This is a black and white photo image showcasing different forms of cannabis such as a cannabis leaf, a tincture dropper, a pill.

Cannabis Consumption Formats: How to Choose The Right Cannabis Products for You

It’s hard to miss the dramatic expansion of legal cannabis over the last few years. From billboards and dispensaries popping up to national magazines dedicated solely to cannabis, consumers (and those curious) now have access to legal weed in many states! With this growing popularity came a much needed surge in product innovation, product types and interest in various consumption formats.

Beyond combustion, today’s cannabis products provide users with more creative and symptom specific ways to consume. In addition to traditional flower products, modern dispensaries also carry edibles, tinctures, topicals, vaporizers, wax, even suppositories! (Don’t knock it til ya try it.) Many say they provide fast-acting relief for menstrual cramps and pelvic pain. Essentially, the diversity in today’s cannabis products means there’s something to suit every lifestyle and therapeutic requirement.

This Jane’s Journal post reviews different cannabis consumption formats, their benefits, and how to choose the right product for your specific needs. Let’s dive in! Please note: each consumption method offers unique benefits and drawbacks, and what works for one person might not be ideal for another. 

Understanding the Basics of Cannabis Consumption

Before reviewing the different consumption formats, it’s essential to understand the three most common components of cannabis: THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), CBD (cannabidiol), and terpenes.


cannabis plant
Photography By: Elsa Olofsson

THC is the psychoactive component that provides the “high” sensation and is sought after for its euphoric and pain-relieving properties. Both the medical and recreational (ps: it’s all medical to us) market place strong emphasis on THC percentage, but research suggests it has less to do with effects and more to do with the entourage effect, or how THC synergistically works with many other cannabis compounds to influence the level or high. 

CBD is non-psychoactive and associated with therapeutic effects such as reducing anxiety, inflammation, seizures, and supporting other physical and mental needs. CBD has also seen a rise in popularity in recent years and is favored by those who seek the medicinal benefits of cannabis without the high. 

Depending on your needs, you may opt for products high in THC, CBD, or a balanced combination of both. We suggest a balanced approach! 


Terpenes are aromatic compounds found in many plants including cannabis! They’re responsible for the distinctive smells and flavors you experience with different strains. It’s more than just the scents, though! Recent studies show that terpenes can also relieve pain, support mental health, and offer antifungal and antibacterial support.   

Some common terpenes include:

  • Myrcene: Known for its musky, earthy aroma, myrcene is believed to have relaxing and sedative effects.
  • Limonene: With a citrusy scent, limonene is thought to elevate mood and provide stress relief.
  • Pinene: As the name suggests, pinene smells like pine and is believed to improve focus and alertness.
  • Linalool: Found in lavender, linalool has a floral scent and is associated with calming and anti-anxiety effects.

Understanding the terpene profile of a cannabis product can help you choose one that aligns with your desired effects. For example, if you’re looking for relaxation and stress relief, a strain high in myrcene and linalool might be ideal.

Let’s Dive into Consumption Methods! 

1. Smoking and Vaping

Due to lack of product types in the past, the most traditional method of cannabis consumption has been smoking dried and burned cannabis flowers. This method provides quick onset of effects making it ideal when seeking immediate relief. Smoking cannabis is also popular within certain groups and cultures for religious and ceremonial purposes


  • Immediate Effects: Smoking delivers cannabinoids directly to the bloodstream through the lungs, resulting in rapid onset of effects.
  • Control: It’s easy to control your dosage by adjusting how much you smoke.
  • Community: Sharing smokable cannabis has long been a ritual for many groups and cultures. 


  • Health Risks: Smoking involves inhaling combustion products, which irritates the lungs and throat.
  • Odor: The smell of smoked cannabis can be strong and lingering.

What to Look for When You Buy Flower:

Appearance: Look for vibrant colors and a strong, pleasant aroma.

Condition: Avoid flowers that appear dry, brittle, or have a musty smell, which can indicate poor quality or contamination.

Social Impact: It goes without saying that at TIJP we believe in putting your money behind brands that stand for something. Ask dispensaries which flower brands are women, LGBTQIA+, BIPOC, and equity owned!


Hand rolling a cannabis joint
Photography By: Thought Catalog

2. Vaping

Vape devices heat—but don’t burn—flower, oil, or wax forms of cannabis to be inhaled. Some consider this method a healthier alternative to smoking joints or blunts, but the jury is still out on that one and many health professionals warn against the potential for lung issues


  • Discreet: Vaporizers produce less odor and are more discreet than smoking.
  • Efficient: Vaping often provides a stronger effect from a smaller amount of cannabis.


  • Initial Cost: High-quality vaporizers can be expensive.
  • Battery Life: Portable vaporizers require charging, which can be inconvenient.

What to Look for When you Buy Product:

Purity: Ensure the vape oil is free from cutting agents like propylene glycol or vitamin E acetate.

Testing: Verify that the product has been tested for contaminants and potency.

Social Impact: Again, we can’t stress the importance of supporting women, LGBTQIA+, BIPOC, and equity owned enough!

3. Edibles

Edibles are cannabis-infused foods and beverages. They come in many forms, such as gummies, chocolates, cookies, and drinks. Edibles provide a different experience compared to smoking or vaping, with effects that can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours to set in and can last much longer.


  • Long-Lasting Effects: Edibles can provide effects that last several hours, making them ideal for sustained relief.
  • No Inhalation: Digesting our weed eliminates the risks associated with smoking or vaping.


  • Delayed Onset: Effects can take 30 minutes to 2 hours to kick in, making it easy to accidentally overconsume.
  • Dosage Challenges: Determining the right dosage can be tricky, especially for beginners.

What to Look for When you buy Edibles:

Dosing Information: Look for products with clear dosing information.

Ingredients: Check that the product is free from artificial additives and preservatives.

Testing: Ensure the product has been tested for potency and contaminants.

Social Impact: Ask dispensaries which brands are women, LGBTQIA+, BIPOC, and equity owned!

4. Tinctures and Oils

Cannabis infused mocktail beverage
Photography By: Justin Aikin

Tinctures are liquid cannabis extracts usually taken sublingually (under the tongue) for fast absorption. Oils can also be ingested or added to food and drinks. Both offer a versatile and smoke-free way to consume cannabis.


  • Fast Absorption: Effects are felt relatively quickly, usually within 15-30 minutes.
  • Precise Dosing: Droppers allow for accurate dosing, making it easier to find your ideal amount.
  • Versatility: Tinctures can be added to food and drinks or taken on their own.


  • Taste: Some people find the taste of cannabis tinctures unpleasant.
  • Learning Curve: It can take time to learn how much to use for the desired effect.

What to look for when you buy tinctures and oils:

Clarity: Ensure the oil is clear and free from any particles.

Labeling: Check for detailed labeling of cannabinoid and terpene content.

Purity: Verify that the product is free from solvents and other contaminants.

Social Impact: Ask dispensaries which brands are women, LGBTQIA+, BIPOC, and equity owned!

5. Topicals

Topicals are cannabis-infused creams, balms, and lotions applied directly to the skin. They are popular for localized relief from pain, inflammation, and skin conditions without producing psychoactive effects.


  • Targeted Relief: Ideal for addressing localized pain, inflammation, and skin conditions.
  • No Psychoactive Effects: Topicals don’t typically enter the bloodstream, so they don’t produce a high.
  • User-Friendly: Easy to apply and incorporate into daily skincare routines.


  • Limited Use: Topicals are not effective for conditions requiring systemic relief.
  • Variable Absorption: The effectiveness of topicals can vary depending on the product and individual skin types.

What to look for when you buy Topicals:

Ingredients: Look for natural ingredients and avoid products with synthetic additives.

Cannabinoid Content: Check for information on cannabinoid content.

Purity: Ensure the product has been tested for contaminants.

Social Impact: Ask dispensaries which brands are women, LGBTQIA+, BIPOC, and equity owned!

6. Capsules

Capsules provide a familiar and straightforward way to consume cannabis. They offer pre-measured doses, making them ideal for those who prefer consistency and convenience.


  • Discreet: Easy to take without drawing attention, with no smell or preparation required.
  • Consistent Dosage: Pre-measured doses ensure consistent and accurate consumption.


  • Delayed Onset: Similar to edibles, effects can take up to 2 hours to manifest.
  • Cost: Capsules can be more expensive compared to other consumption methods.

What to Look for When you Capsules:

Dosing Information: Look for products with clear dosing information.

Testing: Ensure the product has been tested for potency and contaminants.

Social Impact: Ask dispensaries which brands are women, LGBTQIA+, BIPOC, and equity owned!

7. Dabbing

Dabbing involves inhaling vaporized cannabis concentrates, such as wax, shatter, or rosin.


  • Potent Effects: Dabbing delivers a high concentration of cannabinoids.
  • Rapid Onset: Effects are felt almost immediately, similar to smoking or vaping.


  • Complex Setup: Requires specialized equipment, such as a dab rig, which can be intimidating for beginners.
  • Intensity: The high potency can be overwhelming, especially for those new to cannabis.
  • Inhalation: As with vaping, this method can cause acute or long-term long issues. 

What to Look for When you buy Concentrates:

Ingredients: Check that the product is free from artificial additives and preservatives.

Testing: Ensure the product has been tested for potency and contaminants.

Social Impact: Ask dispensaries which brands are women, LGBTQIA+, BIPOC, and equity owned!

8. Suppositories

Suppositories are small bullet shaped capsules designed to be inserted into the vagina and anus.


  • Localized Muscle Relaxation: Suppositories are a great alternative for those experienced localized pelvic and reproductive pain due. 
  • Onset: Anecdotal evidence suggests that effects from suppositories occur within 15-20 minutes.


  • Comfort: Not everyone is comfortable inserting a suppository in their body. 
  • Availability: Many dispensaries do not regularly carry cannabis suppositories.  

What to Look for When you buy Suppositories:

Ingredients: Check that the product is free from artificial additives.

Testing: Ensure the product has been tested for potency and contaminants.

Social Impact: Ask dispensaries which brands are women, LGBTQIA+, BIPOC, and equity owned! Brands like women-owned Hello Again would love your support and they make a stellar product! 

Making the Right Choice

Selecting the right cannabis product depends on several factors, including your medical needs, lifestyle, and personal preferences. 

Start Low and Go Slow

Especially for beginners, it’s crucial to start with a low dose and gradually increase until you find your ideal dosage. This approach helps minimize the risk of overconsumption and adverse effects. Some even journal about their experiences as they experience each dose to understand what’s truly best for their needs. 

Consult with Professionals

It is always okay to ask a budtender! That’s their job and many are eager to share their knowledge. There’s also cannabis nurses like our friends at The Green Nurse | Holistic Caring Network. They can provide personalized recommendations based on your specific needs and medical history.

Remember: Quality Matters

Regardless of the consumption format you choose, always prioritize quality. Look for products that have been third-party tested for potency and purity, ensuring they are free from contaminants such as pesticides, heavy metals, and mold.

Tips for Ensuring Quality

  • Check for Lab Results: Reputable brands provide access to lab test results, confirming the product’s cannabinoid profile and purity.
  • Read Reviews: Customer reviews can offer insights into the effectiveness and quality of products.
  • Research Brands: Choose brands with a strong reputation for quality and transparency.


Selecting the right cannabis consumption format is a personal decision that depends on your individual needs and preferences. By understanding the pros and cons of each method, you can make an informed choice that enhances your lifestyle and supports your wellness journey. Whether you prefer the quick onset of smoking, the long-lasting effects of edibles, or the targeted relief of topicals, there’s a cannabis product out there that’s perfect for you. Happy exploring!

Cannabis Consumption, Cannabis Products, Cannabis Tinctures, CBD, Edibles, THC, Topicals, Vaping, Wellness

Shannon DeGrooms

Shannon is a survivor, activist, freelance writer at the intersection of cannabis and social justice, and Executive Director of This is Jane Project, a 501(c)3 that sheds light, builds community, and uplifts the lives of women and non-binary trauma survivors. After finding significant relief from her own PTSD using plant medicine, Shannon set out to destigmatize medicinal cannabis consumption through various forms of storytelling in 2017.

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