Cannabis

The Highs and Lows of Every Way to Consume Cannabis

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Marijuana is not magic (Editor’s Note: marijuana is magic), but in terms of the way you get it into your bloodstream, the methods are seemingly limitless. You can turn it into confections or concentrates. Smoke it, eat it, drink it. The world is your oyster (though we don’t recommend consuming it via oysters).

But which method is best for you? Well, there are pros and cons. Just follow this concise guide to the highs and lows of each method.

Perry Santanachote/Thrillist

Eating it

Pros: Cannabis can be added into nearly anything, especially if it’s first infused into glycerin, oil, or butter. From gluten-free, vegan “bacon” strips with 25mg of THC to 400mg THC chocolate bars or strain-specific lozenges to caramels, the right recipe makes the options endless. Tolerance varies between individuals, but most users plateau at a specific dosage and have repeatable, predictable highs without any of the “hey I’m smoking weed” aroma or equipment issues.
Cons: An edible high can be less predictable at first, and is far longer-lasting than any other kind of cannabis-consumption method. Height, weight, metabolism, and stomach content will make everyone’s edible tolerance different, and the 60- to 90-minute activation period makes it easy for impatient users to ingest more than recommended. Effects range from four- to 10-hour highs, which can make a late-night, sleep-inducing snack into a breakfast skipped because you were still high getting ready for work and the shower felt really, really good.

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Smoking joints

Pros: Cheap to make with ubiquitous materials, joints are still the default method for most cannabis users. If rolling papers are too complicated, cones with crutches and straws to help fill exist now and give tokers a little more structure to their smoking instrument.
Cons: Besides inhaling not-so-good chemicals from the burning material, smoking instead of vaping or dabbing weed brings that weed aroma, which is either neutral or not great. You’ll also need to take care to roll the joint or stuff the cone properly, a mistake we’re all sure to make at least once, leading to a flimsy smoke that will fall apart at soon as the ash reaches a soft point.

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Smoking pipes

Pros: This is the fastest, least-complicated, and least resource-intensive method of consuming cannabis for the vast majority of users. Pipes of all kinds are available everywhere from smoke shops to bodegas, lighters or matches are cheap, and the high is quick.
Cons: When you want the world to know you’re smoking weed, be sure to smoke it out of a pipe. Besides the obvious aroma, you’ll get sticky hands from handling the flower, burnt finger tips from the hemp wick, burnt finger tips from holding the lighter too long, more carcinogens in your lungs than any other method, and much of the non-THC or CBD cannabinoids are completely destroyed by the flame. And if you carry that pipe in your pocket, you basically smell like a grow-op.

Tinctures

Pros: These dropper bottles filled with infused alcohol, glycerin, or vegetable oil usually come in high CBD (cannabinoid... definition here) options for medical patients to drop under their tongue. Fast acting, powerful, and easy to carry, tinctures allow a faster high than typical edibles and are more widely used for medicinal purposes.

Cons: Most tinctures taste like shit, and if you’re dumb enough to use Everclear to extract (um, yeah), could irritate sensitive areas of your mouth. The typical high-CBD options won’t get you high, nor are there a ton of strain options available. Also, no one looks cool while taking a dropper under the tongue.

Nectar collector

Pros: The most efficient way to dab out there: lightweight in case, and looks super cool -- picture a vertical dab rig, with mouthpiece connected to percolator, attached to straw-like glass tube that’s heated on one end and dipped into concentrate like how you’d suck up part of a spilled milkshake that landed on a clean table. It makes dabbing easier by eliminating dab sticks and product manipulation from the equation. This feels like a dabbing method that will be improved upon with commercial intervention: hopefully we’ll see handheld and battery-powered options soon.
Cons: It’s a long and narrow piece of glass that doesn’t stand easy. If you or your stoner friends don’t break it just picking the nectar collector up, there’s plenty of chances to drop it too hard on a table, miss a target, and smash a table, or have someone grab it from the wrong end and toss the piece. Apparently, regular straws are made of plastic for a reason.

Smoking a bong

Pros: Adding a bit of water to the smoking process makes everything taste better. From filtering out some of the smoke to softening and cooling smoke to make it easier on the lungs, bongs are still the most popular method for consuming cannabis via apparatus. Also, glass blowers make some super-cool shit like egg-like dome bongs and quad-recyclers that are as fun to watch as they are to draw from.

Cons: Even the smallest of bubblers still isn’t pocket sized, which makes any kind of travel tough. Bongs require regular cleaning, as the smoke builds up and disgustingly coats the glass (pipes are almost always glass because it’s easiest to manipulate when making and clean after use). And, no matter how elegant your pricey, local-blown glass may look to you, it’s impossible not to look like a huge stoner with one on your shelf.

Vaping

Pros: It makes sense that burning is bad, but vaping is good, right? Right. Vaporizing flower allows us to better taste the terpenes, use more cannabinoids by not burning the plant, and create leftover Already Been Vaped material suitable for cooking. This vapor -- administered via handheld device, surgical tube attached to heating element, glass attachment, or refillable plastic bag -- is the best way to introduce new people to the world of cannabis.
Cons: Vaping is a pain in the ass. Keeping something hot for hours at a time requires a lot more space and energy than the butane compartment of a lighter, forcing the best vapes to be leashed by the electric cords and destined for desktop-only use. You’ll also need to deal with plastic bags and stoppers and surgical tubes and small glass parts and screens, and that’s the stationary models. Portable options run $150+ for anything decent, require constant charging, and don’t hold more than half a gram. You’ll also need to grind your flower and stir the product every few draws for the best experience.

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Vaping via pens

Pros: It fits in a pocket or purse, is usually rechargeable, and, it’s if not recyclable, all parts work with the same 510 standard, and can be filled and/or refilled with CO2, solvent-free, or BHO concentrate. Each unit produces a visible but mostly odorless vapor that dissipates quickly, unlike their tobacco-juice counterparts. They’re widely available in medical-marijuana dispensaries in nearly every strain, with solvent-less options available in candy flavors.
Cons: Haters will note that most vape pens, especially CO2 extracts, add a noticeable taste to the concentrates, though only the most experienced users are likely to notice or care much. These also require charging, and all warnings about battery bulging and fire potential apply. Happy vaping!

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Tyler Hurst once wrote a story that produced eight death threats, three client threats, one public encounter, an online impersonator, 2,000 words of insults, and five+ months of reader reaction. Follow him to vitriol: @tdhurst.