liquids where an alcohol soak is used to extract the beneficial cannabis compounds. Applied directly under the tongue, tinctures are metabolized quickly into the bloodstream, unlike edibles and oils. As a result, the results are fast acting and dosing is much easier to control. Until 1937, when cannabis became illegal, tinctures were the most common delivery system of cannabis.

5. Topicals

Topicals are cannabis-infused lotions and balms that are applied to the skin directly for localized relief of pain, soreness and inflammation. They do not cause any psychotropic effects, so if you don’t like the “high” or you need to be clear-headed, this is the method for you.

6. Transdermal patches

Transdermal patches contain cannabinoids compounds that are applied to the wrist, similar to nicotine patches. It is one of the most efficient delivery methods for the medicine, going directly into the bloodstream. Its effect last for 8-12 hours. Unlike edibles, it has no psychotropic effect. It comes in 6 different varieties of strains and is proving to be quite a popular product.

7. Dabbing

Dabbing is for the advanced, veteran user and something which I have never experienced. In fact, I am not entirely sure how it works, but I wouldn’t recommend it for the beginning user. Apparently, it can be dangerous. Having said that, if you want to investigate dabbing, dear readers, here is a link to everything you need to know.

Okeley dokeley, as Ned Flanders would say, that’s all I got. If any of you knows of any other methods, please leave a comment below.
I would like to thank the nice folks at for much of this information. Their site is a great resource for the beginning cannabis user.

I’ve written a series of posts about medical marijuana. If you want to read more you can click on the “Medical Marijuana” tag at the top of my page.

If you want to get more involved in helping Illinois move forward…and boy, do we need help, here…there are resources and links to groups on the Americans for Safe Acess-Illinois page that are doing just that. Americans for Safe Access is a national program, so if you are not an Illinoisian, check out a chapter in your state.

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