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A niche product just a year ago, CBD-infused creams and lotions have gone mainstream, from small store displays of “botanicals” to prime placements in drugstore health and beauty aisles, infomercials and shopping network presentations, even the multi-level marketing sales being hawked by your co-workers and neighbors. And many of these over-the-counter products are just fine for everyday aches and pains. But what about consumers looking for a more pronounced effect?

Full-spectrum topical products containing both CBD and THC are also readily available through dispensaries, and have an important part to play given the unfavorable perception outwardly smoking cannabis has in many places. While the delivery of THC to produce a high is most pronounced orally, delivery through the skin is an effective way to experience pain relief and relaxation benefits. The side effects of topicals are also very mild compared to other means of ingestion such as smoking or edibles; a skin rash or itching is the most common effect reported.

While the demand for topicals varies from state to state, the total U.S. market for topicals is projected to surpass half a billion dollars in annual sales by the end of this decade. This includes lotions, creams and salves that are made with typical plant ingredients and additives and then infused with cannabinoids. Specialty products including cannabis-infused massage oils and lip balms. Transdermal gels, which are more concentrated than creams or lotions and designed for spot application. And suppositories, which happen to be quite effective for getting cannabinoids inside the body.

The most powerful form of cannabis topicals is the transdermal patch, which is stuck on the skin and remains there for hours, letting the cannabinoids in the patch slowly make their way into the body. Patches can deliver pain relief over an extended period of time, and are ideal for travel and other situations where frequent repetitive applications are not practical. They can be placed on the wrist, arm, or other location with good access to veins, or directly on a body part where pain is present, such as the lower back. (Transdermal patches that contain high-enough levels of THC can also produce a psychoactive effect, albeit not as strong as oral consumption.)

The most common use of all forms of topicals is pain relief; from specific body sites such as the back, jaw, joints or nerves to overall chronic pain. With so many professional athletes today touting their use of cannabis to relieve severe pain and lessen their reliance on pharmaceuticals, expect to see future endorsements and product branding deals that are  based around well-known pro players —likely creating new national brands of topical cannabis products.