Common Ways to Consume Cannabis - Ingestion

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Part two of this three-part Populace series considers ingesting cannabis. Cannabis has been consumed medically and recreationally for centuries, allowing people plenty of time to imagine unique ways to interact with the plant.

In ancient China, emperors drank cannabis tea; nomadic tribes in Morocco made hashish jam. More recently, in 1954 the modern interpretation of cannabis infusion started with a recipe for "haschich fudge" in "The Alice B. Toklas Cook Book" no doubt inspiring the next generation of weed brownies that rose to prominence during the 1960's.

It can be challenging to distribute THC evenly when cooking with cannabis

It can be challenging to distribute THC evenly when cooking with cannabis, so psychoactive effects often vary. Today’s edibles come in all shapes and sizes— from cookies to drinks, mints to gummies — powders, sprays, and tinctures. Edibles can be found in most dispensaries, and even high-end chefs that specialize in cannabis-infused cuisine are starting to host private dinners with menu items like "Blue Dream Salad" and "Sweet-and-Sour Diesel Fried Chicken"

There are many ways to ingest cannabis flower, but there is one critical difference that affects the experience, decarboxylation. "Decarbing" is the application of heat causing the active cannabinoids THCA and CDBA, which are not psychoactive, to convert to THC and CBD, which in conjunction with terpenes, provide the euphoric high associated with edibles.

Raw Cannabis

There is an emerging trend of consuming cannabis raw to get the benefits of THCA and CBDA. Dr. William Courtney, a US-based proponent of raw cannabis consumption, believes it can help with inflammation in the body and help boost levels of antioxidants. Just like the arguments for and against the idea of ‘detoxing’ with juice cleanses, there’s still debate about the health benefits of ingesting raw cannabis, but hopefully, future clinical studies can examine in more depth.

Cooking with Cannabis

The first step to cooking with cannabis at home is decarbing it. It’s a simple process of breaking up the bud and heating it in the oven (225F is best) for around 45 minutes until it darkens slightly and has an almost nutty aroma. The cannabis is then often used for cannabutter -- or canna-coconut oil for a healthier option.
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Cannabis-infused dishes are also becoming more popular among creative professional chefs. Jessica Catalano, the author of The Ganja Kitchen Revolution, is known for her strain-specific recipes that take into account terpenes and flavour profiles. Californian chef Christopher Sayegh, aka The Herbal Chef, serves up cannabis-infused multi-course dinners at pop-ups and special events, bringing a fine-dining flair to each dish.

Pre-made Edibles

Edibles come in many shapes and sizes, from chocolate bars and cookies to hard candies and gummies. THC gummies are available in most dispensaries where local laws allow and come in all shapes and flavours. They usually are dosed at around 10 mg - 25 mg THC per gummy. CBD versions are growing in popularity as a daily supplement for people looking to suppress chronic pain, inflammation, and anxiety.

It's best to start ‘low and slow’ with edible cannabis as the recommended dose is 10mg of THC, but if you’re new to cannabis, you can start with microdoses of 3-7 mg and build it up once you know how your body reacts. Think of 10mg like an espresso; for some people, that’s enough caffeine to perk them up, but other people need a quad to open their eyes.
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Read the labels of commercially available edibles carefully. It’s easy to overdo it if you’re not aware of the dose that works for you. Some cookies clock in at 50mg, so you're meant to eat only a portion, not the whole thing. Cannabis oil and tinctures also come in capsules that will reach your bloodstream faster as there’s no food to digest as well. Unlike smoking where the effects hit you quickly, edibles can take 30 minutes to an hour before they kick in.

Tinctures, Sprays, and Powders

Cannabis tinctures are an alcohol-based solution. They are a good entry point for the cannabis curious due to how easy it is to manage each dose and their long shelf life. If stored in a cool dark place they can last for years and remain potent.

ingesting cannabis affects different bodies in different ways

Sprays are a relatively new method to consume cannabis but have already become a viable alternative to inhalation and other forms of ingestion. Like tinctures, they are considered a sublingual, meaning they should be sprayed under the tongue for quick absorption. High THC sprays are a discreet way to dose for the euphoric effects in a public setting, and those containing high CBD are a faster acting way to get the benefits of that cannabinoid without smoking.
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Drinking cannabis-infused beverages is becoming more popular thanks to innovative new pre-dosed teas and water-soluble powders that are creating a new way to ingest a controlled dose of THC or CBD. Dissolvable CBD powders are starting to gain traction in the athletic world. In 2017, the World Anti-Doping Agency allowed hemp-derived CBD for the first time. By isolating CBD, athletes are able to gain the benefits without the high.

Like alcohol consumption, ingesting cannabis affects different bodies in different ways, depending on your size, metabolism, and whether you have an empty stomach. All these factors are going to influence the time it takes for your body to process it, as well as how tolerant you are to the potency of the strain.

Some people have been put off edibles due to previous experiences with homemade ones that have resulted in a negative experience. By reading labels, taking a small dose in a familiar environment and staying hydrated, consuming cannabis via edibles is a convenient and smoke-free way to enjoy it.

Part three of this series will look at the uses and benefits of topical treatments.