Versatility is one of the most valuable traits cannabis developed over its 80 years on the lam. There are dozens of ways to get the effects of cannabis inside your body, and legalization will only lead to more innovation. Each method of consumption comes with its advantages and drawbacks, which we have graciously compiled for you.
What happens? Burning.
What's so great about it? Smoking is, very simply, the best way to experience the full effects of cannabis. The highs have more reliable ebbs and flows. Also, smoked properly, most strains taste spectacular.
What's the downside? You're still pulling burned plant matter into your lungs. While studies from 2012 have shown daily and even long-term use do not impair lung function, you're probably going to cough a lot. Also, it's tough to medicate discretely.
What do I need? Anything you fashion into a pipe or roll into a joint. Glass pipes and one-hitters are discreet and portable. Water pipes cool and calm your smoke, but you'll have to deal with bong water, which smells like Cthulhu's beer fart. Joints and blunts exist to get you lit and to take badass selfies.
What happens? The material—which can be finely ground flower or a number of concentrated forms—is heated enough to activate and vaporize THC and most terpenes, the compounds that give marijuana its scent and taste, but low enough to avoid the negative effects of combustion.
What's so great about it? The taste of vapor is clean and clear, but the biggest advantage is discretion. Portable vapes slip into pockets and can be pulled out for a short puff most anywhere. Depending on what you're vaporizing, olfactory evidence is minimal.
What's the downside? Vapor causes me to cough as much as smoke, and while it feels healthier, I wouldn't say it's more pleasant. My biggest complaint, though, is on the effects, which come on fast and fade away relatively quickly. Of course, jagged highs are offset by the vaporizer's ease of medication. They also require frequent cleaning, which is the worst.
What do I need? Vaporizers range from $30 deals on Groupon to the tricked-out Digital Volcano at $669. You need a vaporizer and something to vaporize, which you can't get off any random street dealer.
What happens? Ground plant material is heated until the THC is activated, then infused or cooked into food products like butter or cooking oil. These products are then ingested orally, which means through your mouth.
What's so great about it? You can eat and get high at the same time, and no one's going to be mad at you for eating cookies at work. Furthermore, the effects of edibles have a longer duration than smoking.
What's the downside? There are a few. First, strain-specific effects aren't as vivid, particularly if your edible has been overheated. Second, effects of edibles take a long time to kick in since they're entering the body through the digestive tract. It could be 30 minutes. It could be 60. You never really know because…how much was in that dose? Oh, sweet baby Adeline, it was too much...too much, and now why is the sun eclipsing? Was there an eclipse scheduled today? Who left half a cookie just lying here in front of me?
What do I need? Most dispensaries are well-stocked with edibles, and their quality will definitely develop with time. I strongly recommend any of Lady Green's candy-bar line, which is scrumptious. Unfortunately, edibles are also quite expensive, running around $2 per dose. You can always make your own cannabis butter and experiment.
What happens? Essential oils are infused with cannabis.
What's so great about it? It's just a topical oil, but it's proven useful at alleviating aches and pains while providing no psychoactive effects. This is the product you mention to introduce the idea of cannabis to your extended family in Dallas.
What's the downside? It doesn't get you high and you cannot eat it.
What do I need? To Google "making cannabis essential oil" and follow the most reputable links.
What happens? Cannabis is infused with a liquid, like alcohol or vegetable glycerin. This fluid gold is then administered through droppers under the tongue, or added to drinks like cocktails and beer (alcohol) or tea and soda (glycerin).
What's so great about it? Tinctures absorb much faster than solid food, so effects kick in much faster, usually around 15 minutes after dosing. Tinctures are especially welcome to chemotherapy patients and others hoping to medicate without gagging.
What's the downside? Many patients I've talked to love tinctures, and I see the method growing in popularity as this beverage-loving town fully integrates the chronic (even more than they already do, I mean). But my experience has been too similar to the unreliability of edibles. They're also relatively inefficient at THC administration. I dream of strain-specific tinctures in morning tea, but the industry doesn't seem to be there yet.
What do I need? A lot of weed, a small amount of appropriate liquid to infuse that weed with, and instructions too long to list here. Most dispensaries offer some form of cannabis tincture.
What happens? Highly concentrated cannabis is smoked rather than vaporized. Dabbing has caught on among heavy users over the last decade.
What's so great about it? Dabbing delivers the effects of THC faster and with more intensity than ever before. Users with high tolerance report dizzying highs they haven't reached in years, and the fast-acting effects are great at treating health symptoms quickly.
What's the downside? There are many. With little or no regulation, the widespread use of concentrates is a perfect foil for anti-pot crusaders. With its rigs and blowtorch lighting, dabbing resembles harder drug use. Improper extraction can also result in houses getting blown up. Even more crucial: Weed advocates love to point out how no one has ever died from THC overdose, but concentrates raise the possibility. Some folks in the industry believe it's only a matter of time, and that concentrates will be heavily regulated in the resulting backlash.
What do I need? Concentrated THC, a solid water pipe with an adapted bowl referred to as an "oil rig" and a blowtorch for heating it all up. This is the big time.