Consumption choices


by Kayla Johnson

Cannabis has come a long way within the last decade as legalization spreads across the country. 

There are hundreds of different strains available now, and even more hybrids. Along with all of these new strains that have been developed, there’s been an explosion of different products and ways of consuming cannabis. Quality, well-cured bud will always be a top classic, but there are now dozens of options – everything from flower to dabbing to vaporizers.  There are even bath bombs and cannabis beverages.  

For those who are exploring the benefits of cannabis for the first time, it can be overwhelming trying to sort out how best to ingest it and what equipment is needed to do it correctly for the maximum effect. To help you sort through “what’s what” in the beginning, we’ve selected five of the most common methods used to consume cannabis.  We have also compiled a list of what supplies you’ll need to use each of those methods successfully, if any. Realizing you’re unprepared when you need to medicate can be extremely frustrating, and taking five minutes to make sure you’ve got what you need can make your experience much smoother and easier. 

  1. The joint: This is one of the most classic means of cannabis consumption, and it’s almost synonymous with cannabis culture. Joints are essentially marijuana cigarettes. Ground cannabis is rolled into cigarette-style papers, either with a rolled thicker paper filter or without it. Rolling them from a flat paper can take some practice, but many companies now produce pre-rolled cones with filters already in place that you simply have to fill with your ground flower and twist the end closed. Many papers come in a wide variety of flavors and all you need is a rolled joint and a lighter. With practice, you can roll large ones, or even ones in certain shapes. Papers, filters, and the pre-rolled cones can be purchased at most smoke shops.
  2. The edible: Almost as timeless as the joint is the pot brownie. While these delicious, cannabis-infused treats are one of the most typical, edibles have expanded far beyond the simple dessert.  By using cannabutter, you can infuse THC into just about any food.  It can be included in baked goods like cookies and pizza dough, and even melted and drizzled on vegetables or popcorn for an easy recipe for making your own).  Most dispensaries offer a variety of edibles, mostly candies and baked goods. For the beginning cannabis patient, edibles can be quite strong and long lasting, so it’s always advised to take it easy when you try it for the first time.  However, if you want a longer-lasting effect that doesn’t kick in right away, edibles may be a great way for you to get the medicine you need without smoking it.
  3. The bong: Whether you call it a bong or a water pipe, these glass pipes are one of the most popular ways for people to smoke cannabis. Made to sit upright on a table either during or between use, they generally have a downstem into the pipe with water inside, and a bowl, where you put the ground weed to light with a lighter or hempwick. You inhale at the mouth of the bong’s neck slowly as the weed burns and, once the bong is filled with as much smoke as you want to inhale, you pull the bowl out and inhale, using the fresh air to push the smoke into your lungs and exhale. Bongs offer people a much smoother smoking experience, as the smoke from the burning weed is filtered through water in the pipe before it enters your lungs, reducing the risk of irritation. They can vary greatly in size and design, and many of them have one or more percolators in them to increase the filtration and cooling of the smoke. Some bongs even have a feature called an ice catcher, allowing you to add ice cubes to the neck of your bong for an ultra-cool sensation. Bongs can range from simple to complex chamber designs and, generally, they’re quite colorful and beautiful, especially pieces created in smaller glass shops. Bongs can be purchased at just about any glass or head shop where they will most likely recommend that you get a pack of metal or glass screens for the bowl to help keep the ashes from being sucked into the water and making your pipe a mess. Once you’ve got your screen in, all you need to do is add the bud, grab a lighter (or hempwick, if you prefer), and enjoy. 
  4. The vaporizer: What a time to be alive.  The vaporizer is smoke free, has an immediate impact, and no smell – cannabis consumption at its finest.  Ranging from smaller portable vapes to tabletop units, there are dozens of types of vaporizers to choose from, available in just about every price range as well. Vaporizers use an electric heating element powered by a battery to heat the cannabis packed inside to the point that the THC is vaporized, which you then inhale as if you were smoking it. Vaporizers have several perks, the first being that it’s a smoke free alternative that’s extremely discreet, but another advantage is that the cannabis can be saved once vaped to a toasty brown color. You can smoke that AVB (already vaped bud) or, if you collect quite a bit, you can even make a mild cannabutter or cannabis tea with stems. Since they’re so efficient, vapes use far less weed than joints and bongs, and tend to activate other beneficial cannabinoids besides THC, which can mean a more balanced, relaxing high while making your weed go much further. Most online smoke shops offer a wide variety of quality vaporizers, whether you’re looking for occasional use or a daily driver. 
  5. The Dab: Whether you call them dabs, shatter, or wax, cannabis concentrates have become extremely popular. They’re made by extracting the THC and other cannabinoids using a solvent and the result is sticky oil, what we call “dabs.” Instead of being burned away, like the ground up weed, dabs are heated on an extremely hot surface, called a nail, that’s been heated with a small butane torch, then the vaporized goodness is inhaled through a dab rig, similar to a bong but with the nail built into the piece. While they’re more expensive than just purchasing cannabis, they’re a much more pure, concentrated product, and that means that it’s much, much stronger. Dabs can be quite strong for people who have a low tolerance for THC, but the benefit is that it doesn’t take much. Since the wax is vaporized in the heated nail, there’s the lack of irritation from combustion and, while there may be a present cannabis scent, it fades quickly and isn’t the burning smell that can linger with bong use. Dab rigs will have a quartz or metal nail or banger, and chambers for water.  They can be as ornate or simple as bongs can be. A small butane torch is recommended for heating the nail, but there are electric nails you can buy that stay hot until you turn it off. 

These are just some of the current, most popular ways. Bath bombs, lotions, gum, even cannabis beer and wine, are becoming more and more popular as cannabis use becomes normalized.  Your local dispensary will be able to walk you through the products that are available in your state once products are on the shelves. In other words, don’t feel as if you HAVE to smoke your cannabis. Instead, be open to trying new things and experimenting to find the best method for you. 

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