Recall your first experience with marijuana. It probably didn’t involve a CBD-rich topical cream generously spread on sore muscles, right? More likely, it involved a few hits, or a massive bong rip that knocked you off your feet.
I’m not here to lecture you about the right or wrong way to use cannabis, but if you care about your health — and how to incorporate cannabis in the most effective (and healthy) way, then we’ve got some expert advice for you.
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There’s limited evidence indicating that inhaling cannabis smoke carries adverse health effects. There was a 2011 review cited by the University of Washington’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute that found long-term cannabis smoking may be associated with “an increase in cough, sputum production, airway inflammation, and wheeze — similar to that of tobacco smoking.” That’s for chronic users, however. When it comes to casual consumers, studies suggest that “marijuana use has not been associated with adverse effects on pulmonary function.”
Yes, putting smoke in your lungs can be bad. But if you live in a legal weed state, you know that joints aren’t your only options. There are tinctures, capsules, topicals… you name it.
I asked Dr. Peter Grinspoon—son of the historic cannabis researcher Dr. Lester Grinspoon and author of the memoir Free Refills: A Doctor Confronts His Addiction— about his thoughts on safe marijuana consumption methods.
To my surprise, his answer wasn’t “edibles.” I assumed that consuming cannabis orally—bypassing any kind of inhalation—would be safest. But Grinspoon pushed back on that assumption and, while peer-reviewed research is lacking, he recommended vaping cannabis for novice users.
“The thing is, each method of consumption has benefits and downsides in terms of health — but also in terms of the utility of using cannabis as a medicine,” Grinspoon told me. “Vaporization is much safer than smoking.”
When it comes to edibles — which includes those contained in capsule form, for example — there are still risks related to dosing that can alter your experience with cannabis. Vaping, on the other hand, has not yet been proven to cause adverse pulmonary issues. But the benefits are self-evident.
You have greater control when it comes to dosing. Take a few puffs, feel it out for yourself, and continue to dose until you reach your individual, desired effect.
“The good news about vaporization is that you can titrate your dose,” Grinspoon said. “One problem with edibles is that they’re a little bit more unpredictable about how much you get. And that can be a problem in terms of you can really alter your consciousness and that can make activities more dangerous.”
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He added: “People can take a puff from their vaporizer, and then if it didn’t have enough of an effect on their pain or whatever they’re trying to treat — their nausea — they can take another puff, whereas you can’t really do that with an edible because the effect won’t kick in for whatever — 45-minutes to two hours. You can’t titrate it. So it is safer in the sense to vaporizer in that inhalation gives you much more of an ability to titrate your dose.”
“The vaporization is safer physically and also gives you of an ability to titrate the medication, and if you were to take too much, it lasts far less long,” he said.