These days, a wide variety of consumption methods exist. Traditionally, cannabis is smoked in either a pipe-type instrument or rolled in paper and smoked like a cigarette (a joint). Oral ingestion (eating cannabis-infused foods) has also been a traditional consumption method in many cultures.

Recently, with advancements in extraction technologies, a new form of concentrated resin has been developed as well as concentrated forms of cannabis oils that can be ingested orally, mixed with topical lotions and applied to the skin, or vaporized and inhaled – smoking the flower is no longer the only method; you can truly take a pill that contains a very precise and consistent dosage of medication, i.e. a pill with 5mg of THC and 5mg of CBD.

There’s a method for everyone

While the medical efficacy of cannabis is undeniable, it is important to use the delivery system that is the best fit for you and your condition. Each consumption method produces different effects at different durations. Therefore, certain methods of consumption will be better than others in the treatment of each condition.

Here is a quick rundown of the most common forms of consumption and the cannabis forms for each:

  • Inhalation – smoking or vaporizing and inhaling through the lungs (joints, pipes, and vaporizers).
  • Ingestion – the cannabinoids and terpenes are extracted from the flower as oil and then either ingested as-is, combined with another medium like food or processed into pills, gel caps and other traditionally seen medicinal forms that can enable very precise and controlled dosing experiences (edible baked goods, pills, capsules and tinctures).
  • Oral absorption – the extracted oil is combined with another medium. The finished product is kept in the mouth while it dissolves under the tongue, on the tongue or through the inner cheek (mints, lozenges and breath strips).
  • Topical – the extracted oil is combined with a product that is applied to the skin (lotion, ointments and transdermal patches).
  • Cannabis suppositories.


There are two different methods of inhalation — smoking and vaporizing —both of which provide a rapid onset and similar effects. While both involve heating cannabis so that cannabinoids are absorbed directly into the bloodstream through the lungs, they are two very different methods. Smoking cannabis involves lighting dried cannabis flowers with fire in a method known as combustion – this includes using pipes, and joints.

The healthier delivery system, vaporizing, uses a stream of heated air to vaporize the active ingredients in cannabis without combustion. Unlike smoking, both cannabis concentrates and dried flowers can be vaporized.


Ingesting cannabis produces much stronger and more psychoactive effects than other delivery systems. When digested, cannabinoids are broken down in the gastrointestinal tract and then passed through the liver before entering the bloodstream. As a result of this process, the cannabinoids pass through the blood-brain barrier more effectively, thereby increasing potency by making them more likely to bind with the endocannabinoid receptors throughout the body. It may take 30 minutes to 2 hours to feel the full effects from ingested cannabis.

Edible cannabis effects everyone a little bit differently, depending on body size, metabolism, and experience. Many people associate edible cannabis with the traditional ‘pot brownie,’ but that hardly gives this method the credit it deserves. Truly medicinal cannabis is grounded in edible applications of cannabis — like most traditional medical applications, specific cannabinoids can now be reduced to pill form, capsules, tablets and liquid form. These new forms allow for very controlled and repeatable dosing events — like traditional pharmaceutical medicines, you can now take a pill that contains precisely 5 mg of THC or CBD and so on.

A closer look at edibles

The most important thing to remember is that each person can be different – start low and go slow. The metabolism of the person plays a large role in the amount of time it takes for an edible to take effect. Traditionally, it can take anywhere from 20 minutes to two hours or longer.

The effects generally peak up to four hours after eating or drinking cannabis, so it’s best to wait at least that long before consuming more. In most places, 5-10mg is considered to be a dose – which may be just right for some, too much or not enough for others. Take your time and learn what’s right for you, and always pay attention to the label for dosing and recommended serving size.

Oral absorption

Cannabinoids can be absorbed directly into the bloodstream from 3 different areas inside the mouth — under the tongue (sublingual), on the tongue, and all other mucosa tissues lining inside the entire mouth.

The full effects from using this delivery system will be felt more quickly than by ingesting, but less quickly than with inhalation. The cannabinoids will be absorbed most quickly when held under the tongue. Most commonly, cannabis is consumer orally with infused mints, lozenges, and breath strips. In this method of delivery, the effects will be felt within 10 to 60 minutes.


Topical medical cannabis products come in a variety of forms including lotions, balms, creams, salves and patches. Topical medical marijuana products are applied to the outside of the skin, and can provide localized relief from inflammation, pain, skin irritations and more.

In all forms of topical application other than patches, cannabinoids react with receptors under the skin, but they do not reach the bloodstream. As a result, most topical medical cannabis products do not provide psychoactive effects. Some transdermal patches, however, are able to transfer cannabinoids into the bloodstream.

Cannabis suppositories: what are they and how do they work?

A suppository is an ovular capsule that’s meant to be inserted vaginally or rectally. In the case of rectal cannabis suppositories, the capsules are typically about an inch long and are made from a mixture of coconut oil infused with cannabis or FECO (Full Extract Cannabis Oil)-infused cocoa butter.

Once inserted, the capsule dissolves and is absorbed into the bloodstream through the thin lining of the intestinal wall. Unlike some other forms of medical cannabis, rectal cannabis suppositories are incredibly bioavailable – meaning they’re easy for the body to use.

Rectal cannabis suppositories have an efficiency rate of between 50-70 percent and produce predictable effects every time they are used. Additionally, rectal cannabis suppositories take only 10-15 minutes to take effect and the medical effects can last for between four and eight hours.

Are you a candidate for rectal cannabis?

Chemotherapy patients experiencing extreme nausea who can’t stomach edible marijuana but need pain relief nonetheless.

Another example is elderly patients who can’t swallow pills or patients headed into surgery who are not allowed to ingest anything orally in the hours before their procedure. These patients would all be good candidates for rectal cannabis. Patients who simply don’t like the effects of edible or inhaled marijuana may prefer cannabis suppositories, as well.

What are the effects of cannabis suppositories?

Once a cannabis suppository has been administered, you’ll begin to feel the effects quite quickly. Generally, this begins as a warm, liquid feeling that starts in the pelvis and spreads throughout the rest of the body. If you’ve been experiencing pain or anxiety, the symptoms will likely begin to subside immediately.

Unlike other forms of medical cannabis, rectal suppositories don’t make users “high,” so you’ll still feel clear-minded and sharp. The effects of rectal cannabis can last for up to eight hours without re-administration.

Information obtained from