How You Toke It: The Many Ways to Consume Cannabis

There are a lot of ways to consume cannabis

While it seems there are a million ways to consume cannabis, they are not all created equally. Differing methods offer different effects, reaction times, and doses. Product quality, extraction methods, and preparation techniques are all factors that can mitigate a user’s experience, but the method of consumption plays a major role shaping the user’s journey.

While the method of consumption is not the only factor that will affect the end-user’s experience, it is one of the most influential factors

ways to consume cannabisDifferent methods of consumption take different pathways to enter the system and dependent on the desired effect, one can alter the means of consumption to make the most of the benefits cannabis has to offer. This is one of the beauties of cannabis, the ability to customize its use to each individual. So, how do you determine the best method for you? Well, to make the best determination, you’ll need to understand a few key terms first:

Bioavailability: The fraction of the administered dose of cannabis that reaches systemic circulation

Accuracy of Dose: The degree to which one can quantify the amount of THC/ CBD in each dose

Time to Onset: The amount of time before the effects are felt

Duration of Effect: The length of time the effects last

Quality and Consistency of Effect: The degree to which one can depend on a repeatable experience

So, how do each of these factors vary amongst differing consumption methods? Let’s take a look.


Smoking is the inhalation of combusted, dried flowers of the cannabis plant. Pipes, joints, and water pipes are all used to smoke marijuana and smoking is one of the quickest ways to feel the effects of cannabis and the most common form of intake.

Typically, the onset is rapid, immediate, and the duration is short

Smoking creates a high bioavailability of cannabinoids in the smoke. The downside is that habitual smoking can lead to lung damage, which is why many physicians will recommend vaping or other methods of consumption.

Bioavailability: high

Dose Accuracy: low

Time to Onset: Seconds

Duration of Effect: 1.5 hours +/- 1.5-2 hours

Quality and Consistency of Effect: High degree of variability


Vaporizing is a process whereby the dried cannabis flower or extract or concentrate is slowly subjected to heat at lower and more precise temperature allowing for the therapeutic ingredients in cannabis, cannabinoids such as THC, to phase-change into a gas or vapor and extract from the plant without burning the plant.

This process produces vapor instead of smoke and because the temperatures are too low for the potentially harmful toxins that are released during combustion, vaporization minimizes the health risks associated with smoking.

While reducing the harm of long-term cannabis use, vaporizing does not really change the absorption of cannabinoids into the body

The cannabinoids are taken in through the alveoli in the lungs like smoking. It is safer than inhaling smoke and allows the patient to better control the dose.

Bioavailability: High

Dose Accuracy: Fair (depending on quality of the vaporizers)

Time to Onset: Seconds

Duration of Effect: 1.5 hours +/- 1.5-2 hours

Quality and Consistency of Effect: “lighter” high than smoking; high degree of variability

Edibles, Capsules, and Tinctures

Infusing cannabis into butter or cooking oil or any other edible fat or sugar alcohol produces edible cannabis in the form of food or capsules. Edible consumption is occasionally recommended for medical patients who experience severe chronic pain because it’s effects manifest in more of a “body high” than a “head high” and have been described as a deeper or heavier feeling.

Users should take caution with edible cannabis

because it can sometimes take up to two hours to take effect and can last for four hours or more. This can cause the uninformed to over consume and create a more significant psychoactive effect. This is why it’s recommended that you start with a low-dose and wait two hours to see how it will affect you before proceeding with another dose.

Bioavailability: Extremely low

Dose Accuracy: Low

Time to Onset: Hours

Duration of Effect: 4-6 hours

Quality and Consistency of Effect: psychoactive; high degree of variability


Transdermal delivery is a self-contained, discrete dosage form which, when applied to intact skin, delivers the drug(s) through the skin at a controlled rate into systemic circulation. It comes in the form of a patch or a topical that is applied directly to the skin and does not produce a psychoactive high.

The advantages of transdermal are many

There is no smell, no ritual, and it’s easy to use. The rate at which the dose is administered is consistent and reliable happening gradually over a set time course.

Bioavailability: Medium

Dose Accuracy: Very high

Time to Onset: 1.25hrs +/- 0.5 hrs.

Duration of Effect: 6-8 hrs.

Quality and Consistency of Effect: Light, high-functioning “high”; high degree of consistency

So, now that you are armed with all the information, you can customize your cannabis experience based on your needs. If you need all-day pain relief but need to maintain your mental capacities, a topical may be the way to go. If you need a deep, good night’s sleep, maybe an edible is the way to go. Maybe you just want a relaxing high that won’t leave you hacking up a lung, grab that vape pen and make it happen! Just remember, no matter what method you choose, consume responsibly.

How You Toke It: The Many Ways to Consume Cannabis was last modified: by
Amber Faust
About Amber Faust
Amber Faust is a freelance writer and editor who specializes in natural lifestyle pieces and sociopolitical commentary. Amber is a lifelong activist for social justice and environmental issues. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, painting, drumming, meditation, and yoga.