Up In Smoke: Consumption Methods of Cannabis in a Legal Market (Pt.1)

I’ve met many folks over time that have tried cannabis and not liked it. There can be a plethora of reasons as to why, and many people are simply uncertain about being intoxicated by any substance, especially one with a stigma like marijuana. One common excuse I have heard though is that they like the feeling of being high, but not the actual smoking aspect of it, which for some can be unpleasant, especially if asthmatic (like myself) or not used to inhaling smoke. They either cough most of it out or ‘bum-puff’ and not feel the effects. I thought I would run through 3 ways (more in the next blog post) of consuming cannabis that would be possible within a legal market. They are still practiced in countries where it is prohibited on a federal level, but much less out in the open and tend to be in locations where high-grade medical marijuana is available and circulating (see California, Canada, parts of Europe).

A bong. Photo source: Flickr Creative Commons

 Smoking

The traditional, classic method also known as combustion. This method releases active substances so they can be inhaled through the lungs. Rolled in cigarette style with papers are known as ‘joints’ or ‘blunts’ for a fatter, cigar-like roll , but it can also be smoked through a water-pipe (bong) or standard pipe. Makeshift bongs are sometimes created through plastic bottles, garden hose and foil. A traditional ceramic bong is pictured to the left. Cannabis was consumed through inhaling by native cultures also, however generally through large quantities burnt on a fire.

Pros: Smoking is one of the most direct ways to get high. It is fast and efficient and does not use, especially through a bong or pipe, much cannabis. It is generally the preferred method because marijuana’s illegality means edibles and other forms aren’t readily available. Bongs can be purchased from nearly any tobacconist, as they are legally able to sell them due to it’s ability to have any herb smoke through it.

Cons: Smoking is not the healthiest method of consumption. Burning and inhaling any plant matter releases harmful carcinogens into the lungs that are best avoided. As mentioned above, though, in a illegal market – what choice do you have? Another con is that so many people can make their cannabis last, they ‘spin’ (mix) with another herb to draw it out. While there are many great herbs to use for this purpose, the most common is tobacco – an obviously harmful product that makes many users more dependent on their chop, especially when smoked through a bong as it is a harder hit.

 Edibles

Ever got the munchies during a session of smoking and thought wouldn’t it be great to have some food laced with cannabis so you can keep

Cannabis edibles in Amsterdam shop. Source: Wikimedia Commons

your stone going AND eat? If you didn’t know already, edible marijuana is available in many different forms in the legal and medical market. Some popular products are Kiva chocolate, Nugtella (yes, Nutella with THC in it, it exists) and many other baked goods.

Pros: No smoke! No scratchy throat and dry throat and harmful carcinogens through this route, just a simply tasty treat eaten like anything else. In a legal market, products also specify dosage as well, so it’s easy to keep track of how much Cannabis your actually consuming to know what your threshold is. THC is generally absorbed in butter first when these products are made, so many of the products are baked goods. However, in legal markets, these butters blocks are sold separately, so you can cook your own food. Endless possibilities!

Cons: Eating marijuana is a different high. It takes 1-2 hours to actually effect your system due to your body digesting it and breaking it down, which is annoying for those who want to feel it close to instantly.  When it does hit however, it can be quite stronger than a traditional high through smoking and is often described closer to a psychedelic feeling. Many in the illegal market who make their own brownies with THC/Hash butter often overdo it as they are unaware of how much THC is in the product and eat too much, only to have a strong, intense and potentially uncomfortable high an hour or so later. This could be avoided in a legal market however, as the general populace could be educated to pace themselves with edibles, and companies would need to include dosage on the packaging.

Drinks

Similar to edibles, the legal industry has allowed beverages to also enter the market. These include THC-based drinks such as the range Dixie Elixirs make, which are sugar-free soft-drink style beverages that contain 40mg of active cannabinoids in every bottle (355ml). Juices are also available with similar dosages. Although containing no THC and will not get you high, I found it useful to include that hemp is also used for health juices and energy drinks. Cannabis Energy Drink has dominated this industry, and uses hemp seed extract combined with caffeine and taurine for a “burst of energy”. Cannabis infused alcoholic liqueurs can also be made, but somehow that combo doesn’t sound too great. Indian communities also make a beverage known as ‘Thandai’ – ground cannabis bud and leaf into a paste that is mixed with milk, ghee (a form of butter) and spices.

Pros: THC-infused drinks work faster than edibles. Liquids are absorbed faster into the bloodstream as they do not have to go through the traditional digestive process that food does, resulting in probably the most efficient, non-inhalant form of consumption with rapid effects.

Cons: Sugar-free is is good, as many foods will contain unnecessary sugar and other unwanted attributes, especially if eating large amounts. However artifical sugar, preservatives, colours and other nasties may be lurking in the ingredients. Also, no-one likes to pee while stoned, but it’s a small sacrifice to make and personally I’d rather that than inhaling carcinogens on every toke.

So there you have it folks, three quite interesting ways to consume your bud. In a legal market, it would be interesting to see how much the prevalence of edibles and drinks would deconstruct stigmas around cannabis, and to see if there would still be people sticking to the ‘old school’ method of smoking. Through some quick research of Colorado and Washington in the US, it seems that smoking is still prevalent, as a medical marijuana licence is still required in some shops to buy edibles and food. With a growing industry just waiting to pounce on newly legalised countries, it could also be argued that the variety of ways to consume cannabis, coupled with the value of hemp, could make this a multi-million , if not billion, dollar plant. I will be covering more methods in the next blog post, so please feel free to comment below with any thoughts and suggestions and if these alternatives to smoking appeal to you, support legalisation!

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