For the most part, delivery or consumption methods are a personal choice. However, for certain conditions, one delivery method may be more suitable to your needs and condition than another. Below you’ll find pros and cons for each delivery method and the conditions it’s most suited for. We’ll also discuss why people with certain conditions should shy away from a delivery method.
Vaping has definitely become one of the most popular ways for our patients to consume cannabis. When you vaporize cannabis, you’re heating the substance, whether in flower or oil form, to a temperature below the combustion point. This produces a vapor which you inhale. There are a number of different vape pen, accessories, and cartridges on the market to choose from, but that’s for another blog!
One of the biggest advantages to vaping medical marijuana is that it is much more discreet and convenient than smoking or making edibles. What’s more, many vapes come prefilled with cannabis, activating only if you hold a button triggering the heating mechanism or inhaling. You don’t have to worry about rolling a blunt or joint, filling the cartridge yourself, or worrying that the product will leak or spill.
Additionally, vaping also produces a more flavorful experience. Since you aren’t burning the cannabis to the point of combustion, you can taste more of the substance’s natural flavors without filling your lungs with smoke or tasting “burnt.” This is especially to those who choose their strains by terpene profiles and want to taste their specific flavors.
Lastly, those who vape are able to customize their experience ever so slightly from those who smoke. Most modern vape pens feature adjustable heat settings that allow the user to alter the temperature—and therefore their result—to their preference.
The biggest con with vaping medical marijuana, especially here in PA, is the cost. If you want a refillable pen, you’ll have to trudge through thousands of products to find one that’s high-quality without breaking the bank. What’s more, you’ll also need to brunt the additional cost of purchasing cannabis e-juice canisters for your refillable pen. If you want a good pen at a good price, you’ll still have to fork over at least $100. And, with needing the flower to be ground as finely as possible for the best results, you’ll also need a grinder.
More cons surrounding vapes come down to convenience and maintenance. You’ll need to ensure you regularly charge your vape pen, as well as clean it regularly to ensure you aren’t inhaling dangerous build-up. A failure to clean a pen regularly will also hinder your experience.
Many people also claim that vaping does not produce as potent of a high as other forms of consumption, though it is considered “cleaner.”
Who Should & Shouldn’t Vape
If you’re using medical marijuana to battle anxiety, PTSD, glaucoma, or other conditions that aren’t associated with the respiratory system, vaping should be safe for you. What’s more, if you are currently in chemotherapy, vaping may be your best bet since preliminary research shows that inhaling cannabis is less likely to interfere with chemo drugs since it is absorbed into the bloodstream via the lungs, rather than metabolized for the liver.
If you have respiratory issues or asthma, experts warn to stay away from vaping cannabis.
Edibles / Consumable Cannabis
Before jumping in, it’s important to note that in our home state of Pennsylvania edibles are illegal to sell or purchase at dispensaries. Currently, medical marijuana patients have to make their own. However, other consumable forms of cannabis are available, including tinctures, sublinguals, and pills.
The biggest pro to consuming cannabis orally is that the effects often last much longer than other delivery methods. When you consume cannabis, it is metabolized in the liver and, therefore, the substance is in our system for a much longer period of time, anywhere from three to seven hours. Additionally, since it is in the body for an extended period of time, it also produces a more consistent and steady high.
The high it produces is also often stronger than other delivery methods, once again due to the way it is metabolized. When it’s metabolized through the liver, it moves through the blood/brain barrier faster than smoking or vaping does.
Finally, whether you make your own or live in a state where edibles are available to purchase, consuming cannabis is one of the safest ways to medicate with the substance. Most products are always portioned out if purchased, with the dosage labeled clearly—this applies to tinctures, sublinguals pills, and edibles—and at home you can customize the dosage even more to your preferences. Unlike smoking or vaping, you’ll know exactly how much medical marijuana you’re using.
While consuming cannabis garners longer effects, it can also take awhile to kick in. This is where many people go wrong when trying edibles for the first time. They try some, don’t feel anything, and then take more, only to be shocked by how high they feel later. For some, the effects may be noticeable after only 45 minutes. For others, it may take two hours. It all comes down to an individual’s body and their digestive system.
As mentioned above, without paying attention to doses, it can be easy to overdo it with edibles and consumable cannabis. While it’s impossible to overdose, too much weed is not always enjoyable and may produce adverse side effects like heightened anxiety and paranoia. But, as long as you’re paying attention to the dosage, you should be fine.
Lastly, if you’re in a household with children (or nosy adults!) you need to take extra caution to hide edibles that may look like innocent items of food!
Who Should & Shouldn’t Use Edibles / Consumables
For the most part, edibles and consumables are safe for a majority of MMJ patients. Edibles and consumable cannabis is highly recommended to those who suffer from chronic pain and neuropathy. Given its long-lasting effects, edibles often provide the most consistent and effective pain relief. What’s more, while providing pain relief, patients can dose themselves so that they have relief without feeling too high.
However, as briefly stated above and discussed in depth on our blog about MMJ and Chemotherapy, those undergoing chemo should not consume edibles as they are actively receiving treatment. The liver processes both cannabis when eaten and chemo drugs. As such, experts warn that cannabis may hinder the chemo drugs efficacy.
Topicals are seldom discussed in the MMJ community. They are, after all, rather a niche product, focused on a select few conditions and concerns. However, that’s not to say they aren’t beneficial or well loved. In fact, it’s quite the opposite and even if we don’t see them being discussed a lot currently, we’re quite sure they’re about to become very popular as the wellness craze continues.
Since topicals are incredibly niche, it’s hard to discuss a plethora of pros or cons since they target really specific concerns. So, we’ve opted to write about them in one bulk section.
Topicals provide concentrated pain relief exactly where you need it, making it the biggest pro for this product. Applied to the spot that’s giving you the most trouble, the cannabis will immediately get to work on soothing your discomfort. Topicals are incredibly beneficial for those with painful skin disorders, migraines, arthritis, or athletic injuries. What’s more, they are usually made with skin-friendly ingredients that are helping to boost the health of your body’s largest organ.
On the downside, there isn’t much research into the efficacy or effectiveness of topical THC products, though anecdotally people speak very highly of the products.. Also, it goes without saying, but these products won’t do you much good if you’re looking for general anxiety relief or nerve pain.
Suppositories / Ovules
Finally, the black sheep of the medical marijuana world: suppositories and ovules, which are absorbed through the mucosal membranes in either the rectum or vagina, respectively. Many people shy away from talking about cannabis suppositories and ovules, which is really a shame given how beneficial they can be to those with certain conditions.
The most impressive pro to using suppositories/ovules is their fast onset. With up to 70% of THC absorbed through the mucosal membranes, effects may appear as soon as fifteen minutes after insertion. What’s more, much like edibles, the effects of suppositories last a long time—sometimes up to eight hours.
What’s more, for those seeking the relief of medical marijuana and not the high, suppositories/ovules do not induce the typical “euphoric” feelings. This means you get the medicinal benefits of cannabis, without any of the side effects you may not want.
It should go without saying that the biggest con to suppositories and ovules is the discomfort that comes along with inserting them. They are also the least discreet out of all the delivery methods, and they are not very portable either.
Who Should & Shouldn’t Use Suppositories / Ovules
If you suffer from haemorrhoids, IBS, or cancer, experimenting with suppositories may yield positive results. Those with terrible menstrual cramps or inflammation may also find relief in ovules, as they can alleviate pain without the cannabis interfering with your day-to-day life.
There aren’t really any conditions that shouldn’t use suppositories or ovules. This delivery method is really much of a personal choice—one that reflects your needs.
All in all, as you’ll see above, we know that choosing delivery methods can seem daunting, but really it comes down to figuring out what suits your needs and your lifestyle. Consider your condition or underlying conditions. Consider what would be the most convenient for you. If being discreet matters, edibles or vaping is most likely your best bet. Experimenting is also mostly harmless, as long as you’re not exacerbating your condition.