There are many ways to consume cannabis for recreational purposes. There's smoking, vaping, dabs, topicals, suppositories, edibles, and sex lube, to name a few. (Actually, that might just about cover it. If you know some other way, I'd love to hear about it.)
But there's one way to use the cannabis plant that you maybe haven't thought of. It's possible to juice cannabis, and it's good for you even if it doesn't get you high. (Cue the sound of numerous readers clicking off this page.)
I had heard about juicing cannabis for years before I tried it for the first time a couple of years ago. I was down at a farm in Southern Oregon to write a story about how CO2 oil is made, just as they were wrapping up harvest season. The marijuana matriarch of the farm was a woman named Mama Lou, and she recounted the challenges of keeping a house full of trimmers healthy and happy during the grueling slog of harvesting cannabis 12 to 14 hours a day. She showed me gallon-sized Ziplocs of frozen "canna juice," which had been made with nothing more than a handful of wide, dark green shade leaf, AKA water leaf. These broad leaves have virtually no crystal on them, and thus little to no THC.
She showed me how she made it—grabbing handfuls of shade leaf, she rinsed them to remove any dust, pollen, and dirt, and then fed them through a juicer. The emerald green juice smelled like wheatgrass, and was so dark I couldn't see the bottom of the shot glass she poured it into. After confirming once again the juice wasn't going to get me stoned, we clinked glasses, and I shot it down. It wasn't going to win any James Beard Awards for taste, but it was not horrible, just... grassy.
I asked her what she had used it for, and was surprised at her answer: everything. "If someone has a cold coming on, if their back hurts, if they're just feeling tired and worn down, I'll make up a tall glass and have them drink it several times a day. Even people who questioned if it would work would swear by it after a few days."
I didn't doubt her—how can you doubt the testimonial of a woman named Mama Lou?—but I wanted to get some more insight into how this actually worked.
First, you don't get high when you eat or drink raw cannabis leaves or flower (buds). That's because in order to get that effect, you have to heat up the plant to decarboxylate the THC acid. Do that, and you have something that will get you high if it's eaten or smoked. But by skipping that step, you could literally eat a pound of raw, unheated leaves with no psychoactive effects. Which is an unlikely scenario, unless you're already high and have been left alone in a pot field with no other snacks.
Researchers believe the key ingredient in raw cannabis is our old friend CBD, the non-psychoactive cannabinoid that's rapidly gaining acceptance in medical circles as having a multitude of potential benefits—including relieving inflammation, nausea, and seizures. It may be a potential cancer-cell killer, too.
CBD has historically been bred out of the black-market strains of cannabis during the recent prohibition era in favor of the THC compounds that give you a buzz. But recent medical studies continue to uncover the benefits of CBD, and it's now making a welcome comeback to the emerging cannabis market. The existing cannabinoids in our own bodies react with CBD and have proven to be effective at regulating immune and nerve functions.
If you want to try your own canna juice, you'll need at least 12 to 15 fresh, clean, organic shade leaves, soaked in water for a few minutes prior to juicing. (Feeling baller? Throw in a bud.) To counteract the bitterness of the cannabis, make a drink that is 10 parts carrots to one part cannabis leaves, or try adding apples, ginger, and lemon. Drink it as quickly as possible after making it, or freeze it for later use. Many users swear by drinking this daily for three weeks or longer.
And no, it doesn't come in microbrew form... yet.