Medical marijuana

I have received quite a few letters regarding marijuana as medicine. Some of the questions I have been asked are about how to use marijuana without smoking it. Another theme is about studies of marijuana’s medical uses.
Marijuana is a medicine that can be administered in many ways. Toking is only one method of taking it. Here are some other ways of using marijuana medically, along with their advantages and disadvantages.


These devices heat marijuana to the point that the cannabinoids and the odor molecules evaporate, but not to the point that the vegetative matter burns. The vapor is clear and doesn’t contain smoke.

Advantages: The onset is as fast as with smoking, but with less lung irritation.

Disadvantages: It can take a few tries to learn how to self-titrate. Some of the devices are bulky and expensive.


Although cannabinoids are not water-soluble, they mix moderately well in boiling water. Simmering the grass in whole milk is an excellent way of dissolving cannabinoids because they are fat-soluble and the milk contains lecithin, which is a powerful emulsifier. Adding a bit of alcohol to the mix once it has cooled below its boiling point increases the solubility of the cannabinoids, too.

Advantages: It’s an easy way of ingesting cannabis. The effects are mild and gradual. Teas are used as a folk remedy for stomach problems and works well for some chronic pain.

Disadvantages: These taste best for some people when mixed with other flavors. The water-only tea is milder than some patients require. The effects are not immediate.


Tinctures are a concentrated extract of cannabinoids dissolved in alcohol. These can be taken as sublingual drops or placed in food or drink.

Advantages: They are almost as fast-acting as inhaling and easy to self-titrate. They contain no pyrolytic compounds. They are inconspicuous to carry and use.

Disadvantages: They are not for people with alcohol allergies, although it is possible to make non-alcohol tinctures.

Food and drink

Marijuana or its concentrates, such as kief, hashish or tincture can be used directly in recipes or first prepared as an oil or butter that is then used in other food items. They can be quite potent medicines that relieve deep or chronic pain.

Advantages: Easy to use, and not like taking medicine. Also avoids smoking and the product contains no pyrolitic compounds.

Disadvantages: Cannot be used for nausea. Takes up to 30 minutes to start providing relief. It is more difficult to determine a consistent dosage.


Marijuana salves have been used to relieve muscle aches and pains for many generations. They relieve topical pain and are often used in combination with other herbs. They do not have psychoactive effects.

Advantages: Easy to apply. Provides topical relief without the head trip.

Disadvantages: Can be messy.

Websites with studies on medical marijuana:

? Americans for Medical Rights:
? GW Pharmaceuticals:
? National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML):
? The US Institute of Medicine Study, (released in 1999):
? Marijuana Policy Project:

Printed publications on medical marijuana:

? Cannabis Health, The Medical Marijuana Journal:
? Journal of Cannabis Therapeutics:

Readers with grow questions (or answers) should send them to Ed at: Ask Ed, PMB 147, 530 Divisadero St., San Francisco, California 94117, USA. You can also email Ed at [email protected], and send queries via his websites at All featured questions will be rewarded with a copy of Ed’s new book, Best of Ask Ed: Your Marijuana Questions Answered. Sorry, Ed cannot send personal replies to your questions.



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