Cannabis Made Clear

Consuming Cannabis: Oral Absorption

Cannabis can be consumed in many ways, each with its own pros and cons. Discover how consuming cannabis orally affects the way it works in your body.

Not to be confused with ingesting edibles, consuming cannabis orally means absorbing the plant’s cannabinoids through the mucous membranes in your mouth, specifically under your tongue (sublingually) or in your cheek (buccally). Oral consumption influences the way your body interacts with cannabis, so read on to learn how much you should consume, the timing of effects and ways to reduce the risks.

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Oral absorption of cannabis involves taking cannabis by mouth, such as by holding oil under your tongue or sucking on a lozenge. This is different from ingesting cannabis by consuming an infused baked good or beverage, for example, or by swallowing a capsule. When absorbed orally, the cannabinoids travel through the mucosal layer under the tongue or in the cheek and into the bloodstream. Absorbing cannabinoids orally is said to be sometimes slow and erratic.


When considering how much to take, it’s always best to start low and go slow. Begin with a low dose, such as about 0.2 mL of oil, and wait 30 minutes to two hours to determine the effects before consuming more. Consider recording your reactions and monitoring them to fully understand how much cannabis to use to achieve the desired effect. You might also opt for an oil with low THC (Health Canada suggests 2.5 mg per dose) or some CBD to help balance out unwanted effects.


When consuming cannabis orally, the effects can be felt slowly and irregularly — within 30 minutes or up to two hours. Effects generally peak after about two hours and can last up to 24 hours. Keep in mind that different products will affect everyone differently, and these are only guidelines.

Reducing risk

Consuming cannabis orally is not without risks. Avoid combining cannabis with other substances, such as alcohol and tobacco. Doing so could lead to unwanted effects, and mixing alcohol and cannabis can compound the risk of impairment.

When the effects of cannabis take time to be felt — as in the case of cannabis that’s ingested or consumed orally — it is recommended to avoid driving for at least six hours, as residual effects such as drowsiness may be felt for up to 24 hours after consumption.

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