Methods of Consumption and Effects

Inhaling (smoking and vaping) and ingesting (edibles, tinctures, ingestible oils) cannabis are not the only methods of consuming it, but they are the most common. Risks and onset and duration of effects differ between methods.

The type of product being inhaled or ingested is also important.

  • Botanical matter (buds, flowers) is less risky than concentrates (especially shatter, wax, hash oil) -- concentrates used by “dabbing” (heating and inhaling a pinhead size of wax, resin or rosin) or vaping have extremely high THC
  • Concentrates have THC concentrations of 70-90% (higher potential harm, especially for youth) compared to up to 30% in legally available botanical material
  • Concentrates are not currently legal in Canada

Inhaling

Smoking

Smoking botanical weed (in a pipe, bong, joint, spliff, or blunt) is probably the most common method of consuming weed. 

Onset:  30 seconds to 15 minutes. Wait to gauge effect before inhaling again; one inhalation may be all it takes to get high.

Duration:  30 minutes to 2 hours depending on strain and dosage; may last up to several hours.

Risks:  Lung irritation, spreading germs when sharing device used to smoke. Spliffs/blunts, which combine weed with tobacco, increase risk of head rush, nicotine addiction and lung damage. 

 

Vaporizing (“vaping”)

Vaporizers heat, but do not burn botanical cannabis matter, therefore risks associated with smoking are reduced. Active chemicals are released into the vapors when heating coils get hot enough. Botanical cannabis or oils can be vaped, but oil cartridges are not currently legal in Canada.

Onset:  30 seconds to 15 minutes. Wait to gauge effect before inhaling again; one inhalation may be all it takes to get high.

Duration: 30 minutes to 2 hours depending on strain and dosage; may last up to several hours and more intense if oils used.

Risks:  Toxins are released from heating coils and inhaled (health effects not yet known); if oils are vaped, stronger effects occur which can be risky if the dosage is high.

Ingesting

Edibles

Edibles refer to cannabis-infused food products like cookies, brownies, coconut oils and butters. Edibles for purchase will be legal in Canada by October 17, 2019.

Ingesting may become more widespread because it doesn’t affect the lungs. There are cautions to be aware of like more intense and delayed effects. THC reaches the cells after first passing through the liver when ingested, which converts it into another, more potent chemical, 11-hydroxy-THC.

Onset:  30 minutes to 2 hours, but depends on a variety of factors such as whether the stomach is empty or not, and metabolism. 

Duration:  Roughly 3 to 6 hours, although effects may last over 24 hours, depending on dose. 

Risks: Ingesting too much if not aware onset of effects is delayed; “bad high” can result from over-consumption because effects are more intense when eaten. First-time consumers must start with low dose (2.5 mg) and ingest slowly.

 

Tinctures and Ingestible Oils

Tinctures and oils are either ingested as drops under the tongue (sublingual), or added to food and beverages. Information below about onset and duration refer to sublingual drops. Otherwise, effects are similar to edibles consumed in food or drinks.

Onset:  1-4 hours depending on dose

Duration:  20 to 40 minutes sublingually

Risks: Similar to edibles if over consumed