There's more than one way to crack an egg, peel an orange or skin a cat—and the same goes for getting your dose of medicinal marijuana. For some, smoking or vaping their medicine might seem too risky. For others, physical ailments might prevent them from comfortably hitting the pipe or pen.
Well, to them, we say: Worry not. Human beings are nothing if not inventive, and generations of psychonauts have already paved a trail for us. Here in New Mexico, we're lucky enough to have access to some of the most cutting-edge cannabis medicine available. Ask the budtenders at your favorite dispensary what varieties they offer and swing wide those doors of perception.
The classic go-to option away from smokables is, of course, edibles. As the years roll on, and the medical program experiences incredible growth, we've seen patients become more familiar with eating their THC. But for those who have yet to dabble, the experience can be strange and overwhelming. Edibles are especially notable for their psychoactive qualities. Unlike THC that's absorbed in the lungs, the THC in cannabis-infused foods is processed by the liver, converting it into 11-hydroxy-THC. This form of the chemical is much more potent, psychoactive and long-lasting. That's why it's so important to be careful when experimenting with this form of cannabis. Eating too much won't hurt you, but it will make you feel like you're dying.
A similar experience to edibles can be found in their cousins: Capsules and tablets. These make it a bit easier to reliably dose than marijuana-infused foods, because each pill or capsule will carry an exact amount of THC. Generally, these pills are made using THC oil and food grade coconut oil or some other kind of fat to facilitate absorption. The experience is similar to eating cannabis infused food, and the same warning applies: Always start slow until you've found a comfortable dose.
For patients who want to go straight to the source, they can skip all the middleman delivery systems and just eat pure cannabis oil. Oil is often consumed in two forms: Tinctures and Rick Simpson Oil (RSO). Tinctures are dropped or sprayed under the tongue while RSO is eaten in rice grain-sized blobs.
One of the newer (and harder to find) delivery methods is a classic in the pharmaceutical industry. The inhaler delivers metered puffs of vapor directly into the lungs. This method is incredibly useful for patients who need specific dosing plans, but don't want the extended freakout of an edible high. (Yes, we know this is technically a “vaping” method, but it's so novel that we just had to include it.)
Lotions, salves, bath bombs and other topical products have become an extremely fashionable way to dose in recent years—and they don't even get you high. These methods are useful for patients treating inflammation, some skin conditions and general pain. Topicals are particularly useful for treating muscle tension and pain, but the cannabinoids involved can only penetrate so far and end up reaching a limited system of endocannabinoid receptors. (In other words: The effects only go skin deep, treating symptoms instead of causes—so keep that in mind.)
The patch delivers a long-lasting, slow release option for patients. Similar to the familiar nicotine patch, the cannabis-infused variety is adhered to an area of the body where the veins are easy to get to—like the wrist—and cannabinoids are introduced directly to the bloodstream. The mellow, long-lasting high associated with the patch is similar in effect to that of smoking and vaping.
Another non-psychoactive delivery system is the dreaded suppository. These little bullets can be inserted into the vagina to help reduce cramping during menstruation and ease pelvic pain—or into the rectum to battle inflammation associated with hemorrhoids and even to treat sciatica symptoms.