How to Consume Cannabis – The Ultimate Guide

One of the most incredible things about learning how to consume cannabis is the variety. While smoking is the most popular method, you can use many alternative consumption methods to approach the plant. Whether it’s through a bong, dab rig, or an edible, there’s no wrong way to interact with cannabis as long as you’re doing so safely and responsibly. 

If you’re not sure how to approach cannabis and its many derivative products, here’s our guide to learning how to consume cannabis. Making the proper preparations before consumption can be the difference between a positive experience and a negative one. With that being said, here are a few things you should know before you begin consuming cannabis:

How to Consume Cannabis – Before You Begin

Cannabis Packaging

Understanding the type of product you’re purchasing and its potency can prevent overconsumption and negative outcomes. If you’re buying your cannabis at a dispensary, it’s always a good idea to ask your budtender for more information on product types and categories. While the differences between indica and sativa are popularly known, your budtender can give you insight into what to expect.

If you haven’t purchased cannabis at a dispensary before and want to learn how to do so, be sure to read our guide on “how to buy weed at a dispensary.” 

Cannabis Tolerance

The effects of cannabis are mediated by the body’s endocannabinoid system or ECS. The ECS is a natural bodily system that helps regulate everything from our hunger and energy levels to libido and mood by modulating the body’s cannabinoid levels. When cannabis is consumed, additional cannabinoids enter into the ECS to produce its psychoactive effects.

With that being said, it’s important to note that everyone’s endocannabinoid system is different. As such, everyone’s experience with cannabis will be different, too. 

A dose or product that works with one individual may not work with another. 

Being aware that your own cannabis tolerance may not be the same as another individual can also help prevent overconsumption and negative outcomes. 

Adverse Effects

Even with preparation and knowledge of products you intend to consume, you can still end up inadvertently overconsuming. Overconsumption can happen to anyone regardless of their experience level. Consuming cannabis on an empty stomach, trying a new product for the first time, or even lacking sleep can lead to adverse cannabis effects. 

In cases like these, knowing how to deal with cannabis overconsumption or “greening out” can be advantageous. Even if there’s no silver bullet for the effects of overconsumption, being able to recognize the signs and having a plan in place for when it happens can help you overcome the experience. 

How to Consume Cannabis – Different Methods and Techniques

Smoking

how to consume cannabis guide

Smoking cannabis is the most readily accessible and popular method for consuming cannabis. Smoking cannabis can be done via joints or glassware such as pipes and bongs. No matter the device used, the objective is to force the cannabis flower to undergo decarboxylation to produce cannabis-laced smoke, which is then inhaled through the lungs and diffused throughout the body.

Since the cannabinoid-filled smoke is quickly diffused through the body via the bloodstream, the onset of effects is incredibly quick, taking anywhere between a few seconds to a few minutes. 

Depending on the strain, the amount, and the consumer’s cannabis tolerance, the effects of smoking cannabis can last anywhere from half an hour to multiple hours. 

Vaping

Vaping is a consumption method gaining popularity among the health-conscious. Instead of combusting cannabis flower, the cannabis is decarboxylated via dry-heat until the cannabinoids are bioavailable and ready to be inhaled. Compared to smoking, this consumption method produces vapour, which can lower the number of combustion by-products such as tar, plant matter, and carcinogens that you’ll be exposed to. 

Individuals can consume cannabis in one of two ways via vaping. The first is through vaping dried and cured cannabis flower. The second is by vaping cannabis through vaporizer pens and similar devices. While the former uses actual cannabis flower, the latter uses cannabis extracts. 

Since vapour absorption is handled via the same bodily channels and mechanisms as smoking cannabis, the onset of effects and its duration remains the same. 

Dabbing

what is dabbing

Dabbing is a consumption method similar to vaping but distinct enough to warrant its own section. 

Dabbing is done via a dab rig and is used to consume cannabis extracts such as weed budder, wax, and shatter. Dabbing serves as a smoke-free method for users to ingest cannabis products of intense potencies and involves placing a cannabis extract on an extremely hot surface, causing it to undergo a process called flash vaporization, with users then inhaling the resulting vapour that’s produced.

The initial cannabis smoke is filtered by the water in the rig, converting it to vapour before inhalation. Fans of dabbing argue that this act of filtration delivers a smoother experience than other cannabis consumption methods.

The act of dabbing is reserved solely for BHO and HTFSE cannabis extract products and can not be used to consume dried cannabis flower. Cannabis extracts are also several orders of magnitude more potent than dried flower, so caution must be exercised when this consumption method is used. 

Although the vapour absorption is handled via the same bodily channels and mechanisms as smoking and vaping cannabis, the onset of effects and duration differ. Since the vapour produced via dabbing contains a high concentration of cannabinoids, the onset of effects happens almost instantaneously, with the duration lasting anywhere from one hour to several.

Ingesting

edibles vs smoking guide

Among those learning how to consume cannabis, ingestion is frequently the most infamous method. Cannabis ingestible often have the reputation of being incredibly potent and unpredictable, and their reputation isn’t limited to just candies and gummies, either. 

From tinctures to soft gels and everything in between, ingestible cannabis products are notorious for causing many cannabis users to overconsume and “green out.” 

This reputation isn’t unfounded. How the human body processes cannabis that’s been ingested instead of inhaled is fundamentally different, which is why the differences between edibles and smoking loom are so large. 

When ingestible cannabis products are consumed, the product is processed through the stomach, liver, and intestines. As our body metabolizes the cannabinoids, it also converts the THC into a completely different metabolite known as 11-Hydroxy-THC or 11-OH-THC. 

In addition to being more potent than regular THC, 11-OH-THC is also able to bypass the blood-brain barrier more easily, producing more potent and longer lasting effects. This chemical difference between THC and its metabolites is one reason why many have had negative experiences with ingestible cannabis products. 

Although ingestible products have a bad reputation, many of the negative outcomes experienced by consumers can be explained away by improper dosing regimens and impatience. 

Since the body’s digestive system processes ingestible products, the onset of effects can range anywhere from half an hour to two or three hours. The metabolism, weight, diet, and many other bodily factors can also affect the duration and onset of effects. 

Impatient consumers who might feel that the products are weak or ineffective will inadvertently overdose themselves only to feel the effects hit them all at once.  

The onset of effects for ingestible products can range from half an hour to multiple hours, with the duration lasting up to twelve hours, depending on the individual. If you plan on consuming ingestible cannabis products, it’s important to remember the mantra of ‘starting low and going slow.’ Start with a low dose initially and wait for the effects to activate before consuming another. 

How to Consume Cannabis – Multiple Approaches

Learning how to consume cannabis can be an intimidating endeavour but the payoff is well worth it. With so many consumption methods available, it’s important to experiment with all of them to figure out one that works for you.


Regardless of the consumption method, it’s always important to remember that everyone’s experience with cannabis will be different. What works for one individual may not work for another. When in doubt, remember to start low and go slow, even if you’re not consuming ingestible products!

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