Despite the wide availability of different methods for consuming medical cannabis and related products like CBD oil, smoking remains one of the most popular. Undoubtedly the most popular method for consuming recreational cannabis, it is also by most estimates the most popular for medical cannabis as well.
But we all know smoking is unhealthy because of all the burnt material that gets drawn into our lungs. Isn’t it a bit contradictory, then, to smoke medical marijuana?
Yes and no. Ideally, medical cannabis shouldn’t be smoked. However, as a practical matter, it doesn’t seem like the practice will be going away soon. It also seems that, assuming you need it and have no existing lung problems, smoking medical cannabis is preferable to not having any at all.
It’s best to assess this seeming conundrum by asking a few questions.
Why do a lot of people prefer to smoke medical cannabis?
1.) Instant effects
Smoking allows patients to immediately feel the effects of cannabis in their system. Compared to edibles, another popular consumption method, the path that the cannabinoid compounds have to take to get to your endocannabinoid system is much shorter, allowing you to feel the effects in moments rather than in hours.
In applications such as pain management, this is extremely important, as patients will invariably want instant relief, rather than have to wait the 4-6 hours it would take some edibles to take effect on their system. Vaping can be a good instant relief alternative, but warming up a pen can also take time and can be less convenient.
2.) Minimal processing
For some people, it’s important to use products that have only gone through minimal processing. Smoking generally allows better control of what gets consumed compared to many ready-to-use cannabis products, which may contain unknown additives.
3.) It’s easy to sample multiple products
Smoking makes it easy to try out a wide range of cannabis products within a relatively short time. Edibles, tinctures, and suppositories all have their own issues which prevent immediate use for testing.
4.) Simple and pleasurable
A lot of patients like the short ritual of rolling up a joint and smoking it, combining the recreational and medical aspects of cannabis consumption. The other methods can be pleasurable as well, but don’t generally have the appeal of smoking due to various cultural and personal reasons.
What are the downsides to smoking?
1.) Less discreet
Despite legalization in a majority of states and widespread acceptance by a handy majority of Americans, there still remains significant pushback from a number of people on cannabis use, even for medical reasons. Compared to other methods, smoking is more likely to attract negative attention when done in public.
2.) Potential for lung damage
You really don’t want any burnt particulates in your lungs, even if it’s from medical cannabis. Cannabis smoke contains a number of different compounds, including carbon which you would rather not have in your lungs if you can help it. In patients with lung cancer, COPD, emphysema, and other lung ailments should totally avoid smoking medical cannabis, as it can exacerbate their condition.
3.) Persistent cannabis smoke on your body and possessions
Even people who enjoy smoking cannabis will dislike having the smell hanging over them wherever they go for the same reason even people who like barbeque will not want to smell like it all day. Other people may also be turned off by the smell, which can be difficult to remove from clothes and living spaces.
There is definitely still space for smokable medical cannabis. However, it’s definitely not the best way from a health standpoint. If you require instant relief, at least consider using vape pens in order to mitigate the downsides of smoking.