Why Medical Marijuana Delivery Method Matters

With so many states legalizing marijuana for medical use, there are a lot of people learning about cannabis for the first time. For example, many new medical marijuana card holders are just now learning that there are different delivery methods. Needless to say that the choice of delivery method matters.

All delivery methods can be broken down into one of three categories:

  • Inhalable products (involving inhalation)
  • Ingestible products (involving ingestion)
  • Topical products (involving topical application).

Doctors and other clinicians approved to recommend medical marijuana will usually talk to patients to help them determine the best delivery method. Each method offers its own pros and cons. 

Inhalable Products

Inhalable products utilize either the flower of the cannabis plant or liquid concentrate. In terms of the former, cannabis can be either smoked or vaporized. Both methods deliver a near immediate high that can last for several hours. The active ingredients in cannabis quickly make it to the bloodstream via the lungs.

In many states, including Utah and Pennsylvania, smoking is not permitted. Medical marijuana can be vaporized using a device that heats the flower to a high enough temperature to release the active ingredients without actually burning it.

In terms of concentrated liquids, the practice of inhaling the product’s fumes is sometimes known as dabbing. This method also produces an immediate high. However, dabbing is very difficult to get right. Those new to medical marijuana can be easily overcome. 

Indigestible Products

Indigestible products include anything that delivers marijuana’s active ingredients orally. A typical indigestible would be either a gummy, capsule, or tablet. Indigestible oils are also available in some states. These forms of delivery can offer longer-lasting relief compared to inhalation, but they do require more time to kick in. Figuring out the proper dosage can be tricky as well.

Three more possibilities in the indigestible category are tinctures, sublingual oils, and edibles (food products containing cannabis). A tincture is an alcohol-based liquid with THC or CBD added. Sublingual oils are oils that you place just under the tongue.

As for edibles, these are similar to products intended to be smoked inasmuch as many states do not allow them. says that Utah is one such state. Consumers can choose gummies, tablets, or capsules, but they cannot buy edibles at marijuana dispensaries. 

Topical Products

Topical products are generally creams and oils applied directly to the skin. Like indigestible products, topicals offer longer-lasting relief because the dispersal of active ingredients takes longer to accomplish. But that also means it takes longer for the drug to kick in. 

Dosage and Tolerance

Regardless of the delivery method chosen, it is best to consult with a physician to determine the correct dosage. It is suggested that new cannabis users start with very small doses in order to allow the body to adjust. Note that cannabis may not be effective at relieving a person’s symptoms during the initial stages. Appropriate relief should follow with higher doses.

Another issue to consider is tolerance. A cannabis user’s body will, over time, tolerate the effects of marijuana. This may lead to the need for a higher dosage or a different delivery method. For example, some people who have been using medical marijuana for a significant amount of time eventually get to the point where only inhalable products offer the relief they need.

There are a variety of delivery methods for medical marijuana. Choosing the right method is important inasmuch as delivery affects everything from efficacy to tolerance. Medical marijuana users should consult with their doctors to determine which delivery method is most appropriate.


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