Intro to Topicals

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Cannabis Topicals are products such as lotions and oils that have been infused with cannabis extracts and are meant to be applied to the external body surface which includes hair, skin and nails — are now legally available for sale in Ontario. Below covers how they work, the pros and cons of use, and what to consider when shopping for these products.


What Are Topicals?

  • Topical cannabis products are now legal to produce, sell and purchase in Ontario.
  • Topicals offer a smoke-free alternative to inhaling cannabis

It’s now legal to produce, sell and purchase topical cannabis products in Ontario. Here’s a rundown of what they are and how they work in the body, the ways they differ from other forms of cannabis, the pros and cons for using them and what to consider when shopping.

What Are Topicals?

Topical cannabis products are products such as lotions, creams and oils that are meant to be applied to the hair, skin and nails, and have been infused with cannabis extracts. They contain cannabinoids, particularly tetrahydrocannabinol (or THC) and cannabidiol (or CBD).

How Do They Work?

The cannabis extracts in topical products are absorbed into the skin and bind to a network of cannabinoid receptors in the immune system called CB2, which are part of the endocannabinoid system.

How Are Topicals Different from Other Types of Cannabis?

The main difference between topicals and other forms of cannabis is in how the body processes the cannabinoids.

When cannabis extract is ingested, it can produce effects that are similar to those experienced when cannabis flower is smoked or vaped. When cannabis is inhaled, its THC is absorbed by the blood in the lungs and moves quickly to the brain, which can produce an almost immediate whole-body effect, possibly within minutes. However, when cannabis extracts are applied topically, the effects will generally only be felt locally, on the area the product is applied.

As with consumption of any form of cannabis, the intensity and longevity of the effects depend on many factors, such as your weight and sex, how much food you’ve eaten that day and how quickly your metabolism works.

What Are the Pros and Cons of Using Topicals?

Topicals also offer a smoke-free alternative to inhaling dried cannabis, which can come with risks to lung health.

What to Consider When Shopping for Topicals

Before you purchase a topical cannabis product, read the label or the information available on the product page at so you know how much THC and CBD, as well as the other ingredients it contains. Learn more about the potency of topicals here.