As medical marijuana becomes legally embraced by more states (the current count is 22 states, plus the District of Columbia) in the U.S., many people who have never tried marijuana on a recreational basis are just beginning to explore the medicinal uses for the plant. Marijuana can be taken in multiple ways. For many medical marijuana users, the choice of how to take it is a personal one. However, the methods of marijuana consumption can have varying effects, and all carry their own health risk factors worth considering. Here’s a breakdown of the different ways medical marijuana can be consumed and things to consider about each consumption method.
Smoking is the most popular way to consume recreational marijuana, so it makes sense that it is also the most popular method for consuming medical marijuana. Smoking is the most expedient method of marijuana consumption and leads to almost immediate effects. Because the effects of smoking are almost immediate, this method of consumption allows users to more easily control their own dosage.
However, there are health risks associated with smoking that should be considered by all medical marijuana users. Smoking marijuana can lead to lung damage and it can cause or aggravate respiratory problems. Igniting marijuana is said to create non-cannabinoid gases and carcinogens that can be detrimental to health. Smoking marijuana is also said to be associated with higher intake levels of tar and toxic chemicals.
Vaporizing is a preferred method of consumption of medical marijuana from a health perspective alone. A vaporizer (or bong) does not burn the plant leaves the way smoking does. Instead, a vaporizer heats the cannabinoids without catching fire to the rest of the plant. This method of consumption is said to yield a higher intake level of THC while producing a lower intake level of dangerous chemicals, gases, and tar. Because vapor is not as volatile as smoke, vaporizing medical marijuana is not associated with lung and respiratory problems the way that smoking is.
Like smoking, the effects of vaporizing are felt almost immediately. Some vaporizer users say that the effect feels slightly different when vaporizing as compared to smoking. Vaporizers create a scent that is not as pungent as smoking. Finally, the leaves of medical marijuana tend to last longer when used in a vaporizer rather than burned through smoking. This makes vaporizing a financially sensible choice, as well.
Eating marijuana-infused food items does not carry the health risks that are associated with smoking marijuana. Eating requires no smoke inhalation, so lung and respiratory issues from eating medical marijuana are nonexistent. However, there are some drawbacks to eating medical marijuana that make this method of consumption less than ideal for some people.
Consuming marijuana through eating--typically when it has been baked in brownies or cookies--can affect an individual far differently than eating or vaporizing it. For some users, eating marijuana can produce hallucinations or severe lethargy. The effects of marijuana also take longer to kick in when marijuana is eaten instead of smoked or vaporized.
Topical Use of Marijuana
Medical marijuana can also be used topically via a balm, cream, ointment or poultice, but this method of consumption produces only localized effects and does not produce psychoactive effects. This might be the most ideal method for some users – particularly those who dislike the psychoactive effects of medical marijuana and those who would like to address issues of the skin – like burns, pain or eczema – with the application of a soothing marijuana balm, cream or poultice.