Note to the Reader: after some more in-depth research, I’ve determined that I was wrong about this.
I was assuming that there was a delay due to absorption through mucous membranes, but in fact, that absorption also occurs instantly. The delay is due to a yet-unknown (at least by me) ramp-up of THC blood levels that occurs even when THC is directly injected into the bloodstream!
That’s right, even though you’d get high more or less instantly if that happened, you would still get higher after 10 minutes!
Please forgive my spreading misinformation, even unintentionally. — OH
I had a theory. And I think perhaps now I’ve proved it…even if it’s not in a peer-reviewed journal. The Journal of Cannabis Medicine … hmm, has a nice ring to it. Maybe later on.
My theory had to do with mucous membranes and the various ways and speeds of substances getting into your bloodstream. Here’s how these things generally work:
- Instantaneous, more or less: injection (brr), smoking or vaporizing (with a brief delay for gas exchange inside your lungs), DMSO
5 to 15 minute delay (nominally 10 minutes): exposure to mucous membranes (gums, inside of mouth or nasal passages, etc.)
- 15 minute to 2 hour delay (nominally 30 minutes): eating, swallowing
When you smoke marijuana, you’re generally inhaling forcefully. This brings the THC-laden smoke deep into your lungs for the desired effect, which is apparENT in seconds. Edibles also give you the desired effect (oh baby!), but involve a sometimes-hard-to-predict onset period where basically nothing happens, often leading people to take an extra dose “just to be sure”, sometimes leading to complications later on (like getting way too blitzed).
Tinctures (Green Dragon, Gold Dragon)
fall in between are a bit different; you hold them under your tongue for about 30 seconds, then swallow, and you should be fully high in about 10 minutes. And that’s what gave me the idea, but only after I started using the vaporizer, because the recommended technique for the MFLB is to sip at it like tea rather than suck on it like a thick milkshake.
By doing that, you’re effectively keeping the vapor in your mouth and nose area, not sucking it into your lungs. Even though vapor isn’t nearly as harsh on your lungs as smoke, this means that vaping, for most people, is a cough-free experience.
And if you do this consistENTly, you won’t feel much of anything right away, because all the vapor is being absorbed by your mucous membranes, with the attendant time delay.
I proved this today with an experimENT (the things I do for cannabis knowledge…) by vaping four man-size tokes, rather than the two girly tokes I generally use on weekdays. The last one, unusually, showed a lot of dense white vapor, so at the end I sucked it down into my lungs. I felt nicely high quickly, but then 10 minutes later, I found myself at a solid  and unable to function much for awhile. Then I laid down in bed with my dear cat and konked out for a few hours and still was a bit woozy for another four hours or so.
So no matter how you take your cannabis medicine, you will always get an extra “kick” 10 minutes after you initially feel it, due to
the smoke that’s contacted the inside of your mouth and nose and absorbed that way. the odd fact that it takes THC that long to fully build up in your body. That’s why it’s important to wait at least 10 minutes between tokes if you’re smoking or vaporizing or using tincture if you’re sensitive or new to using cannabis, so that you don’t get too high by accident, which can be rather uncomfortable. My Ent buddy publius4 calls this the “hit-hit-hit-oh-shit” effect.