When it comes to consuming medical marijuana, there are a variety of options one can choose. The effectiveness of medical marijuana can be contingent on the method used to consume it. Each type of cannabis can also affect everyone differently, depending on the consumer. Options for consuming medical marijuana include oils, topical creams, edibles, smoking and vaping.


Cannabis Oils

It can take between half an hour to 2 hours to begin feeling the effects of cannabis oils. The peak of its’ effectiveness is between 1-6 hours. To consume them, they can be mixed with food or absorbed underneath the tongue.



Edibles, or edible cannabis, can come in a variety of different forms. This method of consumption can yield effects that last longer than other consumptions options. Just as each person’s body reacts differently to medications, they can also respond differently to edibles. Consumers should consult the medical marijuana dosage in their edibles before ingesting.

Topical Creams

Topical creams provide a method for administering medical marijuana that doesn’t involve oral consumption or inhalation. This allows users to receive its effects through topical application. Once these products are absorbed in the skin, they can target inflammation and pain in the specific areas where they were applied. Options for topical creams containing medical marijuana include oils, balms and lotions.



Smoking cannabis is the most well-known option for consumption. While this method can create the desired effects quickly (within 90 seconds and peaking between 3-10 minutes), the process has the potential to be less healthy due to the bronchial irritants and carcinogens of smoke during the ingestion process.1


Inhalation of medical marijuana is also possible through vaporization or vaping. Because vaporizers can produce medical marijuana as vapor, rather than smoke, consumers who vape can receive the positive effects of cannabis without the potential negative effects associated with smoking.


  • Onset of ~90 seconds with peak at 3-10 minutes

  • Easier to titrate

  • Cleared in 3 hours

  • Similar carcinogens and bronchial irritants as cigarette smoking


  • Onset of 90 minutes with peak at 1-6 hours

  • Half life is 20-30 hours

  • Low and erratic GI bioavailability with first past metabolism

    • 50% of the THC is metabolized before entering systemic circulation  

  • “Start low and go slow”


MacCallum CA, and Russo EB. Practical considerations in medical cannabis administration and dosing. European Journal of Internal Medicine. 2017; 49(2018):12-19