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Consumption Methods

Cannabis is an incredibly versatile medicine that can be consumed in a variety of methods. A consumption method refers to the way (or method) that the medicine is delivered to the body. The 4 main methods of consumption are inhalation, sublingual, oral, and topical. Some methods require additional consumption devices (like a vaporizer, hand pipe, etc.) while others do not require anything more than the medicinal cannabis product.


The method of consumption is incredibly important to take into consideration when deciding on a medical product. Each consumption method has a different onset of effects after consuming medical cannabis. Learning about the methods and corresponding effects, it will help you realize what medicinal method is best for you.

inhalation - sublingual - oral - topical

Inhalation: Smoking, Vaporizing, & Dabbing
time onset of effects
  • Onset of effects occurs fast: between 5 to 10 minutes

  • Fast onset time makes it easier to modulate dose

  • Great for breakthrough pain

  • Effects generally last around 3 to 4 hours 

cannabis water pipe
cannabis pre roll
cannabis hand pipe

Smoking cannabis refers to inhaling cannabis that has been heated to combustion.


  • Can smoke cannabis flower or cannabis concentrates

  • Joints, pipes, bubblers, and one-hitters are some of the main ways to smoke cannabis.

  • Joints are basically cannabis cigarettes (learn how to roll a joint here).

  • Pipes come in all sorts of shapes and sizes from smaller, hand held to larger table top. Water pipes, or bongs, involve a water filtration system which cools the smoke.

  • One-hitters consist of a small pipe that holds a small amounts of cannabis

vaporizer / vape

Vaporizing cannabis refers to inhaling cannabis that has been heated electronically just below the combustion point.


  • Some vaporizers are for flower, others for only concentrates, and some use both

  • Many people prefer vaping over smoking because there is no ash, no carcinogens, and few cannabinoids and terpenes are lost, which provides higher medicinal effects & more flavor.

  • Vaporizers come in sizes from pen sized to table top models

Dabbing is a form of vaporization in which potent cannabis concentrates are dropped on a heated nail, creating vapor that is trapped in a glass globe and inhaled. (concentrates used for dabbing for MD medical cannabis patients only)

  • Cannabis concentrates are basically different forms of cannabis oil with extra high amounts of cannabinoids

  • Dabbing can provide an estimated 40-60mg of THC in just one inhalation

  • Can be helpful for patients dealing with an extreme condition that requires a substantially large dose of cannabinoids compared to the average

  • Dabbing is not suggested for the first time consumer 

cannabis concentrates
Sublingual: Tinctures, Cannabis Oils, lozenges
cannabis timed onset of effects
  • Onset of effects occurs moderately fast: between 15 to 30 minutes

  • Generally fast onset time makes it easier to modulate dose

  • Each dose can be very precisely measured out

  • Great for fast relief

  • Effects typically last around 2-3 hours and as long as 4-6 hours

SUBLINGUAL use of cannabis products refers to placing the cannabis product under the tongue so that the cannabinoids and terpenes can be absorbed through the small veins into the blood stream.


  • Tinctures are very discreet & commonly come in a glass bottle with an eyedropper

  • Cannabis oils are commonly available in oral syringes and are very potent. It can be applied sublingually or by rubbing it along the gum line. 

  • NOTE: Tinctures can take up to 2 hours before taking effect and lozenges can behave like an edible (oral consumption)

Oral: Cannabis Capsules, Mouth Sprays, Etc.
edible cannabis onset of effects
  • Onset of effects is generally slow: can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours before you notice the effects

  • IMPORTANT TO BE PATIENT: Over medicating on cannabis can be an extremely unpleasant experience, but it is impossible to die from overdose

  • Effects last much longer: typically 8 to 12 hours

  • PLEASE NOTE: Edibles are not currently legal for purchase in Maryland, but you can find easy to follow recipes like on this website.

Orally, cannabis is consumed by mouth and swallowed. When THC passes through your liver, it converts to 11-hydroxy-THC, which has longer and often stronger effects.


  • Long lasting effects that are especially helpful for sleeping all night or for having consistent medicinal effects throughout the day

  • Cannabis capsules are swallowed the same way any medicinal pill 

  • Mouth sprays are generally dosed per-spray

  • Edibles can be great for micro-dosing during the day and are very discreet

cannabis capsule
TOPICAL: LOTIONS/SALVES/etc. + Transdermal Patches
tincture onset of effects
  • Onset of effects is moderately fast, but can vary person to person

  • Provides localized pain relief and medicinal benefits

  • Many patients find maximum benefits by combining topicals with other delivery methods

  • Effects vary in the time they last 

TOPICALLY administering cannabis lotions/salves/etc. and transdermal patches means to apply them on the skin.


  • Lotions, salves, balms, oil rubs, bath salts, etc. do not cause any psychoactivity

  • Lotions/salves are applied directly to the area of the skin in pain

  • Transdermal patches have the possibility of causing psychoactivity because cannabinoids pass through all layers of the skin and into the blood stream

  • Transdermal patches can be applied to the area of the skin in pain, but are more effective near the area where the skin is the thinnest (like where veins are visible)


The information on this page is intended for educational purposes and Positive Energy does not recommend anything as medical treatment. 

Always speak with your doctor before using medical cannabis and other drugs.


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