From edibles to topical creams to elaborate pipes, there are all types of ways to consume cannabis today. But with every new innovation, one thing remains constant — inhalation is the fastest, most popular method for consuming marijuana. And one of the most popular ways — vaping — isn’t technically smoking at all. And like all other methods, it definitely has its pros and cons.

If you’re a more experienced user — or less sensitive to THC — you can then titrate up to 5 mg, a dose most people are likely to feel. 10mg THC is a dose that could fit experienced users who don’t find relief with lower doses, but it would likely be too high for inexperienced consumers.

But these numbers are only a rule of thumb. The effectiveness of THC can be influenced by other compounds such as CBD and various terpenes found in the cannabis plant. For instance, if CBD is present in your cannabis product (and again, depending on its quantities), you might be able to increase the amount of THC you can tolerate — CBD may counteract some of THC’s side effects. This is an example of the entourage effect theory, according to which the various chemical ingredients in cannabis can interact with one another and influence the user’s experience and therapeutic effects

Another factor that can play a role is your tolerance to THC. Everyone has a different tolerance to THC, and it’s not necessarily related to how long one has been consuming cannabis. This might be related to a concept known as endocannabinoid tone, referring to the unique profile of one’s endocannabinoid system. Yet another factor that can play a major role in influencing the effects is the marijuana delivery method (smoking, vaping, tinctures, edibles, etc.)

As stated earlier, 2.5mg of THC is a great starting dose for new users, but even that is not terribly straightforward. The effects of inhaling 2.5mg of THC is very different from taking 2.5mg orally or sublingually. The administration technique can greatly alter the effects of cannabis. Inhalation is influenced by factors such as smoking vs vaping, how deep one inhales, and how long one holds that inhalation. Also, when it comes to oral and sublingual administration, absorption of oral cannabis can be highly influenced by what the user has eaten recently.

Percentage of THC vs milligrams of THC

There are thousands of marijuana varieties out there with different THC concentrations. Your ability to assess how many milligrams of THC is in each puff, joint, or bud, is closely correlated with the THC concentration. If you have two different chemovars, one of which has a 6% THC concentration and another that has a 24% THC concentration, a joint of each  will contain significantly different amounts of THC.

Whereas a 6%-THC one-gram joint would contain 60mg of THC, a one-gram joint of 24%-THC cannabis would contain 240mg of THC. In other words, taking a puff from the joint with the higher THC concentration would be equal to taking four puffs from the lower-THC concentration marijuana. It is important to know how concentrated the product your consuming in order to best ensure you get the desired result from your marijuana dose.

How to titrate cannabis

When you take THC products, the time between the moment you administer it and when you begin to feel its effects is known as onset of action. Onset may vary depending on your biology, but is primarily driven by your chosen delivery method. Inhaled (smoked/vaped) cannabis kicks in very rapidly — the effects can be felt within  minutes, with peak effects around 10 minutes, and can last approximately 2-4 hours. So you can start with a puff or two, wait 10-15 minutes (depending on how careful you want to be) to see if you get the desired effect, and then repeat accordingly.

Sublingual administration (tinctures/oils) is a common method of taking cannabis that is said to kick in approximately 15-45 minutes after it is absorbed under the tongue. Similar to orally administered cannabis, the effects will last for roughly 6-8 hours. With sublingual cannabis products you should wait at least 45 min before taking a second dose, if not longer. Despite being widely reported that sublingual administration has a faster onset than oral cannabis, the limited available studies do not support these claims.

Ingested cannabis products (edibles) take much longer to  be absorbed and have an effect, where onset can take 1-3 hours.  Similar to sublingual application, the effects can last for 6-8 hours. So remember to be extra careful not to increase the dosage too quickly with edibles — it’s totally normal if you don’t feel anything in the first few hours. With edibles, patience is key.

Developing tolerance to THC

Some people may develop a tolerance to THC over time. Keep in mind you don’t necessarily have to get high in order to get the benefits of cannabis. Even if you develop a tolerance to the intoxicating effects of cannabis, the therapeutic effects can still be occurring.

One recent study did, however, seem to find that “the dose of cannabis used to manage pain increased significantly over time.” This concept holds especially true in chronic cannabis smokers significantly exceeding the dosing recommendations listed above. Developing tolerance and requiring dose escalation not a surprise to pharmacists, as tolerance most medications over time via something known as downregulation. What makes cannabis unique is the ability for the body to re-sensitize to cannabis very quickly.

How to dose CBD products

Dosing CBD products is a different story. When considering pure CBD products (isolates) as opposed to whole-plant extractions or flowers, you’ll typically need much higher doses compared to THC.

Unlike pharmaceutical treatments where you take one pill twice a day, for example,  marijuana is a bit more complicated to dose. Since it has more than one active ingredient that interacts with different targets in your body, and since we all have different endocannabinoid systems, different people may require different doses. Hopefully, with time, research will lead to more information about cannabis dosing. But the bottom line is that the required dose of any whole-plant treatment will probably always vary from one person to another. For now, just remember to start low and go slow in order to get the most out of your cannabis.

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How to Dose Marijuana