If You're Thinking About Trying Legal Cannabis, Here Are 4 Ways to Do It Without Smoking or Vaping

Cannabis products are all grown up.

On February 1, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer issued a statement firmly stating his position on marijuana: It's time to legalize. Though that process will take time, the end of marijuana prohibition could usher in a host of new ways for people to consume their favorite strains recreationally.

"The War on Drugs has been a war on people—particularly people of color," Schumer wrote in a statement, alongside Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Ron Wyden of Oregon. "Ending the federal marijuana prohibition is necessary to right the wrongs of this failed war and end decades of harm inflicted on communities of color across the country."

According to their statement, the three Democratic senators plan to release "a unified discussion draft on comprehensive reform" in the early half of 2021. Schumer also says he plans to make it a priority for the Senate this year to legalize at the federal level. As of this reporting, 15 states and the District of Columbia have fully legalized marijuana for recreational use, while a total of 36 states permit medical marijuana use.

Schumer's words are a far cry from statements made by politicians of a bygone era who catapulted the nation into a lengthy (and expensive) war on drugs, which has led to despicable statistics, like "Black Americans are four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana charges than their white peers," despite consuming cannabis at the same rate.

Nationwide legalization of cannabis use could not only help right these wrongs, but they could also benefit the American economy along the way. As American Progress reported, "Marijuana legalization would save roughly $7.7 billion per year in averted enforcement costs and would yield an additional $6 billion in tax revenue. The net total—$13.7 billion—could send more than 650,000 students to public universities every year." Legalization could also help spur an already burgeoning cannabis industry that is poised to add $130 billion a year to the U.S. economy by 2024 via sales, job creation, and the production of a few rather inventive new ways cannabis consumers enjoy their favorite varietals.

Right now, the number of medical and recreational cannabis products is almost too numerous to count. In recent years, the industry has blossomed to include edibles, drinks, tinctures, skincare, and topicals. There are even entire websites devoted to helping people find the products that are right for them. That has translated into a billion-dollar market that could be worth more than $73.6 billion by 2027 and pump an estimated $130 billion into the American economy by 2024.

"Most of the products today have been created in just the last few years," says Mike France, cofounder and chief strategy officer of Proper, a cannabis discovery company built to help consumers find the product that's right for them and a place to purchase it legally. In 2019, the company published its Proper Report, a trend analysis based on the reviews of its cannabis rating committee, which spent more than 40,000 hours rating and reviewing cannabis products to help people further discover the right fit for them.

"Cannabis may not be effective or enjoyable for you, but in general, there's now a product on today's shelves for everyone," France says. As for what's trending in the market right now, France says edibles had a huge year throughout 2020, likely due to the pandemic, with more people looking into alternative ways to cope with anxiety, depression, and stress—all of which are conditions many studies are starting to suggest cannabis can help combat. The most popular ways to consume cannabis sans smoking or vaping are by ingesting it as an infused edible or applying it topically.

What other products could people soon get their hands on as the nation looks toward the future? Keep scrolling for a few of the "it" items France and Turner say we can expect to see more of on the market.

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According to France, edibles “are the most accessible forms of cannabis for most consumers and offer the most diversity of choice.” Edible cannabis products include options like infused gummies, chocolates, and candies. These products, together with topical products like cannabis pain-relief rubs, make up one of every $3 to $4 spent on legal cannabis, France says. A 2020 analysis by Research and Markets estimated the global market for cannabis edibles at $2.9 billion in 2020, and projected to hit $11.8 billion by 2027.

“Without a doubt, the biggest trending products are edibles, especially gummies,” says Jason Turner, chief marketing officer at Three Wells, a website designed for “mature adults” searching for information, education, and CBD and cannabis products for sale near them. Turner adds, echoing France, that “edibles are discreet and more easily self-regulated—and the good ones taste great. They also don't pose health risks like those associated with inhalation.”

One thing to note, Turner adds, is one of the historical downsides to edibles: how long they take to kick in, which can either lead to overconsumption or to doubts about whether the product works at all. But don’t worry, they’re working on it.

“We’re seeing a lot of innovation around getting the key components of the plant to the right areas of the body [more] quickly, safely, and predictably,” Turner says, pointing to companies like Wana Brands Quick Gummies. “Wana has developed a way to enable key ingredients to be absorbed by the body so quickly that the gummies rival the current fastest way to absorb cannabis: inhalation. He calls out other companies like Meter have fast-acting products but in tablet form. “These are great for people that want to be ultra-discreet, get the full benefit, and have it be convenient.”

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Infused Beverages

Under the same umbrella of ingestible products, both France and Turner also mention the new prominence of cannabis-infused drinks. “Beverages have proliferated the market and gotten really good,” France says. Proper’s review gave high marks to Rebel Coast and Cann, as well as extremely high praise to PBR’s cannabis-infused seltzer, which could be a sign that more mainstream companies could jump on the bandwagon. Along with sips like these, you may find that Artet, an alcohol-free, cannabis-infused drink, replaces your happy hour cocktail—or at least sits alongside it on the menu.

“Our goal with Artet isn't to replace alcohol, but rather expand the consumer consideration set for how someone wants to feel in a given setting,” says Xander Shepherd, co-founder of Artet. “There are still moments that call for a good bottle of wine or some celebratory bubbles, but there will continue to be occasions, much like happy hour, where a low-dose, well-made cannabis cocktail can get the job done. Not to mention the added benefit of no hangover the next day is incredibly attractive.”

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Cannabis Skincare

“Brands like Papa & Barkley are doing truly innovative things with skincare this year,” Turner says. “They’re doing all of the typical things you hear from any reputable skincare company, but with the added benefit of fresh-pressed plant rosin, which gives consumers something that major skincare product manufacturers don't have—full-spectrum CBD and THC. These ingredients work with the body to not only maintain healthy skin, but go deeper and help to balance the body as a whole.”

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Similar to skincare products, topical products are applied to the skin but provide more than cosmetic benefits. They’re focused on relief, healing, and anti-inflammation, both on the skin and beneath the surface.

“Topicals really are becoming quite amazing,” Turner says, adding that today’s products are “substantially more effective in providing rapid and sustained relief for things like joint pain, itchiness, muscle soreness, and general recovery.” He points to products like Papa & Barkley 1:3 relief balm, which isn’t even a new product, but “seems to be good for some new ailment every time I hear it being used,” he says.

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