About a year ago, a new cannabis product, Canna Bumps, appeared on the California market, encouraging people to snort their cannabis. The product managed a remarkable feat: uniting the otherwise splintered and fractious legalization movement and the marijuana industry like never before. Cannabumps refers to a crystalized, high-potency THC resembling a fine white powder that California company THC Living cheekily packaged in a small clear vial along with a little spoon, meant to be snorted. Everybody hated it.
“We didn’t legalize marijuana for this,” was one common line of critique. “Products like Canna Bumps don’t merely offend the good taste of consumers and colleagues in the cannabis industry. They do real harm,” wrote Leafly’s Bruce Barcott last May. “They help keep cannabis illegal for hundreds of millions of Americans…They hurt medical marijuana patients and cannabis consumers across the nation.
For anyone living in an artificial “good drugs, bad drugs” binary trying to push mainstream acceptance of cannabis, this was (so to speak) over the line.
However, despite the product’s controversial nature, a recently published study reveals that Canna Bumps might have been ahead of its time. Turns out, snorting cannabis is even more scientifically sound than most cannabis available on the adult-use market, perhaps in spite of its marketing. And since it’s more efficient than smoking or eating, as more of the drug is absorbed in a shorter period of time, it’s arguably far more “medicinal.”
The Science of Snorting Cannabis
It’s long been accepted that smoking or vaporizing cannabis, while extremely popular, is also sloppy and inefficient, as well as unhealthy. Cannabinoids are burned away and lost in the smoke; tar and unhealthy carcinogens are inhaled into the lungs.
Eating cannabis is certainly healthier, but since the effects take much longer to be felt, edibles aren’t ideal for quick relief. For a while, cannabis suppositories were offered up as the healthiest and “most medicinal” method of consuming cannabis, particularly for patients with extreme nausea and/or breathing issues, for whom eating or smoking presented barriers. But this was also the least practical method.
That leaves nasal inhalation as a possible and likely vector. And as a study of a “nanoparticle cannabinoid spray for oromucosal delivery” published in the journal Medical Cannabis and Cannabinoids in January found, nasal inhalation—or “snorting,” or the same way allergy sufferers (well hello, spring and pollen) consume their glucocorticoids–-is fast-acting and efficient, while presenting no issues for people with lung or stomach problems.
One metric for drug-delivery efficiency is a value called “area under the curve,” or AUC. An AUC value represents “total drug exposure across time,” or how much of a drug the body can absorb within a certain period. AUC is one method of determining bioavailability. And “despite administration of a lower dose,” “higher AUC values” were detected in 12 healthy subjects who tried the oromucosal cannabinoid spray.
What’s more, the sprays resulted in “no serious adverse effects” and “only minor psychotropic effects” at the dosage given (12 sprays, 3.96 mg of THC, according to the study).
That low level might not satisfy Canna Bumps customers, who are presumably trying to get really ripped, really fast—something anyone promoting, or at least tolerating dabbing, can’t in any good faith condemn. But the takeaway is clear: Snorting cannabis works. Snorting is even good.
Snort Em if You Got ‘Em
Cannabis flower still rules both the medicinal and adult-use markets. But after two years of the COVID-19 pandemic—which came on the heels of the vaporizer-lung crisis—“people also care about their lungs more than ever,” observed Bob Langlais, the head curator at Massachusetts-based Lucida Club, a self-described “cannabis platform” geared towards beginners.
Many Lucida Club patrons complain about breathing issues—and Langlais himself cops to being beset by chronic bronchitis after smoking, despite thoroughly enjoying the immediate delights of a hash rosin hit. Further, he’s noticed a need for high-potency, non-combustible products that aren’t cookies or chocolate bars, for people with diabetes or with nausea for whom eating a bunch of chocolate just isn’t feasible. In this context, nasal sprays are “extremely exciting,” he said.
“I think the applications for medical cannabis are huge,” Langlais said, adding that Cannabumps’ downfall was their marketing strategy. “I think they were onto something. I just wish they’d rebranded something more marketable.”
Ross Anderson, the chief operating officer of Austin, Texas-based CBD company Elevated Wellness, learned that consumers may try snorting a product even if it isn’t marketed that way.
Elevated Wellness has a line of powdered drink mixes using nano-encapsulation technology, the same fast-acting method used in most cannabis drinks. “We had a guy from New York come in and get some—and he snorted it all,” Anderson recounted. When Anderson and his stunned team asked the New York guy how it went, the answer was swift and unequivocal. “Fantastic,” the man said.
“I just think [snorting] is something not a lot of people think about… but it makes all the sense in the world,” Anderson said. “It’s so much more immediate of relief, you get considerably higher bioavailability, so you can in theory take lower doses. We do it with all these other drugs—why not with cannabis?”