Methods of Consumption and Effects

Inhaling (smoking and vaping) and ingesting (edibles, tinctures, ingestible oils) cannabis are not the only methods of consuming it, but they are the most common. Risks and onset and duration of effects differ between methods.

The type of product being inhaled or ingested is also important.

  • Botanical matter (buds, flowers) is less risky than concentrates (especially shatter, wax, hash oil) -- concentrates used by “dabbing” (heating and inhaling a pinhead size of wax, resin or rosin) or vaping have extremely high THC
  • Concentrates have THC concentrations of 70-90%+ compared to up to 5-30% in legally available botanical material
  • Concentrates were introduced to the legal Canadian cannabis market in 2019

Inhaling

Smoking

Smoking botanical weed (in a pipe, bong, joint, spliff, or blunt) is probably the most common method of consuming weed. 

Onset:  30 seconds to 15 minutes. Wait to gauge effect before inhaling again; one inhalation may be all it takes to get high.

Duration:  30 minutes to 2 hours depending on strain and dosage; may last up to several hours.

Risks:  Lung irritation, spreading germs when sharing device used to smoke. Spliffs/blunts, which combine weed with tobacco, increase risk of head rush, nicotine addiction and lung damage. 

 

Vaporizing (“vaping”)

The term "vaping" or "vaporizing" can actually refer to a variety of different methods. There are dry herb vaporizers, which heat, but do not burn, botanical cannabis matter, therefore risks associated with smoking are reduced. Active chemicals are released into the vapors when heating coils get hot enough, and these can be stationary or portable units. There are also vaporizers that can be manually loaded with concentrates, like shatter, and follow a similar process of heating. Additionally, there are "vape pens", which are typically pre-loaded and designed specifically to vaporize cannabis distillates and oils. They are called vape pens because they resemble a traditional pen in look and have been available on the legal Canadian cannabis market, along with concentrates and edibles, since 2019. 

Onset:  30 seconds to 15 minutes. Wait to gauge effect before inhaling again; one inhalation may be all it takes to get high.

Duration: 30 minutes to 2 hours depending on strain and dosage; may last up to several hours and more intense if oils used.

Risks:  There may be toxins are released from heating coils and inhaled (health effects not yet known); if oils are vaped, stronger effects occur which can be risky if the dosage is high.

Ingesting

Edibles

Edibles refer to cannabis-infused food products like cookies, brownies, coconut oils and butters. Edibles became legal in Canada on October 17, 2019, and are limited to 10 mg of THC per package. 

Ingesting may become more widespread because it doesn’t affect the lungs. There are cautions to be aware of like more intense and delayed effects. THC reaches the cells after first passing through the liver when ingested, which converts it into another, more potent chemical, 11-hydroxy-THC.

Onset:  30 minutes to 2 hours, but depends on a variety of factors such as whether the stomach is empty or not, and metabolism. 

Duration:  Roughly 3 to 6 hours, although effects may last over 24 hours, depending on dose. 

Risks: Ingesting too much if not aware onset of effects is delayed; “bad high” can result from over-consumption because effects are more intense when eaten. First-time consumers must start with low dose (2.5 mg) and ingest slowly.

Note: Cannabis beverages are also available on the legal cannabis market in Canada, however these products use a technology called "nanoemulsion". Nanoemulsion-based cannabis beverages are fast acting (10-30 minutes) and have high bioavailability, meaning the body will absorb a higher amount of the THC or CBD. 

Tinctures and Ingestible Oils

Tinctures and oils are either ingested as drops under the tongue (sublingual), or added to food and beverages. Information below about onset and duration refer to sublingual drops. Otherwise, effects are similar to edibles consumed in food or drinks.

Onset:  1-4 hours depending on dose.

Duration:  20 to 40 minutes sublingually; 30 minutes to two hours if ingested.

Risks: Similar to edibles if over consumed.