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Monday July 10, 2017

Updated on 6/3/2021

By Michael Walters

Marijuana Consumption 101
Marijuana Consumption 101

Marijuana is a hot topic for discussion in the United States as of late. With an increasing number of states moving towards progressive marijuana legislation, more and more Americans are choosing to dip their toes into cannabis culture.

With seemingly endless products and possibilities though, starting off on your marijuana journey can be a bit intimidating. There are many decisions to make when selecting the right cannabis product for you and without any help or advice you may end up having a bad experience – or worse, not wanting to try cannabis ever again.

With that being said, our goal at PotGuide is to make sure that everyone experiences cannabis to the fullest potential in a safe, comfortable and enjoyable manner. Because of this passion, we have developed a beginner’s guide to marijuana consumption. This ‘marijuana consumption 101’ guide will (hopefully) leave you with a better understanding of how to consume cannabis and some tips on where to start off if you’re finding yourself a bit overwhelmed.

Introduction to Legal Marijuana

First things first, before we begin discussing consumption, it is important to understand a general overview of the cannabis plant and its path towards legalization.

Cannabis was first decriminalized in Oregon in 1973. Keep in mind, however, that decriminalization is far from any form of legalization. Differences aside, this was the first real step made towards progressing cannabis legislation in the United States at the time. Several other states passed decriminalization measures throughout the seventies and up until the early nineties, culminating in a strengthened approach towards legalization.

When we say legalization, we are not talking recreational, or adult-use, cannabis at this time. Think of the term legalization as any form of legalized cannabis (i.e. medical and recreational). In the nineties, medical cannabis legalization was the golden word.

Legal marijuana for sale in Colorado
Legal marijuana for sale in Colorado.

In 1996, California became the first state to legalize medical marijuana, creating a new industry for cannabis. The legalization of medical cannabis in California paved the way for other states to legalize medical cannabis and adopt their own laws and regulations. In just over 20 years, 28 states and Washington D.C. have now legalized some form of medical cannabis – that’s over half the country!

As the medical cannabis industry began to grow, so did the prospects about creating a legal, adult-use market.

Colorado was the first state to take this historic leap of faith, legalizing recreational marijuana for adults 21 years of age or older in 2012.

Since then, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, California, Massachusetts, Nevada and Maine have also legalized recreational marijuana, creating a legal cannabis industry worth billions and counting.

Recreational marijuana expanded the cannabis industry to unimaginable heights and brought a new type of consumer to the market – the pot tourist. Marijuana tourism is a booming industry that is proving to be a hit amongst newcomers and seasoned connoisseurs alike. Not to mention it is raising awareness for cannabis to many different audiences.

This spike in awareness could perhaps be the reason for increased public support for forms of cannabis legalization. According to a recent survey conducted by Quinnipiac, 62 percent of Americans support federal marijuana legalization and 93 percent support nationwide medical marijuana legalization. With over half the nation in support, it’s safe to say that cannabis has a bright future.

Getting Started on How to Consume Marijuana

Now that we’ve covered a bit of the background information on legalized forms of cannabis, it’s time to dive into the fun stuff, beginning the journey of marijuana consumption. Whether you have any knowledge of consuming marijuana or not, this guide will help you get on the right track to smoking like a professional in no time.

One of the first steps in marijuana consumption is grinding your bud
One of the first steps in marijuana consumption is grinding your bud.

Before you go out to a marijuana dispensary looking to make a purchase, however, consider doing a little pre-planning. Visiting a marijuana dispensary with little to no cannabis knowledge can be slightly over-stimulating at times, so it’s best to come prepared – or at the very least equipped with a few questions.

Walking into a dispensary for the first time is like walking into a candy store as a kid. There are so many products and choices and the natural response is to want to try them all. Unless you’re walking in with a serious bankroll, buying the entire selection is probably off the table.

So how do you choose the right product? Check out our article to find out everything you need to ask when searching for quality products that will suit your needs.

Once you have purchased a cannabis product of your liking, it’s time to get down to business.

Basics to Cannabis Consumption

The first step to effective cannabis consumption is identifying and understanding what type of product you are consuming. Even though cannabis products contain similar psychoactive chemicals and properties, each type of product has its own method or methods for consumption. Use our guide to be sure you are consuming your cannabis safely and correctly at all times.  

Joints are a favorite method for consuming flower
Joints are a favorite method for consuming flower.


Inhaling the smoke or vapor from dried cannabis flower is perhaps the most traditional form of cannabis consumption known to man. But did you know there are multiple ways to smoke cannabis flower?


Pipes can come in a variety of shapes, sizes and materials, but generally are made of glass. You may have seen an old wooden, steel, corncob or even handmade pipe at one point (like an apple or tinfoil rendition), but these types are of lower grade than glass. They will get the job done just fine, but if a glass pipe is available, you might want to consider using that instead.

Example of a person smoking marijuana from a pipe
Example of a person smoking marijuana from a pipe.

Pipes are typically comprised of three components: a bowl, a mouthpiece and a carb hole.

How to Smoke a Pipe

  1. The idea is simple, grind up some cannabis (either by hand or with a grinder) and load it into the bowl of the pipe. Be careful not to pack the cannabis too tight, or you won’t have enough airflow to get a hit.

  2. Once your cannabis is packed into the bowl, you’re ready to smoke, but you’ll want to assume the correct position before you light your cannabis. Hold the pipe in your preferred hand and use a finger to cover the carb hole. The carb should be located on the side of the pipe, but if your pipe does not have one, omit this step.

  3. Place the mouthpiece up to your lips and, using a lighter or hemp wick, slowly light the cannabis in the bowl.

  4. When you touch the flame to the flower, inhale until you feel the presence of smoke in your mouth and throat. When you have inhaled your desired hit size, release your finger from the carb and inhale the rest of the smoke.

  5. All that’s left to do now is exhale and repeat!


Similar to pipes, bongs can come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but generally glass (borosilicate in particular) is considered the best quality. Depending on what type of bong you’re using, there are several components involved.

Bongs for sale at a dispensary
Bongs for sale at a dispensary.

The most common form of bong is a straight tube or beaker style, comprising of a mouthpiece, downstem and slide/bowl. Some bongs have percolators and intricate designs, but the basic operating steps are essentially the same. Some bongs (mainly acrylic or plastic) have carb holes and work similar to a pipe.

Those are less common though, so we’ll focus on the glass bong.

How to Take a Bong Hit

  1. To initiate cannabis consumption using a bong, you’ll need to start by packing your bowl. The bowl of a bong is the same as a pipe, with the only difference being the bong bowl, or slide, is removable. Just like a pipe, remember not to pack it too tight.

  2. Once your bowl is packed, place your mouth up to the mouthpiece and light your cannabis. When you light the bowl, begin inhaling. The bong will begin to percolate as the smoke travels through the water and up the bong.
Example of hitting a glass bong
Example of hitting a glass bong.
  1. When you have a sizable hit (start small the first time) pull out the slide from the bong. This is known as “clearing” and works similarly to when you remove your finger from the carb hole on a pipe.

  2. When you have pulled out your slide and inhaled your hit, simply exhale and repeat.


The act of consuming cannabis through a joint or blunt, or any type of rolled flower, is fairly simple. The real challenge is getting the thing rolled up (check out our videos below for help).

  1. Once you have a joint or blunt sufficiently rolled, all you need to do is light it and inhale. When you’re lighting a joint or blunt, be sure to evenly roast all sides to ensure a consistent burn throughout.
  1. When the joint or blunt is lit, simply place the non-lit end up to your mouth and inhale. The general rule of thumb for rolled consumables is “puff, puff pass,” meaning you take two hits before passing to the next person.


Vaporizers are relatively new in terms of flower-consuming technology. And while the other consumption options utilize combustion to deliver the cannabis, vaporizers use vaporization. Vaporization is unique in the fact that it does not combust the cannabis, rather, uses lower heats to create vapor from the flower that is then inhaled.

Flower vaporizers come in all shapes in sizes. From portable to desktop to anything in between, there is likely a vape out there to suit your taste. No matter which style you prefer, the function is pretty much the same throughout. For our purposes, we will discuss how to consume using a desktop-style vaporizer and a portable option.

Because every vaporizer is slightly different and has its own nuances, be sure to read over the manufacturer’s instructions to be sure you are operating the device properly.


Desktop vaporizers are great for at-home cannabis consumption and make an excellent option for consuming with a group of friends. These vaporizers are meant to be placed on a table and are not extremely portable.

The typical set-up for a desktop vaporizer includes the heating element or box, a bowl and a whip. In some cases, the bowl will be attached to the whip, or removable with a glass on glass attachment. Some desktop vaporizers, like the Volcano or Extreme Q, offer forced-air options that blow up bags of vapor instead of using a whip.

Friends enjoying a desktop vaporizer
Friends enjoying a desktop vaporizer.

Most desktop vaporizers can hold anywhere from .2 to 1 gram of ground cannabis – depending on your preference. If you’re just starting out, try loading a minimal amount of cannabis into the bowl (remember, you can always add more).

How to Hit a Desktop Vaporizer

  1. Because you aren’t using a lighter like with a pipe, before vaping you’ll need to turn on the heating element of your vaporizer. Wait a couple minutes to make sure it is hot enough (generally 345-400°F is a suitable temperature)

  2. Place the packed bowl securely in place over the heating element. You’ll want to wait a couple more seconds so you marijuana becomes accustomed to the heat.

  3. To initiate consumption, simply place your mouth to the end of the whip (or mouthpiece of the bag) and inhale. Taking a long, slow draw will produce the most vapor, however, any way you inhale you’re bound to get a good rip.

  4. Upon exhale, you may notice that there is minimal/no smoke, which is completely normal. Because you aren’t combusting the cannabis, it does not produce smoke, only vapor.

Portable vaporizers are becoming increasingly popular among cannabis consumers for their ease of use, portability and discreet nature. They come in all shapes and sizes and are great for on-the-go vaping and getting in a quick hit when nobody's looking.

Portable vaporizers are probably the most diverse when it comes to functionality, but most of them include the following components: a bowl, battery and mouthpiece. When it comes to consuming, the process is pretty simple.

How to Hit a Portable Vaporizer

  1. First, start by loading your bowl. Portable vaporizers have considerably smaller chambers than desktop vaporizers, so be careful not to overload or pack too tight.

  2. Once your bowl is loaded, turn on the heating element and wait for it to reach a suitable temperature.

  3. When the temperature is right, it’s time to consume! Some portable vaporizers have a button to initiate the hit, while the majority only require you to inhale. No matter which type you have, all you need to do is put the mouthpiece up to your lips (push the button if needed) and inhale!


Even if you’ve never tried cannabis-infused edibles, you’ve probably heard of them – or at least the infamous pot brownie. Infusing marijuana into food has been a favorite of stoners for many years, and almost everyone has a story about them.

Edibles are an integral part of cannabis culture and allow those who don’t like the idea of smoking a great way to consume cannabis. Oh and did we mention they’re delicious? Nowadays, dispensaries carry a plethora of edibles for consumers to choose from, making sure that there is something to suit everyone’s tastes. From cookies and brownies to more obscure items like hot sauce, honey and cooking oils, there is truly no rock left unturned when it comes to edibles.

Example of a gastrointestinal marijuana edible
Example of a gastrointestinal marijuana edible.

In regard to consuming edibles, the process is quite easy. Simply choose and consume your favorite product! Consuming a cannabis-infused edible is no different than consuming your favorite non-infused snack, other than the fact that you will be in a more elevated state.

There are several other factors to consider before eating an edible, like dosage, bioavailability and absorption method. To better understand these aspects of edibles, we’ve broken them down into two main categories, gastrointestinal and sublingual.


The most traditional format of consuming edibles are via absorption in the gastrointestinal tract. These products include cookies, pills and other snacks that are swallowed and processed within the liver before hitting our bloodstream.

These edibles often take longer for the effects to kick in, but the high lasts longer and is great for chronic pain or sore muscles. Edibles absorbed through the gastrointestinal tract are often the culprits behind the stories of people getting too high or having panic attacks.

When dealing with these types of edibles, be sure to consume smaller amounts to start and do not eat more if you don’t feel the effects right away! Edibles that are absorbed through the gastrointestinal tract can take several hours to kick in, so be sure to wait until you feel effects to gauge if you actually need more. If you are new to cannabis though, it is likely that 10 mg will be an appropriate single dose.


Sublingual cannabinoid absorption is the lesser common absorption method of the two, but is gaining popularity in legal markets. Meaning under the tongue, sublingual cannabinoid absorption works without digestion, as the cannabis is able to permeate the cells in the mouth and enter the bloodstream.

Because there is no digestion involved, the effects of sublingually absorbed cannabinoids come on much quicker than traditional edibles. Also, the effective dosage is much smaller, meaning the average person only needs around .2 to .3 mg to start feeling effects. Examples of sublingual edibles are tinctures and lozenges, but more products are hitting the market every day.


Cannabis drinks and infused beverages tend to fit in a little bit for both edible categories mentioned above as there is a degree of both gastrointestinal and sublingual absorption happening during consumption. Because of this, cannabis drinks provide consumers with a smoke-free and fairly rapid uptake that provides longer-lasting effects than with solely sublingual edible products. The most popular infused marijuana beverages are THC drinks, however, CBD drinks have been gaining in popularity as well. There are even cannabis drinks on the market that provide consumers with doses of both THC and CBD.

There are many brands creating infused beverages to cater to this growing trend, resulting in some pretty awesome innovation. Arizona-based Kalvara has been exploring ways to take infused beverages to the next level, and their nano-emulsification technology stands out as one of the most advanced production methods in the industry. With a background in the beverage industry, Kalvara set out to create a smoke-free, no-guesswork alternative to cannabis consumables that offers a fast-acting, precise dose of cannabinoids every time. Their "Cannabis Cocktail" infusion technology allows consumers to easily ingest desired doses with rapid onset and high bio-availability. Even better, Kalvara's products can be easily added to other drinks to make a quick and tasty infusion.

Kalvara's "Cannabis Cocktail" infused beverages. photo credit

As seen in companies like Kalvara, there is a strong urge for progress and advancement in the cannabis drink space and it seems like brands and product manufacturers are certainly up for the task. In an age where consumers are always demanding new and better products, the opportunity for innovation are seemingly endless. Be sure to keep an eye out at your dispensary for infused beverage products, they may be the perfect cannabis consumption method for you!


Concentrates are fairly new on the cannabis scene, but have been rapidly growing in popularity for several years. If you are unfamiliar with concentrates and have not tried them yet, you’re certainly in for a treat. But be careful, concentrates can be as high as 95% in total cannabinoids, meaning they are much stronger than flower.

Example of a dab rig
Example of a dab rig.

Similar to consuming edibles, the best advice for consuming concentrate is to start small. Consuming too much concentrate can lead to unpleasant effects and overwhelming highs. Don’t worry though, if you start slow and small, you’ll be just fine! In fact, many people prefer concentrates over flower because it is less harsh on the lungs and throat. For an in-depth look at concentrates, check out our comprehensive guide.

There are several ways to consumer concentrates, all of which will produce great effects if done correctly.


Probably the most popular form of concentrate consumption, dabbing is the process of touching an amount of concentrate onto a heated surface and inhaling the subsequent vapor. In order to take a dab, you’ll need:

  • Dab Rig

    A dab rig is typically a small glass water pipe with minimal percolation. The benefit of having a smaller piece is increased terpene flavor and an overall more robust dabbing experience.

  • Torch

    Butane or propane torches are used to heat up the nail or banger. Regular lighters don’t reach high enough temps, which is why a torch is needed.

  • Nail or banger

    The most common heating surface for taking dabs are nails and bangers. Nails and bangers can be made from titanium, quartz or glass, but quartz is generally considered the favorite option. Bangers have become more popular than nails in recent memory for their ease of use and ability to provide more flavorful dabs, but either option will suffice.

  • Dabber

    A dabber is the tool used to touch your concentrate to the heated surface of the nail. Some concentrates are stable enough to be dropped into the dish of the banger or nail, but usually you will need to handle your concentrate with a dabber.

  • Carb cap

    A crucial point of the dabbing process, a carb cap is used to create convection and even vaporization within the dish of a nail or banger.

  • Some concentrate, of course!

    Choose from varying products including shatter, wax, resin, etc.

How to Dab

  1. To initiate the dabbing process, use your torch to heat your nail or banger. Each nail or banger is different, but generally you will want to apply heat for 15-45 seconds for the perfect “low-temp dab.”

  2. After heating, wait roughly 15-45 seconds again for your nail or banger to cool down slightly. If you want to really dial in your temperature, use a heat gun and measure your temperature to the exact degree!

Some concentrate enthusiasts even have custom-made hourglasses that count down the perfect time to a low-temperature dab. Fancy add-ons like this are not totally necessary but they do make it easy for consumers to take dabs at the perfect temperature. As long as you wait the right amount of time after heating though, you’ll be completely fine.

  1. Once you have waited the ideal amount of time, touch your concentrate to the heated surface and allow it to fall off of your dabber.

  2. When your dab is in the dish of the nail or banger, use a carb cap to cover the opening. A carb cap induces convection within the dish and ensures even vaporization of the concentrate.

  3. When you’re finished with your hit, use a Q-tip to clean out the remaining concentrate left within the dish to ensure a clean hit the next time you dab.

After taking a low-temperature dab, there should be an amber-ish puddle left in your nail or banger. If you notice a black, burned on residue, then you know the dab was taken at too high of a temperature. To remedy this issue, simply wait a little longer before initiating the process next time.


Concentrate pens have become very popular alongside the historic rise of cannabis extracts. And in regard to variety, the options are literally endless. There are many different pens and brands competing for the top choice of the consumer, with more and more sprouting up each day.

Because of the saturation of the concentrate pen market, there are many excellent choices. Some come with multiple heating options and different heating elements, but the overall process is usually the same. Generally, concentrate pens contain an atomizer, a battery and a mouthpiece.

How to Use a Concentrate Pen

  1. The first thing you’ll want to do is identify if you have a pre-loaded cartridge or a chamber you have to load yourself. Pre-loaded cartridges are sold at many dispensaries and, obviously, contain concentrate from the get-go. If you have a pen that needs to be loaded manually, simply take some concentrate (not too much though) and gently place it into the chamber of the atomizer.

  2. Next, press the button on the battery of the pen (make sure pen is on first) and inhale. If there is no button on your pen, just draw like normal and it should automatically heat up.

It’s as simple as that! Pens make discreet toking easy and are great for on-the-go elevation.


Bowl-topping is probably the least effective method to consume concentrate in regard to efficiency. However, it is a great method if you don’t have a rig or pen on-hand. The process behind bowl-topping is simple. Start by loading flower into your favorite pipe or bong bowl and top it off with some concentrate.

You can also layer your concentrate in the bowl as well. This involves creating a sandwich around your hash with flower. Doing so allows you to more effectively consume the concentrate as it is evenly heated from both sides. It is important to note that not all consistencies of concentrate will work well as a bowl-topper. Generally wax, budder or shatter work the best, but feel free to play around with different consistencies to find your favorite!

To consume a bowl topped with concentrates, just light up like normal. It’s super easy and yields great results. We’d suggest giving this one a try next time you want to add a little kick to your flower smoking experience.


Topicals are another product made possible by legal cannabis markets – and they’re having great success with consumers. Topicals can come in many forms, such as lotions, oils, salves, balms, creams, bath bombs and much more.

Topicals work a bit differently than other cannabis products as they do not get the consumer high. Rather, topicals are used to alleviate various ailments and work well to provide long-lasting relief to those in need.

Topicals are becoming increasingly appealing to those who do not wish to experience psychoactive effects or any smoke. Topicals allow the consumer to take in all the beneficial cannabinoids and relieving qualities of cannabis without even catching a buzz.

As far as consumption goes, there are two different types of topicals, transdermal and dermal.

Dermal (topical):

Dermal, or topical, cannabis-infused products are the most common form of cannabis topicals. These topicals have an effect only on the application site and area, meaning that to be effective, they must be applied where the pain or ailment is. Dermal topicals are great for treating sore or swollen muscles, skin ailments and much more. To use, simply apply the desired amount of product to the area that needs relief.


Transdermal topicals differ from dermal topicals because they are actually absorbed through the skin and can have healing effects away from the site of application. They are applied the same way as dermal topicals, but have more permeating effects. Transdermal topicals are great for those who are unable to consume cannabis in more traditional methods, which is part of the reason why they have gained popularity recently.

Additionally, transdermal topicals can provide full-body relief in a matter of moments, which is extremely appealing to many people – especially those who don’t want to smoke or eat cannabis.

No matter which method you choose to consume cannabis, you’re bound to gain many medicinal and spiritual benefits. As with any recreational substance, always be mindful of dosage and your tolerance to the product. Remember, you can always have more, but it is tough to quickly reverse the effects of overconsumption.

If you follow the steps outlined above, not only will you be effectively consuming cannabis but also experiencing the many benefits of the wonderful plant.

No matter which consumption method you choose, enjoying cannabis with friends is always the best!
No matter which consumption method you choose, enjoying cannabis with friends is always the best!