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How is cannabis used?

​​​​​​​​​​​​There are several ways to use cannabis. You can smoke, vapourize, eat, drink, swallow, or absorb it through your body tissues.

Smoking or vaping

You can smoke cannabis as a dried plant or inhale it as a vapour (sometimes called vaping). If you choose to smoke or vapourize cannabis, start with 1 or 2 puffs. You should feel the full effects of the cannabis within 30 minutes.

When smoking or vaping cannabis, choose products with 100 mg/g (10%) or less THC. This will lower your risk of having an unwanted reaction (called an adverse effect). Look for the amount of THC on the label of the container.

It’s important to know that inhaling any type of smoke can be harmful. Even though vaping may be less harmful than smoking, there are still health risks and harms from contact with the chemicals in vaping products.

Eating, drinking, or swallowing

You can eat cannabis in foods or drink it as a brewed tea or in other beverages. These products are sometimes called edibles. You can also swallow cannabis as an oil or in capsules, or spray it in your mouth or under your tongue. These cannabis products are sometimes called extracts.

When eating, drinking,​ or swallowing cannabis, choose products that have 2.5 mg of THC or less, especially if you are a new user or only use cannabis once in a while. Look for the amount of THC on the label of the container.

It is important to know that:

  • It can take up to 4 hours to feel the full effects after you eat, drink, or swallow cannabis.
  • If you use more than the suggested dose during this time, you’re more likely to have an unwanted reaction.
  • The effects of eating, drinking, or swallowing cannabis can be stronger and last longer than smoking or vaping. In some cases, the effects can last up to 12 hours.


Cannabis products that are put directly on your body, such as your skin, hair, and nails, are called topicals. Topicals may be a cream, lotion, oil, or come in other forms.

In general, these products don’t make you feel “high”. At this time, there isn’t much research on topical cannabis products.

Current as of: July 25, 2023

Author: Addiction and Mental Health, Alberta Health Services