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What are my cannabis product options at the dispensary?

Flower, concentrates, topicals, edibles — your options at the dispensary are seemingly endless. If you’re a first-time cannabis consumer, you may assume that all cannabis products are the same. After all, they all come from the same plant — right? In reality, your cannabis experience will vary widely, depending on the product type you take home and how you consume it. Here, we’ll share the types of product you’ll find at a dispensary, how each one is consumed, and how it may make you feel.

What cannabis product types can you buy at the dispensary?

When you walk into a dispensary, you’ll be presented with a menu filled with brands and strains categorized under product type. Each product type impacts how you feel in a different way. Here’s a little info about each category:

  1. Product Type: Flower

    What is it:
    When you think of cannabis, flower is probably what comes to mind. Flower is the dried and cured bud of the cannabis plant. Flower is especially valuable because it contains the resin glands of the plant, called trichomes, which are filled with the cannabinoids and terpenes responsible for the cannabis experience. All other cannabis products derive from these buds.

    How it’s consumed:
    Cannabis flower is inhaled. Break apart the flower using a grinder and place the flower in your chosen consumption device, such as a pipe or vaporizer.

    Time to take effect: As one of the fastest-acting cannabis consumption methods, expect to feel effects just a few minutes after inhalation (1).

  2. Product Type: Concentrates

    What are they:
    This category gets its name for good reason: Concentrates are the result of an extraction process which collects cannabinoids, terpenes, and other plant compounds and refines them into a potent final product. Concentrates take many forms, depending on the process: glass-like shatter, sticky wax, soft budder, and sap-like sugar are just some of the available concentrates.

    How they’re consumed:
    Like flower, most concentrates are inhaled. They require a special tool called a dab rig, or you can use a portable dab pen or a compatible desktop or portable vaporizer. Importantly, activated concentrates such as distillate and Rick Simpson Oil (RSO) do not require heat and can be consumed orally. Check out our concentrates article to learn more about the different types of concentrates and how they’re consumed.

    Time to take effect: Expect to feel effects within a few moments, if not instantly.

  3. Product Type: Vape cartridges

    What are they:
    Cannabis oil formulated for heating and inhalation via a vaporization device.

    How they’re consumed:
    Vape cartridges require a battery to heat and vaporize the oil for inhalation. Some cartridges have a built-in battery and are disposable. Other cartridges attach to a rechargeable battery. There are several types of cartridge and battery combinations available today. Check with the dispensary staff to make sure you have the right cartridge and battery fit.

    Time to take effect: Expect to feel effects a few minutes after inhalation.

  4. Product Type: Topicals

    What are they:
    Made using cannabis extracts, topicals make it easy to apply cannabinoids to your skin. Available as lotion, gels, creams, and salves, topicals are used to help with conditions that cause localized pain. You won’t feel “high” while using a topical that contains THC.

    How they’re applied:
    Take a small amount of cannabis topical and apply it to the affected area as needed.

    Time to take effect: Topicals take effect quickly, delivering relief in as little as 10 minutes.

  5. Product Type: Tinctures

    What are they:
    This product blends cannabis extract with a carrier oil, such as medium chain triglyceride (MCT) oil. Tinctures are a concentrated extract that do not require heat activation.

    How they’re consumed:
    This liquid is taken orally with the help of a dropper top. Tinctures are typically left under your tongue to absorb, swallowed, or both.

    Time to take effect: The onset of sublingual (under the tongue) tinctures is typically around 30 to 60 minutes. Swallowed tinctures go through the digestive tract, which takes approximately 1 to 2 hours to take effect.

  6. Product Type: Edibles / Ingestibles

    What are they:
    Brownies may have made edibles famous, but this category of cannabis products covers much more. From savory to sweet and the classic to the unexpected, edibles include dozens of foods and drinks infused with cannabinoids.

    How they’re consumed:
    Edibles come pre-measured. Take the desired amount, chew thoroughly, and swallow.

    Time to take effect: Edibles are generally slower to take effect, taking around 1 to 2 hours to make its way through your digestive system. However, the effects are longer-lasting than inhaled cannabis, as metabolizing cannabis enhances its effects (2).

  7. Product Type: Capsules / Ingestibles

    What are they: Capsules contain pre-measured cannabis extract. For those who prefer not to inhale, capsules and softgels make an excellent alternative.

    How they’re consumed:
    Capsules are taken orally. Take one capsule and wait for 1 to 2 hours to see how you feel.

    Time to take effect: Just like edibles, you’ll need to wait around 1 to 2 hours for a capsule to take effect, but the effect will last longer.

FlowerConcentrateVape cartridgeTopicalTinctureEdibleCapsule
How to consumeGround and inhaled Place small amount on dab rig or electronic dabbing deviceAttach cartridge to battery and inhaleApply to desired areaPlace under tongue, hold, then swallowChew thoroughly and swallowSwallow
Approximate time to take effect5 to 10 minutes5 to 10 minutes5 to 10 minutes10 to 30 minutes30 to 60 minutes1-2 hours1-2 hours
Approximate duration1-2 hours2-3 hours2-3 hours2-4 hours, depending4 hours5-6 hours, could be longer5-6 hours, could be longer

How do you choose which cannabis product is right for you?

  • Think about how you want to consume: We call this the route of administration. If you are comfortable inhaling, then smoking or vaporizing flower, vaporizing concentrates, or inhaling from a vape cartridge are common methods of administration. If you prefer to swallow and digest cannabinoids, then edibles, capsules, and tinctures allow you to consume without inhaling.

  • How quickly do you want to feel effects: We call this onset. Inhaled products provide the quickest onset of effects and can usually exhibit effects within a few minutes. Tinctures that are absorbed under the tongue can begin to exhibit effects in about 30 minutes. Edibles, capsules, and products that are swallowed need to be digested and can take 1 to 2 hours to start producing effects.

  • How long do you want the effects to last: We call this duration. Inhaled products produce a quick onset, but the effects may only last an hour or two. Digested products take longer to absorb and begin to show effects, but those effects can remain for several hours.

  • Consider other components: Products can include different ratios of THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids. Our cannabinoids article will help you understand what to look for. Terpenes may be present in many of these products and can provide different effects when consumed along with the cannabinoids. Our Terpenes article can help you understand what to look for.

  • Think about what you don’t want, too. Ruling out product categories can help narrow down your options. Whether you want to avoid inhalation, don’t like the taste of cannabis, or hate swallowing capsules, knowing what you don’t want is as important to creating your ideal experience as knowing what you want. 

At Ethos, we help you choose the right cannabis product

How do you choose which cannabis product is right for you? Think about the experience you want to have and how long you want it to last. Whether you want to feel effects right away or two hours later, or whether you want a shorter session or one of longer duration, the product type is key to shaping your experience.

If you still can’t decide, we at Ethos can help. We’re here with the information you need to make the best choice, whether you want to get creative with an edible, relieve pain with capsules, or relax with a vape pen. Don’t hesitate to ask our budtenders and pharmacists — we are here to guide you on your way to feeling better.



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