Cannabis Consumption: Delivery Methods and Emerging Technologies

Cannabis Consumption

Delivery Methods and Emerging Technologies

by Dr. Dorothy Colagiovanni, VP Product Development, Next Frontier Biosciences

Cannabis Consumption

The cannabis industry is rapidly evolving, with new brands and products launching every week. For both new and regular consumers alike, the sheer number of cannabis consumption options when walking into a dispensary can be intimidating. As additional states legalize adult MJ use, it is crucial for consumers to learn about cannabis consumption technologies.  Scientists and manufacturers have created numerous ways to enjoy the cannabis plant.  Learning about the advantages and disadvantages of each offering can help to more easily navigate the dispensary to find the best choice for your unique needs and lifestyle. Below is a brief outline of the available cannabis consumption methods, meant to serve as a guide to better understanding how each one works with accompanying strengths and weaknesses.

Smokable Products

For decades marijuana use has been associated with smoking, and although this is no longer the only way to enjoy the benefits of the plant, it is still a very popular method. Heating the flower of the female cannabis plant causes THCa to be converted to THC, the psychoactive component of cannabis.  The effects are experienced quickly, whether using a pipe, bong or joint.  New devices can even convert water bottles instantly into single use bongs. Smoking methods can, however, lead to long-term lung problems, including bronchitis. The instant effects and relatively low-cost make smoking a tempting option compared to other cannabis consumption methods; however, consumers should bear in mind potential health impacts.


Another inhalation cannabis consumption method, vaporizing (or “vaping”), involves heating dried cannabis flower or cannabis oil. Often seen as a healthier alternative to traditional smoking, vaping still delivers effects rapidly and is less harsh on the lungs. These products come in various forms, including small vape pens as well as portable and desktop vaporizers. Vaporizing flower minimizes the hazardous effects compared to smoking as only the heated vapor is inhaled without the pyrolytic breakdown products.  Potential downsides of vaping cannabis oil are the cutting agents used for the oil cartridges. These may include propylene glycol, polyethylene glycol or terpenes. These substances may also lead to lung problems with chronic use.


A newer method of cannabis consumption is “dabbing”.  This method takes cannabis oils, waxes or shatters and vaporizes them on a dab rig.  Unlike a bong which heats flower, the dab rig will heat highly concentrated oils/products for consumption. Many of these products require butane extraction to refine them. The rig is often composed of a nail with product on it that is heated at high temperature with a butane torch and then the vapors are inhaled.  This method is rapid and can lead to a very high state due the highly concentrated THC in these products. Not much is known, to date, about dabbing large amounts of THC over a long period of time. Additionally, the high heat associated with the butane torch can lead to pyrolytic breakdown products such as benzene and acrolein.

“Live” Products

Cannabis material that is classified as “live” means it is not produced from the extraction of dried plant material, but rather, from fresh flower that is frozen.  This process maintains the terpene profile, including monoterpenes that are often lost during extraction processes.  This can enhance the flavor profile of the products. Live rosin is made from a solventless process with an ice wax intermediate step so there is no risk for residues such as butane or pentane. It uses heat and a press to create small batch artisanal concentrates. Live rosin can be expensive due to the small quantities produced. Live resin is another concentrate product made by butane extraction following the freezing process.

Oral Consumption

There are a variety of edible cannabis products on the market that present desirable alternatives for those looking beyond inhalation methods, including candies and baked goods, savory crackers, and drinks like tea and soda. Nowadays, the taste of marijuana is barely, if at all, detectable. The downside of edibles is that they can take a long time for effects to kick in depending on the consumer’s metabolism, weight and gender. Further, many edible products on the market can be inconsistent in terms of dosing, and consumers must take care to “start low and go slow” to avoid taking too much, too quickly.

Read more at the Cannabis Business Executive site