Cannabis Delivery Systems and their Unique Pros and Cons

Smoking and ingestion of edibles were the most popular methods of marijuana intake for the longest time. But with the increased legalization and demand for medical and recreational cannabis, scientists and enthusiasts alike have gotten the chance to develop various innovative ways of taking the herb.

This post delves into the four main delivery mechanisms for cannabis: inhalation, ingestion, sublingual, and topical. We’ll also look at the unique benefits and drawbacks that make each ideal for various situations.

1.    Inhalation

This technique is the most popular among recreational pot users. From papers to filter tips, bongs to bowls, and pipes to vaporizers, inhalation has the most readily available accessories.

Inhalation is also cheaper because you mostly only need the raw flowers without going through extraction processes. Most pot users start by smoking.

Vaporizers do away with the smoke and only deliver the bud’s vapor. This method helps put to rest the concerns about smoke and tar, which can irritate the lungs and throat.

Using a bong or smoking pipe is another way to inhale cannabis. Bongs are believed to be safer than blunts because the smoke passes through water, which acts as a filter by trapping some of the tar and smoke particles.


  • Fast-acting: you begin feeling the effects in under five minutes, which might be beneficial if you are impatient or in pain and need the cannabinoids to kick in quickly.
  • Easy to manage the dose because it provides faster feedback to the user.
  • Better bioavailability (about 56%) in comparison to ingestion (about 10-20%).


  • At 2-5 hours, the effects from inhalation are not the longest-lasting.
  • Possibility of compromised respiratory function.
  • You may exhale up to half of the 56% bio-available cannabinoids in inhaled marijuana.

2.    Ingestion

Ingestible cannabis is often associated with conventional pot brownies. These days, that barely begins to scratch the surface. There are capsules, beverages, gummies, chocolate-covered “mints,” among other edibles. When swallowed, cannabis undergoes metabolism in the liver. Its active ingredients change into a form that lasts longer in the system and delivers unique therapeutic effects.

The minimum time it takes to start feeling the effects of ingestible CBD is 30 minutes to 2 hours. What’s more, it lingers in your system for 4-12 hours.


  • Longer-lasting effects, making it ideal for sleep disorders and chronic pain medication.
  • Inconspicuous: you may take cannabis edibles without anyone knowing.
  • No throat or lung irritation.


  • Dosage control is difficult.
  • Effects vary for each consumer.
  • Not ideal for delivering a quick high.

3.    Oral Absorption

Cannabinoids can enter the bloodstream directly from under the tongue (also called sublingual), on the tongue, and any other mucous membrane in the mouth. Sublingual is the most common approach to oral delivery.

The cannabis oral delivery systems use tinctures, which are simply forms of the herb dissolved in alcohol. When used in this manner, a few tincture drops are placed under or on the tongue. The effects take place in 10-45 minutes and last 2-8 hours.


  • Faster-acting than edibles.
  • Longer-lasting than inhalation.
  • Discreet, has minimal odor.
  • Dosing is easy.


  • The active constituents may settle to the bottom of the bottle.
  • May cause irritation to the mouth.
  • Not the best option for individuals with a history of alcohol abuse.

4.    Topicals

Topicals are cannabis products that you apply to your skin. They are available in the form of balms, creams, lotions, salves, and patches. They are especially useful for providing localized effects such as relief from pain, inflammation, or skin irritation.

Apart from a few transdermal patches, the cannabinoids in topicals interact with receptors under the skin without reaching the bloodstream — this is why most topical products are not psychoactive. However, using large amounts of topicals over a wide area of the body could cause psychoactive effects.


  • Ideal for persons who only wish to get the therapeutic benefits without the high of marijuana.
  • Can provide localized benefits.
  • You can make them at home.


  • May have varying effects between individuals
  • May interfere with other drugs when used in large amounts regularly

These are but four of the main cannabis delivery mechanisms. Innovators are constantly working on new and improved ways, so you can bet there’s more on the way.

For instance, some people receive rectal administration and believe it works better for specific conditions – like inflammatory bowel disease – than oral delivery. They even report getting stoned. So, go figure!


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