Unlike using alcohol or other popular recreational drugs, using cannabis doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your health to have fun. In fact, the purported healing powers of cannabis and the plant’s wide use as a legal medicine over the last two decades is probably the reason that people are becoming more accepting of its recreational use. But as with just about any foreign substance, there are going to be some negative side effects associated with using pot. The good news is that some of those side effects can be lessened depending on how you choose to consume. Read on to learn the pros and cons of eating, vaping and smoking cannabis.
Researchers believe that there is a phenomenon at play when we use cannabis known as the Entourage Effect. Cannabinoids seem to be more effective in smaller doses when they are taken together. The term “full-spectrum” usually refers to extracts or edibles that contain the full spectrum of a strain’s cannabinoid profile (although in practice this often means it contains some of the cannabinoids in the profile).
Edibles that are made with cannabutter are full-spectrum and are believed to have the same medical benefits as flower of the same strain. Since nothing is inhaled, many users think this is the safest or healthiest way to consume cannabis. However there is one big setback associated with edible cannabis: The Bad Trip.
Experienced cannabis eaters know that the recommended first-time dose of 5 to 10mg is actually pretty low. The reason people will tell you to start so low is that every person is different, and the line between having fun and being convinced that you’re going to die is a fuzzy one with edibles. It’s very easy to take too much. You can’t overdose from cannabis and no one has ever died from the drug in the history of humanity. But if you take too much, you might think you’re going to die.
Another con is that there is a seemingly small portion of the population for which edibles just don’t have any effects. Since this hasn’t been fully studied, it’s not exactly clear what causes it, although the current leading theory is that it’s connected to a gene involved in metabolizing THC. What is known? That phenomenon is absolutely real.
Here’s the good thing about cannabis oil (a.k.a. wax, shatter, etc.): Its production removes plant lipids and fats and it can be consumed without taking in harmful tar and carbon monoxide.
But if you’re looking for medical benefits or trying to pat yourself on the back about making the healthy choice, you might be knocking at the wrong door with vaping cannabis oil. Over the last decade, some cannabis oil users have become set in their religious fervor over its benefits. For anyone who suffers from allergies to plant matter or is worried about tar, using cannabis oil makes sense. But for everyone else, it might be better as a less frequent treat.
As we mentioned earlier, when cannabinoids are isolated, they appear to become less therapeutic. Some companies are now manufacturing full-spectrum oils, but that often means that extracts of different cannabinoids from multiple sources are made separately and then mixed together at the end to emulate the full flower.
But beyond the entourage problem lies one with that could have much more dire consequences.
In a study published last year in the Journal of Adolescent Health, researchers analyzed data from a two-year Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health Study conducted by the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Teens between the ages of 12 and 17 were asked if they’d experienced wheezing or whistling in the chest that disturbed sleep or limited speech. They were also asked if they experienced wheezing during or after exercise.
The scientists found that adolescents’ lifetime cannabis oil use was associated with negative respiratory symptoms that weren’t associated with lifetime e-cigarette or tobacco users. In other words: Vaping cannabis oil could be worse for your health than smoking cigarettes.
It seems like smoking cannabis the old-fashioned way (or, better yet, consuming it with a flower vaporizer) is still the safest way to go.
Some people are not going to want to hear this news, but they need to remember that much of our distaste for smoking comes from tobacco—and cannabis isn’t tobacco. They both produce tar, but it comes from very different sources, and cannabis has yet to be associated with cancer.
The Problem With Weed
A final con to consider—one that applies to all forms of the drug—is lack of labeling when it comes to cannabinoid content. These days many brands will let you know whether a product is full-spectrum and might even give you some specifics about certain cannabinoids it contains. But there are still plenty of stores selling products with only THC and CBD potency labels—which is fine, since those are the only two cannabinoids that the state requires be labeled.
That means the consumer needs to spend some time researching products before they ever set foot in a store and having some idea of what they are looking for. It also means that a smart retailer will take the time to train their employees about the details of the products they sell.
Don’t take this as a call to require more stringent cannabinoid labeling. There are hundreds of cannabinoids found in a variety of strains and at a certain point it would just be unrealistic to list all of them. This is instead a call for retailers to become as educated about their products as possible and for consumers to become more proactive in learning about what they’re putting into their bodies.