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How to Choose a High-CBD Cannabis Strain

CBD, or cannabidiol, is one of over 140 cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. It’s currently of great interest to many researchers and patients thanks to its wide range of therapeutic benefits. While we’re still discovering just how extensive those are, we know CBD can:

One way to maximize CBD’s therapeutic potential is to smoke or vaporize cannabis strains that are high in CBD. Prospective patients can also revel in the fact that some strains have been developed exclusively to treat a particular type of patient or condition. 

Patients seeking relief from a wide variety of conditions may want to consider using high CBD strains. Some of these conditions include PTSD, epilepsy, diabetes, pain, Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), inflammation , migraines and even cancer

Knowing which CBD flower is right for you, however, can make all the difference. 

What to consider when selecting CBD flower

Hemp vs higher THC strains

One of the first things to consider when searching for your “just right” CBD flower is its THC content. As the legality of CBD is still in flux this largely depends on your location. 

In locations where narcotic varieties of cannabis aren’t legalized you may be able to access hemp. Hemp and cannabis flowers are, incidentally, the same thing; the only differences are that the amount of THC in hemp is regulated, the botanical structure varies, and narcotic varieties have higher cannabinoid and terpenoid concentration. In the United States hemp must contain no more than 0.3% THC¹² while it’s no more than 0.2% THC in the EU¹³. Some countries also offer exemptions such as the UK, which has allowed doctors to prescribe cannabis to those with an “exceptional clinical need” since November of 2018.

If you’re able to access cannabis flower with a little THC in it — and tolerate THC well — it’s ultimately to your benefit. This is thanks to the “entourage effect” which states that cannabinoids have a greater synergistic effect when used together¹⁴. 

You’ll ultimately encounter a range of different THC to CBD ratios as you test out various strains. And because everyone’s chemistry is so different you’ll probably have to experiment a little to find what works for you. Many patients find a 1:1 ratio of THC to CBD to be helpful while others prefer ratios with less THC like a 20:1 CBD to THC. 

Terpene profiles

Another element to carefully consider when selecting CBD flower is its terpene profile. Terpenes are the aromatic compounds within cannabis that give different cultivars their  distinct effects. For instance the popular strain Blue Dream is often thought to have creative, energetic effects, likely due to its high content of Pinene and Limonene. Pinene is a terpene known for its focused cerebral properties while Limonene is sometimes referred to as “nature’s antidepressant” and can have euphoric effects.

Being able to examine a cultivar’s terpene profile is the most reliable indicator of how that flower will affect you. You can also use a flower’s terpene profile to help you select the right strain for you.

You can search for terpene profiles of popular CBD flowers online. 

Sourcing/Consistency

Industrial hemp is often considered to be a good way to begin experimenting with cannabis as its cannabinoid content is fairly mild. Narcotic hemp, on the other hand, will be far more potent than your standard industrial varieties.

Patients should also strongly consider the consistency of their source when selecting CBD flowers. Environmental conditions can create huge variations in batches, so much so that while one batch may be medicinal the next may not be as successful. 

“It’s difficult to make predictions on cannabinoid concentrations by variety name. A variety grown in Oregon is likely to be very different from the same variety grown in Colorado because there are so many factors that influence which cannabinoids and terpenes are produced…the amounts vary depending on the humidity, exposure to UV light, whether it’s grown indoors or outdoors, when it is harvested, etc.”

-Dr. Patricia Frye, Chief Medical Officer at HelloMD

One good way to keep track of consistency is to get a certificate of analysis (CoA) for your CBD flower. A CoA is a lab result that will break down the various concentrations of cannabinoids and other compounds in the plant. You can then use this as a baseline, tracking any changes in batches carefully as you note differences in effect. This is also why medical products need to be consistent as small changes in a batch’s cannabinoid/terpene profile can result in different effects for patients.

Popular Strains High In CBD

ACDC 

A Cannatonic phenotype, ACDC is beloved by patients on account of its high CBD and low THC content. This is typically expressed as a staggering 20:1 CBD to THC ratio. The East Fork Cultivars version of this strain contains up to 6% terpenes. You can view the CoA for the latest batch here.

THC content: <1%
CBD content: 16-18%
Terpene profile: Myrcene, Pinene, Caryophyllene, Bisabolol
Medicinal benefits: Inflammation, pain, anxiety, stress.

Avidekel 

Produced by Tikun Olam, Avidekel is a CBD-rich strain with almost no THC. It’s the brand’s most researched and awarded strain that can be used during the day or at night. 

THC content: < 1%
CBD content: 16-19%
Terpene profile: Beta-Myrcene, Alpha-Pinene, Limonene, Beta-Pinene, Guaiol
Listed medicinal benefits: Tikun Olam suggests that patients with Crohn’s disease and other digestive disorders, arthritis, autism, epilepsy, fibromyalgia, migraines, pain & inflammation, and seizures may find relief using Avidekel.

Sour Tsunami 

Developed by crossing Sour Diesel and NYC Diesel, this flower is one of several CBD-rich strains grown by East Fork Cultivars. It typically has a 1:1 CBD to THC ratio and contains a generous 3-5% of terpenes. View its CoA here.

THC content: <1%
CBD content: 16-18%
Terpene profile: Myrcene, Terpinolene, Ocimene, Caryophyllene
Medicinal benefits: The digital healthcare platform HelloMD states that Sour Tsunami is used to help with “seizures, anxiety, muscle spasms and inflammatory conditions such as arthritis.” Leafly users report it helps with pain, stress, anxiety, depression and inflammation.

Shark Shock 

The offspring of a White Widow and Skunk #1 cross, Shark Shock is produced by Redecan and often expresses a 1:1 or 2:1 ratio of CBD to THC. 

THC content:  2.0 – 5.0%
CBD content: 6.0 – 9.0% CBD
Terpene profile: Myrcene, Ocimene, Terpinolene and Trans-Caryophyllene.
Medicinal benefits: Pain, anxiety, inflammation.

Midnight

Midnight” is Tikun Olam USA’s 1:1 CBD to THC cultivar. This strain is said to be clear headed and functional, making it a good choice or day or nighttime use. Expect a typical cannabinoid content of up to 12% THC/CBD.

THC content: 8-12%
CBD content: 8-12%
Terpene profile: Beta-Myrcene, Limonene, Linalool, Alpha-Pinene
Listed medicinal benefits: Tikun Olam suggests that patients with anxiety, depression, fibromyalgia, muscle/joint pain, PTSD, and tremors may find relief when using Midnight.

Ringo’s Gift 

A hybrid cross of Harle-Tsu and ACDC, Ringo’s Gift is a CBD-dominant flower that’s very low in THC. The East Fork Cultivars version of this strain typically contains <2% THC and up to 17% CBD. You can view the CoA for the latest batch here.

THC content: 0.5-1.5% THC
CBD content:  15-17% CBD
Terpene profile: Myrcene, Pinene, Farnesene 2, Caryophyllene, Pinene
Medicinal benefits: Leafly users report Ringo’s Gift helps with pain, stress, anxiety, inflammation and depression.

Pennywise 

Pennywise is an indica dominant CBD-rich strain that often has a 1:1 CBD to THC ratio and is suggested for nighttime use. View the CoA for it here.

THC content: 6-8%
CBD content: 9-11%
Terpene profile: Myrcene, Caryophyllene, Selinadiene, Humulene
Medicinal benefits: Data sourced from Leafly consumers suggests patients with arthritis, PTSD, epilepsy, neurological disorders, and cancer symptoms benefit from consuming Pennywise 

Tower

Tower is Aurora’s version of the classic CBD varietal “Cannatonic”. This hybrid version is extremely low in THC and contains up to ~12% CBD. View the lab report for the most recent batch here.

THC content: <1%
CBD content: Up to 11-12%
Terpene profile: Beta-Myrcene, Alpha-Bisabolol, Guaiol, Trans-Caryophyllene, Alpha-Pinene
Medicinal benefits: Pain, inflammation, anxiety

Different Methods of Consumption

There’s more than one way to consume high CBD varietals. Aside from smoking, another way to reap the benefits of CBD flowers is to experiment with the different forms of CBD products available. Such products can include utilizing vaporizers as well as oils/edibles

Whenever you experiment with different consumption methods it’s best to always keep the entourage effect in mind. The entourage effect is a term used to denote the idea that cannabinoids and terpenes work better together rather than in isolation.
This means actively searching for products that are ideally full spectrum. A full spectrum product contains all of the various cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids found in the cannabis plant. Other products may be broad spectrum, a term used to denote the presence of all compounds except for THC. 

Purchasing CBD Oil

You can purchase CBD oil online from a variety of retailers. Some of the most popular oils geared towards patients include Charlotte’s Web CBD oils, Lazarus Naturals and 

The non-profit group Center For Food Safety also recently published a hemp scoring guide. Four companies received an ‘A’ grade: Fountain of Health CBD, Green Gorilla, Palmetto Harmony and RE:Botanicals.

Purchasing Cannabis Vapes

Vaporizing cannabis flower is one of the best ways to reap the maximum health benefits to offer as this method does not rely on combustion and produces no smoke. The low temperature also preserves terpenes, providing a richer, more medicinal patient experience. 

Choosing the right cannabis vape, however, should be done with care. Be sure that every product you purchase has been tested by a third party and is free of toxins, pesticides or mold. You also want to do everything in your power to get a full spectrum product (rather than ‘distillate’). 

CO2-extracted cannabis cartridges are also ideal as these do not require a solvent and yield some of the cleanest cannabis concentrates. Avoid any products with artificial flavorings, thinning agents or preservatives as well as cartridges made with fractionated coconut oil (MCT). 

If it is available, only purchase legal cannabis, as illegal “street” cartridges are unregulated and can contain toxic compounds like Vitamin E acetate. 

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What Is Microdosing Cannabis and Why Do It

The medical benefits of cannabis (and its active ingredients like THC and CBD) are hard to deny. So if cannabis is working well for your medical conditions, you might think that the more cannabis you take the better it will work at relieving your symptoms. But is this true? In the midst of a cannabis market with increasingly potent cannabis options, some are choosing a different route. Instead of increasing their cannabis intake they are scaling it back with something called “microdosing.” But what is microdosing and why do some people prefer it? 

What is Microdosing? 

Microdosing is the practice of taking a much smaller dose of a medication than is normally used. It’s a practice used with all kinds of compounds, but most often discussed with psychoactive substances such as LSD. Recently people have started to apply the practice to cannabis and its popular ingredients, THC and CBD. One reason for microdosing cannabis is that taking a small amount may help to access it’s helpful effects without engaging negative side effects like a psychoactive high. But microdosing cannabis is also helpful for those who are trying to avoid triggering the wrong side of something called a biphasic effect. 

To explain this simply, when a substance (like THC) has a biphasic effect, it means that it can produce two opposing effects — depending on the dose of the substance taken. Consider, for example, alcohol, which at low doses might make someone feel a bit energized, happy and chatty — but at high doses might leave them sedated, depressed and antisocial. 

For many substances, these biphasic effects are important because the dose taken can drastically impact the effect it has on the human body. And with cannabis, multiple biphasic effects have been noted. 

Cannabis’ Biphasic Effects

Cannabis’ two most common and popular ingredients, THC and CBD, have been noted to have a variety of biphasic effects. One of the most commonly reported biphasic effects from cannabis is THC’s effect on anxiety. While many report cannabis can help ease their anxiety, others say that it makes them more anxious and paranoid. The science supports these claims, showing that dosing can make a big impact on how cannabis and its components affect anxiety. Studies on both animals and humans have found that while lower doses of THC tend to relieve anxiety, higher doses can spike it. 

For example, in one animal study, mice given low doses of THC spent more time in open areas than controls (an indication of reduced anxiety), while those given high doses of THC spent less time in these stressful spaces (suggesting increased anxiety). 

In one human study, a group of 42 patients were given a placebo, a low dose of THC (7.5mg), or a high dose of THC (12.5mg). Then they were subjected to various stress inducing tests and asked to rate their stress. Those in the low THC group showed reduced stress during these tests, but those who had the higher dose were more likely to have increased stress.  

In another human study, a group of incarcerated patients with PTSD were given even lower doses (4mg) of the synthetic cannabinoid Nabilone, which mimics THC’s effects. Researchers found this low dose resulted in significant improvement in PTSD associated insomnia, nightmares, general symptoms, and even chronic pain.

Still despite success treating anxiety conditions at these lower doses, the average dosing for cannabis products is around 10mg — which might be too high for some. And it’s not just anxiety that can benefit from microdosing. Biphasic effects from THC have been noted for pain, temperature regulation, motivational processing, appetite, novelty seeking, and locomotion and exploration. Biphasic responses have also been found for CBD with effects like pain, sedation, nausea and vomiting relief, and immune responses

For many of cannabis’ effects — a lower dose might be the most effective option. 

Cannabis-tincture-in-tea

How to Microdose

Microdosing can be very helpful for some, and the research on biphasic effects suggests it could be particularly helpful for patients dealing with pain, appetite, energy or mood-related issues like anxiety and depression. As we’ve seen above, all of these issues are common reasons for cannabis use that have strong dose-dependant biphasic reactions. So microdosing can be a great way to hone in on an optimal dose. 

With microdosing, patients are advised to start with the smallest dose that they can, which might be a small puff with an inhaled method like smoking or vaping, or a dose around 2.5mg for edibles or sublingual options. They should stick to this dose for at least three days to evaluate its effect before increasing it. By starting low, patients can slowly increase their dosing to find an optimal dose. As they go up, they may find that the symptoms they are treating improve. But at a certain point, if they continue to increase, they are likely to hit a dose where the cannabis is actually causing negative symptoms. If this happens, they can return to the last dose that relieved their symptoms. 

There are few downsides to microdosing cannabis (when compared to taking larger doses) in terms of risk factors, but for some microdosing might not be the best option. Some patients actually do need a larger dose to effectively manage their condition. Take, for example, studies on migraines, which show that relief is usually achieved only after high doses (around 20mg).

Still, this process of finding the optimal dose is important because there can be big differences in how individuals respond to cannabis. In addition to condition related differences in the cannabis needed, there are also differences in how sensitive individuals are to the effects of cannabis because of genetic differences and differences in previous cannabis experience (which can make you tolerant to its effects). So an optimal dose for one patient might be 2mg while for another patient it might be more like 20mg. Either way, if you aren’t sure what your optimal dose is, starting low and slowly increasing is the best way to find out. 

If you think microdosing cannabis might be right for you, talk with a practitioner who specializes in cannabinoid medicine. They can help make sure you are on the right track before you begin or change any cannabis regimen. 

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Three Ways to Make Cannabis Tea

Cannabis is an extremely versatile plant that can be used in many ways. You can smoke it, vaporize it, or apply it topically. You can also infuse it into your favorite foods and drinks, commonly referred to as edibles. Edibles are especially popular among medicinal users as they are discreet, portable, and accessible alternatives to smoking.

Edibles need not always take the form of brownies or cookies, however. They’re so versatile that nearly any food product you can think of can be turned into an edible today. You can find edibles available as sweets, sure, but you can also purchase them as infused drinks, too. 

One of the most popular infused drinks is cannabis tea.

Why Cannabis Tea?

People have been using cannabis in both medicinal and recreational applications for thousands of years — as far back as 6,000 BCE, in fact. You might even be surprised to learn that figures like Queen Victoria enjoyed her fair share of the plant. The fair lady relied on a cannabis tincture — most likely delivered sublingually — to relieve menstrual cramps. 

There are several ways you can make cannabis tea, and while each unique method offers its own pros and cons, we know Queen Victoria had the right idea. Cannabis has a strong affinity for fats and works better when administered with them. Adding fat to your tea will boost the effects and bioavailability of THC, the psychoactive compound found in cannabis.

Many prefer to consume cannabis in this way as the effects of cannabis tea last longer (up to eight hours) than the effects of smoking (two-to-three hours). It’s also healthier because it doesn’t utilize heat or smoke, thereby minimizing contact with any harmful byproducts of combustion. 

Depending on their preparation, cannabis teas can also be very antioxidant-rich. They can also contain other herbs and spices that have their own unique health benefits such as turmeric, ginger, or black peppercorns. 

Finally, tea is a very accessible way to consume cannabis that can be enjoyed by just about anybody. 

How To Make Cannabis Tea

There are a few different ways you can prepare cannabis tea. 

Method #1: Infuse Tea With A Cannabis Fat

The simplest technique is also the most potent. Steep your favorite tea for a few minutes, then simply add a few teaspoons of the infused cannabis fat of your choice. This can be anything from cannabis oils (usually coconut) to cannabis-infused honey. The addition of the fat will increase the bioavailability of your cannabinoids (THC or CBD), making this the most potent and psychoactive option. Onset time is 30 minutes to two hours. 

You can also tweak this option to make it even more potent by decarboxylating (see below) your ground-up cannabis. This is the best option for those seeking the maximum health benefits of THC.

Another way to customize this option is to infuse your own cannabis fat. You can make your own cannabis oil or even infused heavy cream/milk. To do so, you must begin by breaking up and decarboxylating your cannabis. Once it’s cooled you can infuse it into your carrier fat of choice. 

You can also use a store-bought, alcohol-based cannabis tincture (a concentrated cannabis solution) or even make your own alcohol-based cannabis tincture.

Method #2: Steep Cannabis With Tea (No Fat)

Those seeking a less intoxicating option can opt to omit the fat entirely, thereby reducing the potency of the THC. This option relies on directly steeping your tea of choice with ground-up cannabis. 

In its raw form, cannabis isn’t psychotropic — it exists as the raw acid form THCA (tetrahydrocannabinolic acid) and converts to THC when heated to 220 F (104 C) for 30-45 minutes. The conversion of THCA to THC through the use of heat is called decarboxylation. 

Steeping the raw cannabis in tea does not bring it to the required temperature for decarboxylation. As such, the primary cannabinoid found in this version of cannabis tea is the raw THCA/CBDA (THC/CBD equivalents), depending on what your starting material is.

THCA boasts many health benefits. These include powerful anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective, and anti-emetic properties, among others. 

To make this version of tea place ground up cannabis inside a tea bag or tea ball. Bring water to a simmer on the stovetop and add the tea bag. Simmer for 30 minutes. Let cool before drinking.  

Method #3: Infuse Tea With A Water-soluble Cannabis Extract

The fastest acting version of cannabis tea is one that uses a water soluble-based cannabinoid solution. These types of products tend to use nanoemulsions that emulsify cannabis fats within aqueous, water-based solutions. As a result, they’re absorbed sublingually and take effect nearly instantaneously, providing a fast-acting solution for patients who don’t want to wait for edibles to kick in. However, sublingual consumption tends to last for three-to-four hours rather than the full eight hours that can come with edible use.

You can purchase these water-soluble cannabinoid products online or at dispensaries. They tend to come as “drops,” most commonly as CBD drops that can be added to just about any drink. 

Brew your tea as you would normally, then add a few drops of the solution to your drink. 

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Binge Drinking Drops When Cannabis Is Legal, Study Finds

Do people drink less alcohol when recreational cannabis use is legalized? US states where cannabis is available for adult use had binge drinking rates 9% lower than the national average and 11% lower than states where cannabis is not legal in 2016, according to a report published by the Cowen & Co. investment banking firm last month.

The trend, while encouraging, is not totally cut and dry. States with brand-new recreational cannabis access saw a reverse effect, according to the report, with bring drinking actually rising — at least temporarily. The authors of the report said they believe those states, California and Nevada, will eventually join other legal cannabis states and see binge drinking rates drop.

As of 2019, recreational cannabis was legal in 11 US states and the District of Columbia. In 33 states and D.C., marijuana is legal for medical use.

The American Centers for Disease Control (CDC) calls binge drinking “the most common, costly, and deadly pattern of excessive alcohol abuse in the United States.” Binge drinking is defined as a pattern of drinking that brings a person’s blood alcohol levels to 0.08% or higher.

“This typically happens when men consume five or more drinks or women consume four or more drinks in about two hours,” according to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

A 2015 study found that one in six American adults binge drinks roughly four times a month and that the behavior is responsible for more than half of 88,000 yearly excessive drinking deaths in the country.

The investment firm wrote that it believes the data strengthens its argument that cannabis and alcohol are substitute products and that low-end beers are most susceptible to the market risk that poses.

According to a recent study by the American Addiction Centers, when posed with a hypothetical scenario where only one substance — alcohol or marijuana — could be legal, 57% of American respondents said they would choose marijuana. The same study found that respondents who do not use marijuana believed that alcohol was 25% more dangerous than cannabis.

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Synthetic Cannabinoids: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

At the same time that cannabis is being studied for its medicinal properties, and widely used as a recreational drug, similar substances to cannabis’ active chemicals are being created in the lab. 

These synthetic cannabinoids activate the same components in the body as cannabis — sometimes creating similar effects. Some have even passed through rigorous drug testing to become approved medications for specific medical conditions. Still, other synthetic cannabinoids have not been studied, or worse, show dangerous safety profiles. While high risk and unapproved for human consumption, they are being marketed as designer street drugs — and sometimes causing serious health problems for users. This not only can be a health concern but also can cause confusion and have negative consequences for more studied and researched natural and synthetic cannabis.  

What exactly are synthetic cannabinoids? You may recognize the term ‘cannabinoid’ from cannabis science. This is usually used as a shorthand for the active compounds found in cannabis, such as THC or CBD. Technically though, the correct term for cannabinoids that come from the cannabis plant is phyto-cannabinoid while cannabinoid refers to a larger class of active chemicals, which, when absorbed into the human body, are capable of interacting with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS)

The ECS plays an important role in the human body, regulating a variety of its key functions such as pain, sleep, memory, hunger, and mood. As it turns out, the ECS actually contains naturally produced endo-cannabinoids, which are similar in many ways to both synthetic cannabinoids and the phyto-cannabinoids in cannabis. All three types of cannabinoids share the ability to interact with the endocannabinoid system by activating, blocking, or modifying endocannabinoid receptor activity. 

Endocannabinoids fit into these endocannabinoid receptors (such as  CB1 or CB2) like a lock and key, and are able to naturally stimulate them to produce the ECS’s many important effects.  CB1 receptors are largely found in the central nervous system while CB2 receptors are mainly found throughout the immune system. Phyto-cannabinoids like CBD or THC, along with synthetic cannabinoids can also hook into these receptors and can produce a variety of effects.

Importantly, synthetic cannabinoids are different from both phyto and endo-cannabinoids in that they were created in a lab, rather than being created via natural processes in animals or plants.

Most synthetic cannabinoids were developed by researchers trying to create new medicines — and some have made it all the way through drug testing to become approved prescription medications. But others — developed by researchers who were still in early phases of research — have been recreated by purveyors of illegal street drugs and used as “designer drugs.” These types of synthetic cannabinoids differ greatly in their potential uses and risks. 

Dronabinol, Nabilone, and Rimonabant: Synthetic Cannabinoid Medicines 

On one side of this synthetic cannabinoid divide, you can find highly developed drugs that were designed to be functional medicine. In particular, there are two synthetic cannabinoid medicines that are currently available as prescription medications in multiple countries — Dronabinol and Nabilone. In the countries where they are legal, both drugs are approved for the treatment of nausea and vomiting associated with cancer chemotherapy, and to treat loss of appetite and weight loss for patients with AIDS. 

Designed to mimic the effects of cannabis — without being tied up in the legal restrictions that cannabis encounters in most countries — these medicines have passed through the same regulatory process that all prescription drugs have to go through in determining their safety and efficacy. This means rigorous clinical trials to ensure they work well and don’t pose big risks to human health. 

Dronabinol, also called by branded names Marinol or Syndros, is a synthetic version of THC (the psychotropic agent in cannabis). Like THC, dronabinol can cause effects such as increased appetite, reduced nausea, and a euphoric psychoactive high. This makes it very helpful for treating nausea, vomiting and wasting common with chemotherapy treatment, and the loss of appetite experienced by AIDS patients. 

In clinical trials, dronabinol was deemed relatively safe but may cause rapid heart rate or low blood pressure, and subjective effects like dose-dependent changes in mood, appetite, cognition, perception, and memory. These effects are also found in cannabis, and in these trials, subjects developed a tolerance to dronabinol within 12 days, which often decreased these adverse effects. Still, this tolerance did not lessen the appetite-stimulating effects of the drug. 

Scientist examining cannabis plant

Still other adverse effects are listed as possible outcomes of dronabinol, including lack of energy, heart palpitations, face flushing, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, amnesia, anxiety, confusion, depersonalization, dizziness, euphoria, hallucination, paranoia, sleepiness, diarrhea, incontinence, muscle pain, depression, nightmares, speech difficulties, tinnitus, and vision difficulties. 

Dronabinol isn’t legal everywhere. In countries where it is, such as the United States, Canada, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and Denmark, it is prescribed by a doctor.

Nabilone, also known by the brand name Cesamet, isn’t a direct synthesis of THC but it is very similar to it, and both are able to activate CB1 receptors. Like dronabinol, nabilone is also indicated for nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite, but nabilone is only approved for cases where other antiemetic treatments have failed. This is mainly because, unlike other antiemetics, it can have psychoactive effects like delusions or delirium.

Most patients in clinical studies experienced at least one side effect to a mild degree. These included drowsiness, vertigo, dry mouth, euphoria, lack of coordination, headache, and concentration difficulties. Importantly this synthetic cannabinoid carries a warning that overdoses could lead to psychotic episodes, including hallucinations, anxiety reactions, respiratory depression, and coma. 

Nabilone is also only available in some countries, such as the United States, Canada, Australia, the UK, Ireland, and Denmark.  It requires a doctor’s prescription.

In addition to these two approved synthetic cannabinoid medicines, a third drug called Rimonabant was at one point approved for reducing appetite. Unlike the two synthetic cannabinoids above, which stimulate CB1 receptors, rimonabant works by blocking CB1 activity. This produces the opposite effect, reducing appetite rather than stimulating it. While rimonabant made it all the way to market, as a weight-loss drug, it was eventually pulled for potentially leading to serious mood disorders. 

Medications such as dronabinol and nabilone have been approved by regulatory authorities and as a result, are based on clinical studies demonstrating its efficacy. Unfortunately, other forms of cannabis, while often demonstrating similar efficacy, have not had the chance to undergo these trials due to legal restrictions on cannabis in general, and therefore have less clinical data behind them. 

Many patients still report a preference for natural cannabis products when compared to the synthetic options. This may be because synthetic options primarily aim to replicate the effects of THC — one specific compound in the plant. However, with whole-plant cannabis, THC is not the only chemical present. Instead, we see a blend of many different potentially therapeutic components. In fact, there are over 500 identified chemicals that might be present in any given dose of whole-plant cannabis. These chemicals interact with each other synergistically via the ‘entourage effect’ — the effect in which cannabis’ active chemicals work together to create effects that wouldn’t come from any of their parts individually. While THC is often a primary feature present in this mix, other chemicals in the blend may augment its effects, creating more effective results with fewer side effects than THC (or similar synthetic cannabinoids) alone. 

Spice, K2 and Other Synthetic Cannabinoid Street Drugs

While some synthetic cannabinoids are rigorously tested medicine, there are also synthetic cannabinoids that haven’t passed any tests for human safety and may pose a serious health risk. These are designer street drugs, usually sold as ‘incense’ and marked as ‘not for human consumption’ to avoid legal repercussions. Still, these are clearly intended for use as recreational drugs due to its marketing which gives it the appearance of cannabis flower. These mixes are usually some type of inactive herbal mixture that has been sprayed with synthetic cannabinoids so that when smoked, it will produce psychoactive effects.  

Commonly found in smoke shops, these drugs are easily accessible and may carry the label ‘Spice’ or ‘K2’ amongst others. But it is usually unclear exactly which synthetic cannabinoids are present in any of these products. Like other recreational drugs, they are most commonly used by younger people in their 20-30’s and more often by men

Despite their widespread use and accessibility, these drugs have caused a wave of illness and some deaths, so it’s important to know that these drugs may be extremely dangerous and can be unpredictable. You might try one version of ‘Spice’ or ‘K2’ and be fine, but then have serious problems with the next batch, since there is no uniformity in what synthetic cannabinoids are being added to the mix. In fact, these chemicals aren’t always even synthetic cannabinoids, they may also include synthetic opioids or hallucinogens. There have even been cases of rat poison being found in these blends

The supposed benefit of these Spice blends is that it provides a “legal high” that won’t show up on a drug test, and many believe they are safe since they are readily available. Unfortunately, the assumption of safety is far from accurate. Unlike natural cannabis, where there has never been a case of toxic overdose, synthetic cannabinoids can definitely lead to overdose and possibly even death.

Using these dangerous drugs is like playing a game of Russian roulette. Some might produce negative side effects like nausea and vomiting, aggression or agitation, and rapid heart rate, while others might cause more serious issues like stroke, seizures, kidney failure or death.

The History of Illicit Synthetic Cannabinoids 

So how did these dangerous drugs enter the market? Well, it actually started when scientific researchers, such as Professor John Huffman of Clemson University, began synthesizing cannabinoids for medical research. Huffman and other researchers never intended to introduce these drugs without rigorous testing — and some were clearly not well-suited for human consumption. But after the research had been published, law enforcement informed Huffman that the dangerous “Spice” products causing health issues had been sprayed with the exact cannabinoid he had been researching — JWH-018. As it turns out, designer drug makers actually looked through this research when it was published, and noticed that these substances could produce effects similar to cannabis. Without care for public safety, they begin to produce these synthetic cannabinoids and offer them as alternatives to cannabis. So in 2005, these started to hit the shelves in Europe and spread to other areas from there. 

While governments have attempted to ban the particular synthetic cannabinoids being used (such as JWH-018, HU-210 and CP 47,497), this approach has only spurred on drug producers to create novel synthetic cannabinoids. Now an unknown number of synthetic cannabinoids are widely available and difficult to identify or keep off the shelves. Still, some governments have taken extra precautions and banned any chemical that can interact with the endocannabinoid system — or any chemical that has a similar structure to a drug that is scheduled (which includes cannabis). In these areas, any synthetic cannabinoids are illegal — while in other areas they remain in a legal grey area. Regardless, manufacturers continue to fall back on claims that they are not intended for human consumption to avoid prosecution. 

Illicit Synthetic Cannabinoids Vs Cannabis 

While these unapproved synthetic cannabinoids are similar to the cannabinoids in cannabis in some ways — such as producing a euphoric high — they are also very different, both in terms of the type of effect and the intensity of the effect. While users should be prepared for any adverse effects common to cannabis, some of the symptoms, such as seizures, agitation, high blood pressure, nausea, and lowered potassium are features of intoxication with synthetic cannabinoids that we don’t see even in very high doses of organic cannabis. For example, in 2014, the US alone saw 37,500 reported cases of seizures and 3,682 reported cases of poisonings related to synthetic cannabinoids use. 

Illicit synthetic cannabinoids are also likely to vary in intensity, with some more mild and others producing much more intense and long-lasting effects than cannabis. Effects like anxiety hallucinations, insomnia, and psychotic episodes might last days or even weeks after synthetic cannabinoids use. In addition, the long term psychological effects are much more severe than with cannabis, inducing schizophrenia like symptoms in users

Unlike cannabis, these synthetic cannabinoids can also lead to deadly complications. Kidney injury, respiratory depression, and pulmonary complications have all been linked to synthetic cannabinoid related deaths. 

So while cannabis, and approved synthetic cannabinoids, can be used safely under the direction of a physician — these unapproved synthetic cannabinoid street drugs should always be avoided due to their dangerous impacts on health.

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Taking the Guess Work Out of Analyzing Cannabis Edibles

New Food Magazine

In 2017, the Specialty Food Association predicted that cannabis would be a leading trend in the food and beverage industry from 2018 onwards. Since then, several global food and beverage manufacturers have shown a strong interest in this space, having explored the addition of legalized cannabis to their product portfolios.

Just as with other food products, it is crucial to test cannabis edibles for potential contaminants such as pesticides, heavy metals and residual solvents. In addition, determining the potency of edible products is particularly pertinent due to the complexity of the matrices involved.

Given these needs and challenges, it is vital that labs have access to innovative instruments and software that are robust and sensitive, yet simple to use. Scientists and technicians must also have pre-established sample preparation methods, training and support. This type of analysis infrastructure will help labs keep pace with the rapidly growing cannabis testing market and, in turn, help food companies and others in the food supply chain ensure that consumers get what is promised in terms of product quality and potency.

The challenges with sample preparation

There is currently a variety of edible products available on the US market, with some of the most popular being chocolates, brownies, cookies and gummies. Due to this wide range of samples, a robust sample preparation method is crucial when testing edibles to ensure accurate and reliable analysis results across all available products.

The very nature of producing edibles – such as mixing cannabis with flour, sugar, chocolate and other ingredients – makes these products non-homogenous prior to testing. This means that a sample taken from one part of a brownie or cookie may have completely different concentrations of cannabinoids – as well as contaminants – compared to one taken from a different area. This inconsistency has a significant impact on the accuracy of results across a given sample and necessitates the homogenization of samples prior to analysis.

Due to the variety of cannabis edibles available in the US market, it is critical to implement a robust sample method to ensure accurate and reliable analysis results across all products.

The first step is to process the sample into a form that can be ground into small particles. This creates a homogenous powder from the product that is fully representative of the total sample received. In the case of heavy metal analysis, this would typically be followed by microwave digestion to break down the complex cannabis matrix and extract the metals for quantification and identification. This method works effectively across a variety of sample types, including edibles, as microwave digestion ensures complete dissolution of the samples in preparation for analysis on an ICP-MS (inductively-coupled plasma mass spectrometry).

The importance of a good extraction phase

It is vital to employ an effective extraction phase during sample preparation in order to reduce any interferences that might result from the complexity of the matrix. The presence of sugars, fatty acids and other ingredients in the sample will have various effects depending on the type of analysis being performed. For example, when analyzing a sample for pesticides, these additional components could suppress the target ion signal; but if you are analyzing a sample for cannabinoids, these could instead cause interferences.

In addition, the efficiency of the extraction process can also have a significant effect on the accuracy of obtained results. Numerous reports suggest that the concentration of cannabinoids reported in products varies greatly between different labs, with as much as 40 percent variation being observed from one batch to another. This is widely believed to be caused by the inefficiency of different extraction methods, meaning inaccuracy is introduced in that initial step of sample preparation.

It is therefore essential that labs have several sample preparation tools at their disposal and develop specific standard operating procedures (SOPs) for each type of sample. It is also paramount that labs perform their own validation studies when dealing with new samples, using robust instruments that can account for any interferences. Taking residual solvent analysis as an example, a headspace GC/MS (gas chromatography-mass spectrometry) approach requires minimal sample preparation, enabling easy maintenance and a faster analysis time. It also allows non-target compounds to be identified, which prevents false positives from interfering with the results of the analysis.

Keeping it clean in edibles analysis

In terms of sample clean up, the complexity of matrices in cannabis edibles can once again cause issues. This is due to deposits and residues building up at the interface of the ionization space in mass spectrometry instruments, ultimately requiring further cleaning and maintenance steps. However, some instruments have additional technology to reduce the frequency of cleaning the interface, which addresses matrix-induced maintenance issues and improves throughput. For example, a heated inner surface on the MS can prevent contaminants from depositing, while a hot laminar flow can desolvate any charged species. This ensures long-term stability and reproducibility, and reduces the frequency of cleaning, which can cause throughput delays in some labs.

The issues around potency analysis of edibles

Accurately establishing the potency of an edible is another key consideration during analysis, to help inform consumers about what they are buying. Numerous factors can influence the potency of an edible and the effects it can have on a particular person. However, the majority of focus when determining potency has either been on the THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) or CBD (cannabidiol) level of a product. This narrow view can present an issue for cannabis edibles due to their route of administration. When cannabis is smoked, the native acidic forms are decarboxylated to produce the psychoactive THC and CBD. However, if cannabis is ingested, as with edibles, these acidic forms will not be converted to their psychoactive counterparts. Consumers will therefore not receive the expected effect if only the total amount of THC – which includes THC and THCA – are reported. It is therefore important that methods are available for the full cannabinoid quantification of edible cannabis products, in order to accurately determine potency.

Because the acidic forms of THC and CBD will be decarboxylated when heated in the injector port of a GC/MS, HPLC (high performance liquid chromatography) is often the preferred method for determining potency inedible materials and extracted tinctures. HPLC offers a method for the chromatographic separation and quantitative monitoring of these native acid forms, providing exceptional repeatability and affording limits of quantification (LOQs) well below the current concentration levels of interest for cannabinoids in edibles. This method ensures that labs can more accurately determine the potency of edible cannabis products.

Ironing out the issues in a rapidly growing market

The accelerating interest in the edibles market across parts of the US and the rest of the world has led to a rapid increase in the number of cannabis testing laboratories. Often, many of these labs are in ‘start-up’ mode and may not have the required scientific expertise or training regimens onboarded to perform rigorous testing of cannabis and edible products. Vetted best practices and methods, that are available from the moment a lab is set up, are therefore vital for this fast-paced market and can give labs confidence in their results.

For example, single-instrument techniques that incorporate two ionization sources are available to help labs test for all the pesticides and mycotoxins currently regulated in North America in a single run. Having an established method for pesticide analysis also streamlines the entire analytical process, improving cost-effectiveness and eliminating the need for more time-consuming preparation methods.

The sensitivity of instruments is another crucial consideration for labs across the world, as regulatory limits for contaminants continue to evolve and become more stringent. Future-proof instrumentation and robust methods play an important role in ensuring the continued safety of consumers within the growing cannabis industry.

One pertinent issue facing the growing cannabis edibles market is the current lack of industry standards and quality control, such as the persistent pattern of labeling inaccuracies. Cannabis edibles are not subject to federal quality control regulations, which results in variation in the quality and consistency of these products. More needs to be done to ensure that the manufacturing and labeling of edibles is as consistent as other legalized drugs, such as alcohol and tobacco.

Finding the right solution

There are several areas that have significant opportunity for further development in the expanding cannabis edibles market. Improvements can be made by outfitting labs with complete solutions, including instruments and software that add value from sample intake to results delivery. The entire process also needs to be streamlined with methodologies that have already been developed and validated. It is particularly pertinent for cannabis edibles to ensure that established cannabinoid extraction methodologies exist for different matrices. Further to this, it is also imperative that ever-more sensitive equipment is available to ensure labs are able to meet future regulations around contaminants and potency.

By leveraging technologies, labs can keep up with the growing cannabis edibles market and continue to help provide safe medicinal and recreational products to consumers across the globe.

About the authors

Dr Kaveh Kahen is the President and CEO at Sigma Analytical Services, and founded the company after recognising a significant gap in cannabis and hemp science and testing methodologies. He has a wealth of experience in the design, development and applications of analytical instrumentation and testing methodologies, and has previously held a number of leadership positions at PerkinElmer.

Dr Toby Astill is the Global Market Manager for Cannabis and Hemp Markets at PerkinElmer. He first joined PerkinElmer in 2011 as an Account Manager and has since gained significant experience across the global cannabis market.

© Russell Publishing Limited, 2019. All Rights Reserved.

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Traveling with Cannabis in the U.S. and Internationally

Eleven states in the U.S. have legalized recreational cannabis, and 33 states have medical marijuana programs. But considering cannabis remains illegal under U.S. federal law, there is still plenty of confusion about traveling from one legalized state to another with cannabis, be it driving, flying, or any other way. 

Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers, responsible for checking passengers at American airports, aren’t directly looking for marijuana or other drugs. But they may report any found while searching for weapons, explosives, and other security threats. 

The result of having cannabis found by the TSA, is likely being turned over to airport or local law enforcement officers. Those officers, however, are tasked with enforcing local, state laws. Airport police in several California cities have stated that when the TSA calls them over because marijuana was found on passengers, they would only prosecute if the amount exceeds the limits prescribed by state law. 

Traveling Between Recreational States

Los Angeles’ LAX airport warns that officers have no jurisdiction to arrest people with a legal amount of cannabis, but they can still find themselves in trouble with federal law, the jurisdiction which governs parts of the airport. 

Meanwhile, medical cannabis card holders can fly out of Portland, Oregon. As of 2018, you couldn’t do the same out of Denver, Colorado, but it also appears that TSA isn’t looking for it either

In Las Vegas, instead of turning a blind eye or punishing travellers, airport authorities installed amnesty boxes. If a person is caught with cannabis, they are directed by police to dispose of the plant as they would a liquid that is too large for travel.

Despite the new approaches to cannabis, U.S. travellers need to understand that cannabis remains federally illegal. Like LAX mentioned, parts of airports fall under federal jurisdiction.

Traveling with CBD Products

The issue can become a bit more confusing with CBD, despite its somewhat legal status on the federal level. Currently, airport security doesn’t have the means to determine if CBD is derived from hemp or marijuana, the former being legal nation-wide. To avoid any resulting confusion and legal trouble, travelers who need CBD may want to leave the oil, and especially flower, at home. Edibles or isolates may draw less attention. 

Take a similar approach to paraphernalia as well. While travelling with bowls and pipes is legal in the U.S., it is advised that you use discretion. Make sure your pipes and other devices are free of any visible cannabis, residue, and smells. Any lingering cannabis aromas can set security off, leading to possible delays, detention, or worse.

A TSA officer searches a passenger’s bag.

Travelling Internationally with Cannabis

While the default answer is that travelling with cannabis is illegal and risky, \That isn’t actually the hard and fast rule everywhere. It is best to assume that you can’t travel with cannabis, but if you understand the process with certain countries, you might be able to fly with your supply.  

Be sure you understand the rules and regulations of both your arriving and departing countries. Understanding the rules of both lands and their airports is crucial. For example, the American. TSA will refer you to local authorities and/or confiscate your cannabis, but if you’re landing in the United States, you can be searched and arrested by federal customs officers. Other countries, cannabis-friendly countries in the EU like the Netherlands, may be less of an issue. 

The topic is a popular subject on the internet. In a 2018 Quora thread, one medical cannabis patient reported difficulty flying from Amsterdam to Barcelona, two well-known cannabis destinations in the EU. He said that despite having a prescription for five grams, security did press him on the amount he had. After some discussion, airport screeners returned the medical cannabis to him. 

However, most in the thread said the same: don’t do it. While the allure of having cannabis — medical or recreational — in a foreign country might be tempting, so is not being arrested. It’s best to avoid the risk altogether when travelling by air, road and rail internationally by leaving your supply at home.

Travelling with Medical Cannabis in the U.S.

Medical cannabis card holders may be able to travel with cannabis in their own states, but not when traveling outside of them. Crossing state lines puts you under multiple legal jurisdictions and sets of laws. As such, medical cannabis card holders are recommended not to bring their medicine on trips. 

While legally allowed to possess and use their medicine at home, patients are left with little options when leaving for pleasure or work. The situation has led some to alter their travel plans to only visit legalized markets so they can obtain their medicine once they land. 

Some states allow for reciprocity, where an out-of-state medical cannabis license-holder can legally acquire cannabis in a participating state. The rules are fragmented and do not apply uniformly. As such, travellers should check on the rules in both states while planning their trip. If you plan on travelling outside the country, it’s probably best to leave your THC and CBD at home unless you are willing to take a potentially significant risk. 

Safe Travels

Bringing medical marijuana with you on your travels might be tempting, and the same could be true for recreational cannabis. But in most parts of the world it carries great risk.

We don’t advocate for anyone to do so. But if you are considering doing so anyway, it’s best to understand the laws and consequences they carry.

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Ounces to Grams: A Medical Cannabis Conversion Guide

Ounces? Grams? Eigths? If you’re new to the world of medical cannabis, you’re liable to be confused by the different ways in which the plant is measured. 

While there are many different cannabis products out there, flower buds are still one of the most sought after. So if you’re in the market for cannabis flowers, best make sure you know how much to ask for.

Here’s an easy Ounces to Grams calculator. If you are looking for a more thorough explanation, keep reading.

Ounces and Grams

Ounces or Grams?

The main cause of confusion in the way marijuana is measured comes from the fact that two different measurement systems are used.

Ounces

Experienced cannabis patients and users, particularly in the United States, might be used to thinking of their cannabis in terms of ounces and fractions of an ounce, like an eight or a quarter. 

An ounce is a weight unit that was established in Britain and expanded from there in the 16th and 17th centuries to countries where the British had influence, which is also most of the countries that adopted the English language. For that reason, the ounce is officially used in the UK and in the US and has colloquial use in other countries like Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and India.

One ounce is a considerably large amount of cannabis. For someone who consumes cannabis once a day, an ounce should last between two to three months. That’s why some medical marijuana users tend to refer to their cannabis in terms of an eight, a quarter, or a half. All of these terms are just subdivisions of an ounce in eight, four, or two parts, respectively.

Grams

A gram is another weight unit that is used in the Metric System, which has been adopted by most of the world and is also the system used in science, engineering, and commerce. Since grams provide a more exact and simpler way to measure weights, dispensaries use them to divide and organize their merchandise and sell it to customers.

As a reference, 1 kilogram (which equals roughly 2.2 pounds) has 1,000 grams.

How Many Grams in an Ounce?

The simple answer is 28. There are approximately 28 grams in an ounce. This means that one ounce of cannabis will weigh 28 grams.

This is not an exact conversion, however. The precise number is 28.349523125 grams to an ounce. That said, it’s good enough to use 28 as a general rule when trying to convert between the two units.

Using this rule, an eight (⅛ of an ounce) would equal 3.5 grams. A quarter (¼ of an ounce) equals 7 grams and a half (½ of an ounce) equals 14 grams.

Should I Use Ounces or Grams When Buying Cannabis Flowers?

That depends on your preference, and on how much cannabis you’re looking to purchase.

If you feel you have a grasp of how much a gram is, you can simply tell your budtender how many grams you need, and in most cases, they’ll understand. 

Another reason to use grams is if you’d like to buy smaller quantities of cannabis. This is normally done when looking to try a particular strain before committing to a larger purchase. In this case, you can just buy 1 gram of a particular product.

If you’re more comfortable using ounces, you can continue to do so, and tell your budtender you need an eighth, a quarter, or a half. Knowing how to convert between grams and ounces will allow you to make sure you’re getting the right amount.

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The Portugal Medical Cannabis Conference: What to expect

Leaders of medical cannabis research from around the world will gather in Portugal next week at the Portugal Medical Cannabis Conference. The conference will begin in Lisbon on November 8th and 9th, and continue in Porto on November 22nd and 23rd. The conference is organized by the Portuguese Observatory of Medicinal Cannabis, a non-profit organization which aims to learn all about cannabis and its benefits for patients. The event will include workshops, conferences for health professionals, and sessions for the general public as well.

The Cannigma team will be at the PMC to get a first-hand account of the latest research in cannabis, and interview participants for new episodes of The Cannabis Enigma podcast. We’re very excited to meet with industry experts and discuss the current climate surrounding medical cannabis. 

The PMC is expecting over 500 guests from 20 different countries and has developed an app which is available for download on iOS and Android. You can find the schedule for the event here, and make sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter for insights and constant updates during the conference.

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Cannabis Gear: A Beginner’s Guide

Today’s market offers a multitude of devices and accessories that can be used to make inhaling cannabis simple and effective. There are basically three methods of cannabis inhalation: Vaping, smoking and dabbing. 

Although each method requires different equipment, they all work by the same principle: cannabis products are heated, converted into gases, and then inhaled. This allows for cannabinoids and other therapeutic compounds to enter the bloodstream and begin to interact with the endocannabinoid system.

In smoking, cannabis flowers or concentrates are ignited in order to turn them into a smoke that can be inhaled. This is achieved by using different kinds of pipes, though the cannabis flowers can also be rolled and smoked like a cigarette.

In vaping, cannabis products are heated to a point where they release their active compounds into the air without turning them into smoke, but rather a vapor that is easier to inhale and is less damaging to the lungs. Vaping uses more complex equipment that leverages the technological developments of our time to offer a softer experience that is ideal for beginners. Vaporizers can come in all shapes and sizes, from table-tops, to portable vaporizers and vape pens.

Dabbing stands as a middle ground between the two and is a more advanced technique that requires the user to ‘dab-rig’ to achieve a faster intake time and stronger dosage. 

Not every piece of medical marijuana gear is fit for everyone, so let’s check out the main equipment behind cannabis inhalation so you can find out which best fits your needs.

Vaping

Vaporizers are the main devices used in vaping. They consist of three parts: a chamber where the cannabis product is inserted, a mechanism that produces heat to the chamber, and a mouthpiece or tube through which the vapor produced is inhaled by the user

Vaping is generally considered to be healthier than smoking because the inhaled gases are cooler and contain a cleaner, purer version of cannabis’ active compounds. However, most physicians agree that any kind of foreign substance introduced to the lungs can cause some degree of damage to the respiratory tract. For patients who find inhalation to be the most convenient delivery method, vaping will cause less damage to the lungs than smoking.

Vaping Materials: What Can Be Vaped?

Cannabis products come in different forms and there are many different products that can be inserted into a vaporizer’s chamber to be vaped. 

Dry cannabis flowers, cannabis concentrates (like wax and dabs), cannabis oils and e-liquids can all be vaped, although each vaporizer should support each kind of material. Some vaporizers are hybrid, which means they can vape two or more types of cannabis products.

Conduction vs. Convection

Vaporizers work in two ways. 

Conduction vaporizers heat up the vaping materials by placing them in direct contact with a source of heat, the same way a steak is fried in a frying pan. Convection vaporizers, on the other hand, heat up the marijuana products by exposing them to a hot fluid (usually a hot stream of air, or steam). 

Convection vaporizers heat more evenly, but they can take longer to release cannabis’ active compounds into the smokable vapor. Conduction vaporizers are usually less expensive and work faster since the heat is transferred to the product more directly. However, conduction leaves a chance of burning some parts of the product, which can produce smoke. This isn’t possible with convection vaporizers.

Table-Top Vaporizers

These were the original vapes until portable vaping units were invented. They usually provide a comfortable way of vaping and offer a consistent experience through a robust piece of machinery. They’re fairly big, chunky household utilities designed to be kept at home, usually plugged-into a power outlet, although some come with batteries.

Since designers don’t have to invest effort in making these products portable, desktop vaporizers are able to include some of the best features like dual chambers (to vape both dry flowers and concentrates), conduction and convection capabilities and a precision temperature dial to regulate the heat to which the herbs or concentrates will be exposed.

Some table-top vaporizers release the vapor into a plastic bag, which is then released from the device for inhaling. Others come with a tube and mouthpiece directly attached.

Portable Vaporizers

Portable Vaporizers

Portable vaporizers offer similar features to table-top vapes, in a much smaller device that can be carried around. They work with batteries and are usually made to vape a single kind of product (either dried flowers or concentrates), though some models offer both alternatives.

Portable vaporizers also come with a temperature dial. They’re usually based on either conduction or convection and offer a discreet alternative for cannabis consumption.

Vape Pens

Vape Pens

Vape pens are small, portable vaporizers designed to vape. Vape pens became popular a few years ago in the form of e-cigarettes, which offer an alternative to tobacco smoke when their cartridges are filled with nicotine. Cannabis vape pens, however, don’t contain any nicotine. Their mechanism consists of a battery, a mouthpiece and a prefilled cartridge that is attached to the battery. The battery heats up the material inside the cartridge to produce the vapor that will be inhaled through the mouthpiece. They’re usually less pricey than portable vaporizers, but you need to purchase compatible prefilled cartridges, which can be filled with cannabis oils, e-liquids or flowers, depending on the vape pen’s model.

Smoking

Although smoking can be less healthy than vaping, many people still choose this method of consumption. It is generally accepted that burning cannabis in order to release smoke also releases tar and other cancerogenes that can be harmful to the lungs and our overall health. So, why is smoking still one of the most popular ways of consuming cannabis?

One of the reasons consumers still choose to smoke instead of vape or dab is because cannabis smoking gear is generally cheaper since it requires less technology. By simply burning the dried cannabis flowers and inhaling the resulting smoke, you can consume cannabis without the use of electronic devices and complex, expensive gadgets. Since smoking cannabis requires less technology, it demands a much smaller investment from the user.

Smoking Materials: What Can Be Smoked?

Dried cannabis buds are the most popular smokable cannabis product. For those cultivating their own cannabis, flowers require no efforts larger than harvesting and leaving them to dry. Dried flowers can also be purchased directly at dispensaries. 

Hash, which is a cannabis extract made from the plant’s resinous material, can also be smoked.

Tobacco smokers sometimes choose to mix any of these products with tobacco, although this is not recommended because of the many health hazards associated with tobacco consumption.

Rolling Paper (Joints or Marijuana Cigarettes)

Using rolling paper is a simple way of smoking cannabis. The dried flowers are grinded by hand, with scissors or using a cannabis grinder, then rolled into a small piece of paper that comes with a strip of glue that you lick like an envelope. Some people also include a rolled-up piece of cardboard, or “roach,” on the tip.

Rolling papers can be made from different natural sources like wood pulp, rice paper, and hemp; and they come in a range of sizes.

Bongs

Bong

Bongs are pipes that include a chamber that can be filled with water, which allows for smoke to pass through the water (or other liquid) before reaching the lungs. This process is beneficial because the smoke is cooled down by the water, which also catches some of the harmful particles in the smoke. The result is a cleaner, cooler smoke that is easier to tolerate and is less harmful to the lungs.

To use a bong, the user fills the pipe’s “bowl” or “cone piece” with cannabis flowers or hash, then lights them up and inhales while covering a small hole on the side of the device. The water chamber is filled with smoke. Afterwards, the user releases the hole, which pulls air through the bong, and inhales the cooled-down, purified smoke.

Bongs usually come with detachable parts to facilitate cleaning after use and can be made from glass, ceramic or acrylic.

Bubblers

Bubblers

Bubblers are small, single-piece water pipes that are usually made out of glass. Their mechanism is similar to a bong, but they’re smaller and thus more portable and discreet.

Pipes

Pipes are simple devices that are used to ignite and smoke herbs or hash. The cannabis material is placed in a chamber where it is lit using an external source of fire like a lighter or matches. The user inhales from the tube to draw the smoke into his or her lungs.

Pipes can be made out of glass, ceramic, metal, wood or other materials, and come in various sizes and shapes.

Grinders

Grinders are small devices used to crumble dried cannabis flowers into smaller pieces that can be rolled up in smoking papers, or smoked in a pipe or bong. Grinders can include a separate chamber that collects the “kief” or crystals that separate from the flower buds, which contain high amounts of active compounds.

Dabbing

Dabbing

Dabbing is a consumption method used to inhale “dab,” a highly-concentrated sticky oil extracted from cannabis by the use of solvents. These extracts are also referred to as wax, shatter, badder, honey or sauce, depending on their consistency. Some forms of hash can also be consumed by dabbing.

Dabs are very potent cannabis concentrates that contain high amounts of cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids. When these extracts are inhaled by the use of a dab rig, they provide a very strong, immediate effect.

Dabbing is an advanced technique that requires experience and is not recommended for beginner consumers. It is used mainly to achieve strong psychoactive effects, for experienced recreational users and medical patients who search for a potent and quick-acting dose of THC.

Dab Rigs

Dab rigs are pipes used to consume dabs, and also include several accessories.

A typical dab rig will consist of:

  • A glass water pipe that serves as a basic device for the dabbing process.
  • A “nail” (sometimes called a “banger”), which is a small chamber that is attached to the pipe, and holds the cannabis concentrate.
  • A carb cap, which is used to control the airflow within the nail.
  • A dabber, which is a simple stick-like tool used to separate a small amount of concentrate from the user’s reserve.
  • A blow torch, which is used to heat up the nail, since the heat from a common lighter is not enough to produce the vaporization needed in dabbing.

To dab, users heat up the nail with the torch, until it’s glowing red. Then the nail is left to cool down so the concentrate doesn’t get burned. After the nail has cooled (while still hot), a small amount of dab is introduced. The heat from the nail will transfer to the dab, causing it to vaporize. At this point, the user can inhale the resulting vapor.

Dabbing Temperature

Different temperatures achieve different results, depending on the dabbing materials and the materials out of which the nail is made. Low-temperature dabs release a more flavorful vapor, which is less irritating to the lungs and throat and resembles the vapors used in vaping. High-temperature dabs will give most users a faster, stronger effect, but they might not be as pleasant to smoke and could release toxic materials if the cannabis product is burned. Dabbing temperatures can vary from 300℉ (148℃) to 540℉ (280℃) and above.

In regular dab rigs, the temperature is managed by varying the amount of time between the moment when the nail is torched and the instant when the dab is introduced. 

Some dab rigs can vary, and include different features like:

E-Nails: To reduce the hazard of using a blow torch, some users prefer to dab using electronic nails that are heated through a coil connected to a battery, which heats the nail without ignition. E-Nails also offer the possibility of setting an exact temperature for the nail.

Recycler rigs: Recyclers are dab pipes that include a second chamber to accumulate water during inhalation. This allows for a constant flow of air that continues to cool down the vapor while preventing splashback from water bubbles that burst in the main water chamber.

While smoking was the main method for inhaling cannabis for many centuries, vaping and dabbing have quickly gained ground in the past decade. As the cannabis industry becomes better established and new research is funded, researchers are combining new technology with old knowledge to come up with new and exciting devices that will continue to change the way we consume cannabis.

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