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Edibles vs. topicals vs. vaping vs. oils: CBD products, explained

A guide to the most common CBD products and how they affect the body.

Danielle Kosecki is an award-winning journalist who has covered health and fitness for 15 years. She’s written for Glamour, More, Prevention and Bicycling magazines, among others, and is the editor of The Bicycling Big Book of Training. A New York native, Danielle now lives in Oakland where she doesn’t miss winter at all.

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You’re not imagining it — CBD is everywhere. After the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 legalized hemp-derived cannabidiol, products with it have flooded the market. Burgers , coffee, cartridges , pet shampoo — you name it and there’s probably a version that contains CBD.

This story discusses substances that are legal in some places but not in others and is for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You shouldn’t do things that are illegal — this story does not endorse or encourage illegal drug use.

The sheer variety of CBD products can be overwhelming — especially considering they all interact with and affect the body in different ways — but the abundance can also be a good thing.

“Medical cannabis users can kind of mix and match what they use in ways that can potentially be similar to the medication a physician would give them, says Kevin Boehnke, Ph.D., research investigator in the department of anesthesiology and the Chronic Pain and Fatigue Research Center at the University of Michigan. For example, when it comes to pain management — the top medical use for CBD — a fast-acting form of cannabis (like vaping) and a slower-acting form (like edibles) could potentially be used analogously to fast-acting and extended-release pain relievers.

Research into the potential health effects of CBD, as well as optimal doses for specific conditions, is still preliminary but there are a few things we know about the different delivery methods.

Edibles (including pills and capsules)

CBD is available in many edible forms, including beverages, chocolate and these gumdrop candies.

This class of CBD products includes anything ingestible — from drinks to candy to capsules.

Pros: With such a large variety of edible CBD products available, people may have an easier time finding something that fits their preferences. For example, food products, like chocolate, gummies and granola bars, may have an earthy flavor that some may find unappealing but pills and capsules tend to be tasteless.

Packaged edibles can also make it easier to take a specific dose (though checking a product’s certificate of analysis is the best way to confirm it contains the type and amount of ingredients listed on the package).

Cons: Absorption can be slow, erratic and variable, according to research. “If you eat an edible, it actually takes a while to hit the bloodstream because it has to be digested and metabolized by the liver,” says Boehnke. “So it takes a while to take effect but then that lasts a lot longer and tapers more slowly.”

And things like how much food someone has recently eaten can affect how much CBD is absorbed by the body, which is usually around 20%-30%. Peak bloodstream levels are usually achieved within one to two hours, though it can take up to six. That variability makes edibles the least predictable methods of using CBD.

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Vaporizers

Many brands offer vaporizers with CBD.

Similar to e-cigarettes , vaporizers heat up dry cannabis flower or CBD oils, creating an inhalable vapor.

Pros: Vaping is the fastest way to potentially feel results. Peak bloodstream levels occur around 10 minutes but most people can start feeling the effects within a few minutes of the first inhalation and the effects can stick around for three to five hours.

“When you vape or smoke, it quickly hits the bloodstream, so there is a quick effect onset that tapers off more quickly than edibles,” says Boehnke.

Cons: Like edibles, a variety of factors, such as how deeply someone inhales, how long they hold their breath, and how hot a vaporizer runs can affect CBD absorption, which can vary from 10%-60%. Dosing can also be difficult, although prefilled pens that meter out doses help to consistently zero in on the right amount.

Lastly, vape cartridges can contain propylene glycol , a liquid alcohol that’s also found in e-cigarettes and can break down into formaldehyde, a probable carcinogen, at high temperatures. There are “solvent-free” oils on the market that don’t use propylene glycol, and come with a certificate of analysis detailing what chemicals are present.

Oils and tinctures

The CBD in these products are usually extracted from hemp and then diluted with an oil, often sesame. The resulting oil or tincture is then typically placed under the tongue using a dropper or sprayed on the inside the cheek, where it’s absorbed directly into the bloodstream.

Pros: After vaping, oils and tinctures are the second-fastest way to feel the effects of CBD — usually within 30 minutes. Unless it’s added to food or immediately swallowed, in which case it will have to be processed by the liver first.

Cons: Depending on the product, dosing can be tricky. Labeled droppers can be a big help, as can shaking the bottle well before use because CBD can get stuck to the side of the container.

Topicals

Marijuana bubble bath and body lotion is seen for sale at the Higher Path medical marijuana dispensary in California’s San Fernando Valley.

Robyn Beck / AFP/Getty Images

Topicals include lotions and balms that are rubbed directly onto the skin, as well as transdermal patches that stick to the skin and gradually release CBD into the bloodstream over a prolonged period of time.

Pros: Topicals can be as effective as oral delivery methods. Lotions work more locally, making them a great option for things like arthritis and menstrual cramps, whereas transdermal patches will have a more wide-reaching effect.

Cons: Topicals generally need to contain higher amounts of active ingredients, like CBD, to be effective, which can drive up the price. There’s also the risk of skin irritation. The time required to take effect can vary.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.

Low THC Oil – FAQ for General Public

Georgia’s medical marijuana law allows certain qualified persons to legally possess up to 20 fluid ounces of “low THC oil,” which is derived from the marijuana plant. It authorizes the Georgia Department of Public Health to issue a “Low THC Oil Registry Card” to qualified persons, which will prove that they are authorized to have the oil and protect them from arrest.

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How does Georgia’s law compare to laws in other states which have adopted medical marijuana?

Georgia’s law is much more limited than some other states’ medical marijuana laws. For example, it does not legalize the sale or possession of marijuana in leaf form and it does not authorize the production or sale of food products infused with low THC oil or the ingestion of low THC oil through vapor. It does not authorize physicians to prescribe marijuana for medical use. It is intended solely to protect qualified persons from criminal prosecution for possessing low THC oil for medicinal purposes.

Who is eligible for the “Low THC Oil Registry Card”?

There are three categories of persons who may apply for the card:

  1. an adult who has one or more of the diseases specified in the law;
  2. legal guardians of an adult who has one or more of the diseases specified in the law;
  3. parents or legal guardians of a minor child who has one or more of the diseases specified in the law.

What conditions or diseases are covered by the law?

The law lists the following conditions and diseases which qualify for the Low THC Oil Registry:

  • Cancer, when such diagnosis is end stage or the treatment produces related wasting illness or recalcitrant nausea and vomiting
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, when such diagnosis is severe or end-stage
  • Seizure disorders related to the diagnosis of epilepsy or trauma related head injuries
  • Multiple sclerosis, when such diagnosis is severe or end-stage
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Mitochondrial disease
  • Parkinson’s disease, when such diagnosis is severe or end-stage
  • Sickle cell disease, when such diagnosis is severe or end-stage
  • Tourette’s syndrome, when such syndrome is diagnosed as severe
  • Autism spectrum disorder, when (a) patient is 18 years of age or more, or (b) patient is less than 18 years of age and diagnosed with severe autism
  • Epidermolysis bullosa
  • Alzheimer’s disease, when such disease is severe or end-stage
  • AIDS when such syndrome is severe or end-stage
  • Peripheral neuropathy, when symptoms are severe or end-stage
  • Patient is in hospice program, either as inpatient or outpatient
  • Intractable pain
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder resulting from direct exposure to or witnessing of a trauma for a patient who is at least 18 years of age

What if more than one person is caring for the child or adult?

If there is more than one parent or legal guardian, then each may apply for a separate card.

How do I apply for the Low THC Registry Card?

The application is actually sent in by the physician who is treating the patient. There are two forms. First, there is a waiver form which must be signed by both the applicant and the physician. Second, there is a physician

certification form. The physician will keep the original waiver and certification form in the patient’s medical records. You may request a copy. The physician will electronically submit the information from these forms to the Georgia Department of Public Health, which will review the information and create a Low THC Oil Registry Card for qualified applicants.

Where will I get my Low THC Registry Card? Will it be mailed to me?

You will be notified when your card has been printed. A representative from DPH’s Office of Vital Records will contact you to establish which of 20 Public Health Offices across the state is most convenient for you to pick up your card. A representative from the Public Health Office selected will notify you when your card is available for pick-up.

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How much does the card cost? How do I pay for it?

The fee for a Low THC Registry Card is $25 per new card, which is the standard fee used by the Office of Vital Records. You will be asked to pay for your card when you pick it up from the closest of the 20 Public Health Offices approved to distribute them.

How long is the card valid?

The card will be valid for two years from the date it is issued. The expiration date will be printed on the front of the card. After that time, you will need to again consult with your physician and request that they update and confirm your information into the registry. Please plan to allow 15 business days to process your information, print your card and have it ready for pick-up from the closest of the 20 Public Health Offices approved to distribute them to the address you list as your residence in the registry.

What happens if I lose my card?

If you lose your card, please contact the State Office of Vital Records at 404-679-4702 option 4. If your card has not expired, your physician will be contacted to confirm you are still under their care. Once confirmed, a replacement card will be provided to you. Please plan to allow 15 business days to process your information, print your card and have it ready for pick-up at your closest Public Health Office. Replacement cards will cost $25.

The information on my card is wrong or outdated. How do I correct it?

If the information on your card is wrong or outdated, please contact the State Office of Vital Records at 404-679-4702 option 4. Vital Records will verify the information provided by your physician on your order. If the information on the order is incorrect, you will need to contact your physician and ask that they update the information. At that time a new card will be issued.

Can I alter or laminate my card?

Cards can be laminated; however, a card is void if any changes are made to it.

Where can I buy low THC oil?

Under House Bill 324, the Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission, which is administratively assigned to the Secretary of State’s Office, will oversee the growing, manufacturing, and dispensing of low THC oil in Georgia. The Georgia Department of Public Health does not prescribe or dispense low THC oil.

Is marijuana now legal? Where can I buy it?

No. The law only authorizes the legal possession of up to 20 fluid ounces of low THC oil by qualified persons. It does not make the sale or possession of all types of marijuana legal in Georgia. Possession of any form of marijuana by an unauthorized person is and remains a violation of state and federal law.

Can I now sell medical marijuana?

The Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission will issue a limited number of licenses for the growing, manufacturing, and dispensing of low THC oil in Georgia. It is a violation of state and federal law for unauthorized persons to sell any form of marijuana.