Many refer to topicals as the "gateway drug" to cannabis. Feeling external relief without a psychedelic high is a low-risk entry point, and the subtle jars or small bottles make them easier to stick in your backpack than a fragrant joint. They're the thing you get your parents to try, to open their minds to the idea of modern cannabis improving their lives.

For me, topicals are a medicine cabinet item like arnica cream and vitamin C. I apply some oily balm when massaging sore muscles. I'll keep a small tin of drier-textured balm with me in case my posture starts to strain my neck at work. But I had never tried the transdermal patch before.

I knew the local Synergy Skin Worx patch was inspired by diabetics seeking a consistent way to bring cannabinoids into the bloodstream without spiking blood sugar. It's reassuring the patch can be removed if or when one is feeling more altered than one would like. Impressed by the varied lineup of cannabinoid-specific options, I gave Mary's Medicinals a try.

I opted for the 1-to-1 CBD-to-THC patch, which contains 4.4 mg THC and 4.5 mg CBD in the form of single-source whole-plant concentrate from Oregrown flower. The minute I pulled the small, beige-colored square out of its slim package, it occurred to me how much I'd been underestimating this innovation.

The Experience

The patch can be cut in half for placement in smaller areas, but the budtender explained that transdermal delivery distributes throughout your body, so it's actually most effective to place directly on a veinous area, like inside an ankle or wrist. The directions note that though it will provide 12 hours of relief, it should be worn continuously for that period. So after letting my post-work high subside toward the end of my evening, I placed the full square patch on the inside of my right ankle. I liked that my socks would hold the patch flush with my skin because I knew there needed to be constant skin contact to work. After a few minutes, I pretty much forgot it was there.

How I Spent My High: Yoga and Sleeping

There was no surge of a body high when the compounds entered my bloodstream. I felt a slight whoosh 15 minutes in, and wondered if this was going to hit fast like sublingual edibles. But after that, I didn't notice any serious changes. I felt perhaps a little more patient and flexible while stretching. I went to sleep with the patch on and woke up notably well rested. I slept soundly, without tossing and turning—no small feat living with multiple cats in an apartment beside the train station. Most significantly, I woke up to the most stressful day I've had in a while, requiring me to eventually carry two space heaters across the westside and drive to Oregon City and back on a Friday afternoon in time to make it to the bank. I wasn't clenching my shoulders into a painful vice—the patch's 12 hours were up around 9 am, but I made it through a panic-ridden day without the usual toll on my body.

The Takeaway

The Mary's Medicinals patch will provide a degree of relief for existing pain. It may not last 12 hours, but you may find the benefits outlast the direct treatment. Personally, I'd wear this on my ankle on a night when I'm daring to wear heels, possibly avoiding the aches in my feet and shins, or throughout a day of travel, to nurse the sore neck that follows sleeping on planes. It's a discreet, no-frills delivery system, without the sometimes messy and laborious application of massaging oils and balms into areas that hurt.

The Bottom Line

For the $10 price and the potential to last longer than a day, these versatile, single-use patches equal a couple uses of an $80 jar of balm—and you don't have to worry about wearing them with silk.

BUY IT: Mary's Medicinals transdermal patches are available at multiple dispensaries. See marysmedicinals.com for locations.