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How to Use Marijuana

Start low and go slow.

Medical marijuana can offer significant benefits for patients, but the effects of marijuana aren’t always immediately felt. Everyone responds differently. Finding effective products and doses may take time, as it does for many types of treatment for illness. Methods of using marijuana can be discussed with a Verilife patient care representative to find a method that will manage your symptoms while working with a method of delivery that is comfortable for you to use. Finding a balanced ratio of CBD and THC that creates the right combination of both compounds is the goal. The basic principle for dosing medical marijuana is “start low and go slow.”

Marijuana has a wide margin of safety and there is a limited risk of overdose. However, caution is warranted until you fully understand the effect that marijuana may have. Dosage varies greatly among individuals, even when treating the same condition.

There are many factors that impact the effect, including:

Amount used (dosage)

Attaining desired results relies on using the correct dosing. Using marijuana in excess of an individual’s ideal dose can lead to diminishing returns and adverse outcomes.

Strain used

A strain is the variety of plant within a species. Strains define a specific cannabinoid profile—the mixture of THC, CBD, etc. within it. Each strain has its own physical characteristics, or phenotypes, such as height, leaf structure, and color. Depending on the strain and its corresponding cannabinoid profile, the plant will deliver varying effects and possible benefits. See a list of strains and possible effects. 

Method of consumption

It is important to choose a delivery method that works best for you and your condition. Absorption rates vary based on your chosen method of consumption.

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Inhalation Overview

Inhaling through the lungs through:

Vapor inhalation
Battery-powered handheld vaporizer
Disposable handheld vaporizer with replacement cartridge options
Electronic vaporizing device

Effects are felt almost immediately, within minutes.

Effects peak in 10–30 minutes, tapering off after approximately 2–4 hours, lasting about 4–12 hours in total.

With inhalation, dosage is easily adjusted for maximum benefit.

With vaporization, the temperature needs to be high enough to extract THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids but not too high to release the potentially harmful toxins that occur during smoking.

Flower: The actual flower of the marijuana plant. This is the part of the plant that is harvested and used for medical purposes as it contains the highest concentrations of active cannabinoids. Pennsylvania law prohibits smoking or the combustion of marijuana, but it can be inhaled through a vaporizer machine that heats the medical marijuana plant material and releases a steam-containing THC, the psychoactive element in marijuana. 

Oil: Marijuana oil is a thick substance made up of cannabinoids extracted from the marijuana plant. It is obtained by separating the resins from marijuana flowers using a solvent extraction process. Oil can be administered through a vape.

Vaporizing devices must not be capable of being heated to temperatures at which medical marijuana plant material will burn.




Oral Overview

Taking marijuana in through the mouth under your tongue absorbs via the digestive system or blood vessels in the mucous membranes in the mouth.

Offers a faster onset than edibles but much slower absorption than inhalation, with 15-40 minutes before effects are felt.

Patients see lower, more delayed peak THC levels with oral administration, with effects lasting approximately 45 minutes - 2 hours.

Many patients are more comfortable with oral administration of medical marijuana.

Tinctures or oils: are concentrated forms of medical marijuana that are taken under the tongue (sublingually) or by mouth.

Spray: A spray is a marijuana oil extract that is absorbed directly under the tongue (sublingually) and into the mouth.

Ingestion Overview

When taking marijuana in through the mouth, it enters the bloodstream after being digested or broken down in the stomach and absorbed into the digestive system.

Ingestion takes the longest to take effect, with onset at 30 minutes - 2 hours.

Patients see effects lasting between 5-8 hours on average.

Many patients are more comfortable with edible medical marijuana. Edibles have a longer-lasting effect than other oral products.

Capsules: Marijuana in a pill allows chemicals to enter the bloodstream through the digestive system to provide potent treatment. Taking medical marijuana in pill form, instead of vaping, produces a stronger and longer lasting effect.

Topicals_Dosing Icons-04.png

Topicals Overview

A topical medicine is applied to the skin directly ‘on top’ of the place where it is needed.

Topical forms act very quickly.

Transdermal patches will take at least 1 hour. 

Topicals can last 1-2 hours. 

Transdermal patches can last up to 12 hours.

Topical marijuana works by being absorbed directly into the skin; it does not enter your bloodstream or have psychoactive effects. Some people prefer this method so they get the benefits of marijuana without it affecting their mind or mood. Transdermal patches do absorb into the bloodstream.

Ointment/Lotion: Marijuana can be used in ointments, lotions, and creams for symptoms like rashes or joint pain. These forms are not absorbed into the bloodstream and do not have any psychoactive effects.

Transdermal Patches: Many medicines are delivered transdermally, or through the skin, like pain medications or nicotine replacement. Marijuana delivered this way will eventually be absorbed into your bloodstream, and have psychoactive effects. 

Balms: Marijuana can be used in a balm—for example, to topically treat headaches or muscle pain. Marijuana in a balm is not absorbed into your bloodstream and doesn’t have any psychoactive effects.


Have Questions? We’ve Got Answers.

No matter your level of comfort or knowledge with medical marijuana, we can help answer your questions. Our friendly patient care representatives are happy to talk.

Our hours are 9 a.m. - 5:30 p.m. EST.



This website contains medical cannabis information and is restricted to individuals 21 years of age or older. Please confirm your age and state:

  • IL
  • MD
  • MA
  • NY
  • OH
  • PA

Did you know that most medical marijuana information is state-specific? We have dispensaries in each of the above states, along with state-specific resources for patients. For the best experience, please select a state.