Muffins, candies, hummus, bacon, tea, pizza, guacamole, vegetable medley…the virtually endless list of cannabis-infused foods opens up fascinating possibilities for the adventurous canna-sseur. As you venture deeper into the exciting world of marijuana, you may find yourself wondering what to expect from these edibles. Maybe you’ve already given them a go and are wondering why they induce that intense, almost psychedelic buzz that lasts so long. Speculate no longer, curious ones: we’re going to break down the differences between psychoactive snacks and the more familiar inhaled forms of cannabis.
Why are marijuana-infused edibles typically so much stronger than smoked or vaporized cannabis? When you consume marijuana in an ingestible form, its THC is metabolized by the liver, which converts it to 11-hydroxy-THC. This active metabolite is particularly effective in crossing the blood-brain barrier, resulting in a more intense high. Inhaled THC undergoes a different metabolic process because rather than passing through the stomach and then the liver, the THC travels directly to the brain. This is why the effects of smoked or vaporized marijuana come on faster and diminish quickly.
<iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/5xcfr2jv2OI" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>
The Golden Rule of edibles: start small and be patient. Because of the way edibles are metabolized, it can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours to kick in, and the effects can last several hours. These effects vary between edibles, but generally, consumers report stronger body effects coupled with an almost psychedelic head high in large doses. Smaller amounts yield milder and arguably more comfortable effects, which is why we reiterate: start small and be patient, or you’re gonna have a bad time.
Edibles may be strong, but compared to inhaled cannabis, they actually deliver a smaller concentration of cannabinoids to the bloodstream. Ingesting edibles introduces only 10 to 20 percent of THC and other cannabinoids to the blood plasma, whereas inhaled cannabis falls closer to 50 or 60 percent. The effects of smoked cannabis tend to peak within the first 10 minutes and rapidly dissipate over the next 30 to 60 minutes.
Determining the THC content of a homemade batch of edibles is no easy feat, and even professional distributors sometimes have difficulty capturing the advertised dose in their products. Because of the delay between ingestion and onset of effects, consumers may sometimes overestimate the dose. Inhaled cannabis, with its instantaneous effects, allows the consumer to gradually dose as needed.
In Colorado’s legal marijuana market, 10 milligrams of THC (or CBD) is considered a “standard” dose that normally delivers mild effects. A 100mg edible is considered much (much, much) more potent and should be split into several doses over time. Colossal amounts of THC won’t kill you, but trust us: you will enjoy the next several hours of your life more if you dose responsibly and patiently.
As touched on previously, even packaged edibles found at medical marijuana dispensaries screw the pooch every once in a while with products that don’t exactly match the expected dose. Keep in mind that your go-to distributor may have a batch that varies from the last one you tried, so if you think, “The last time I tried this, it was fairly weak, so this time I’ll eat twice as much!”, you may find out the hard way that this latest batch is a lot stronger than what you expect. Legal cannabis systems are moving toward stricter regulations for edible testing and THC content, but if you’re living in a state without these guidelines in place, be sure to ease into your edible expedition slowly and cautiously until regulations and testing pave the way for consistency and accurate labeling.
Many people become interested in edibles because they don’t enjoy the harsh experience of smoking or are worried about the long-term health concerns associated with it. Vaporization is another health-conscious alternative commonly recommended, but edibles can oftentimes provide longer lasting relief to chronic symptoms like pain, often making them a preferred choice for medical patients.
Edible recipes don’t always have to consist of the the stereotypical “pot” brownie or a sugary sweat treet; nowadays, you can transform most dishes into a cannabis-infused concoction. Try some cannabis cannabis-infused granola or quinoa salad, or make your own cannabis butter and douse your kale chips with it if that’s what you’re into. We don’t care, as long as you stay cautious and responsible and remember our parent-y voice in your head when it comes time for feasting.
Cannabis Edibles FAQ
How do edibles work?
Eating THC is very different from smoking it. After ingesting cannabis, the THC must work its way through your digestive system, which can take one to two hours. Effects will vary in intensity based on whether your stomach is full or empty, so make sure to have a nutritious meal before eating edibles. Your liver converts THC into another chemical known as 11-hydroxy-THC, a much stronger substance that explains the intensity and duration of an edibles high.
How much should I eat?
If you’ve never eaten cannabis before but you like to smoke, start with only 10 milligrams of THC. (If you’ve never even smoked pot before, try that first, and then decide if you want to eat 5 milligrams of THC.) The effects of edible cannabis vary widely among individuals depending on weight, metabolism and fitness levels. Some people can tolerate much larger doses than others; so don’t base your dose on what a friend might be able to eat. The average pot consumer usually feels significant effects from ingesting 15 to 25 milligrams of THC.
If you are eating homemade edibles with no known dosage, start with only a tiny piece and wait two hours for effects to manifest. You can always eat more later or the next day.
What Does It Feel Like?
An appropriate cannabis dose will cause silliness, euphoria, pleasant tingling and muscle relaxation beginning one to two hours after ingestion and lasting for 6 to 8 hours. You may feel very cozy and content, or experience a heightened libido and increased sensuality. Eating cannabis induces deep sleep, so be prepared to devote at least 8 to 10 hours to getting the rest you deserve!
What Should I Do?
Anything but drive a car or operate machinery (even a blender!) Seriously, do not drive while high on edibles. Avoid drinking alcohol before or after eating THC, since booze can magnify the effects and make you feel too high.
Usually people who’ve eaten pot food like to chill out and relax. It’s best to experience edible cannabis for the first time at home, in a hotel or at a friend’s house. I wouldn’t recommend eating edibles in a social setting while out in the world, especially for your maiden voyage. When high on pot food, you may not feel like talking, walking or dancing at a concert or party. Instead, plan on watching a movie or listening to music, exchanging massages or enjoying some awesome snacks before drifting off to a pleasant and rejuvenating sleep.
What type of pot food should I eat?
Cannabis can be infused into almost any type of food you can imagine, including sodas, chewing gum, barbeque sauce or good ol’ brownies. Be aware that sublingual products such as tinctures or sprays can take effect faster than traditional edibles, so you’ll feel high within 15 to 20 minutes versus two hours. Sodas and THC-infused drinks can also take effect faster than baked goods or other foods.
Whatever type of product you pick, make sure that the label clearly states the amount of THC in milligrams and offers concise advice on how much to eat. Seek a satisfying portion size for your dosage level, such as a whole cookie or soda containing only 10 milligrams of THC. Most people want to be able to eat the entire item, rather than slicing a chocolate truffle into four or five pieces. Read reviews of the best edibles to find the right product for your needs.
What If I Eat Too Much THC?
If the room starts spinning, or you feel nauseous, dizzy, paranoid or anxious after eating cannabis foods, remember to relax and retreat to a safe place to lay down. Practice deep breathing if you need to calm yourself, and know that everything is going to be OK. Drink plenty of water and some orange juice, which can help you feel less high by raising your blood sugar. Sometimes taking a cold shower can help, but avoid baths or hot tubs where you could pass out. Distract yourself by watching a funny movie or listening to your favorite music. Most likely you will drift off to sleep and wake up feeling a little groggy.
Cannabidiol, also known as CBD, is another medicinal chemical found in the cannabis plant. It is non-psychoactive, and it also confounds the action of THC, meaning that it can act somewhat like an antidote. If you are too high on THC, try a CBD-rich tincture to take the edge off or vaporize some CBD-rich cannabis for faster-acting relief to curb anxiety. CBD capsules can help as well, but remember that it will take another hour before they kick in.
If you feel your heart pounding or if you are having trouble breathing, go to the emergency room. You might feel silly, but it’s better to seek help than risk your health. You’ll possibly be treated with saline injections, activated charcoal or anti-anxiety drugs and will be observed until your high subsides and your heart rate and breathing have returned to normal.
Cacao beans have been revered since ancient times as food and medicine, considered an aphrodisiac due to the presence of tryptophan, a serotonin booster and phenylethylamine, a stimulant related to amphetamine. Scientists debate whether the beans used to make chocolate have enough of any of these chemicals to make anyone horny, though ethnobotanist and “Medicine Hunter” Chris Kilham has never doubted.
“While there are a great many agents in nature that boost libido and enhance sexual function,” he said, “chocolate alone actually promotes the brain chemistry of being in love.”
It’s said that the Aztec emperor Montezuma used cacao beans like Viagra, popping handfuls of them before he got it on. The Olmecs of southern Mexico fermented, roasted and ground cacao beans for consuming (usually drinking) as early as 1500 B.C. In the 16th century, Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés wrote to Spain’s King Carlos I about “xocolatl,” a drink that “builds up resistance and fights fatigue.” Cacao made its way to Spain and across Europe, where it became the preferred morning and bedtime drink of the upper classes.
Many chefs and scientists believe chocolate and cannabis are an ideal pairing, not only because chocolate masks hashy flavor but also because the two share chemical cousins—THC and anandamide—which affect appetite, mood and pain perception. THC, probably the most famous molecule in cannabis, fits into cannabinoid receptors in the human body, causing psychoactive and medical effects. Anandamide, a lipid found in chocolate (and also produced in the human brain), is nearly chemically identical to THC and brings on a very mild, some say imperceptible, high. When THC and anandamide double team, scientists believe, they could inhibit the breakdown of the cannabinoids THC and CBD, causing them to stay in the system longer and enhancing their benefits.
What this means is, most people get higher and stay high longer when they combine cannabis and chocolate. That’s one reason the pot brownie has endured.