December 4, 2020

Marijuana edibles: a guide for first-time users

Alice B. Toklas made headlines and created much controversy with her “Hashish Fudge” recipe more than 50 years ago. “This is the food of paradise,” she wrote. “Euphoria and brilliant storms of laughter ecstatic reveries and extensions of one’s personality on several simultaneous planes are to be complacently expected.”

Today marijuana edibles are readily available to purchase as cookies, gummies, cakes, hard candies, drinks, chocolates and more. These edibles can offer a fine high. Giggling and silliness often accompany their use. But if you don’t know what you’re doing it can be a scary experience.

Here are a few things for first-time users to keep in mind:

The buzz takes time to grab hold.

Unlike smoking cannabis, where cannabinoids enter the body via the lungs and the high is instantaneous, edibles introduce cannabinoids through the digestive tract, specifically the liver. The liver converts THC into another more powerful chemical called 11-hydroxy-THC, a process which can take 30 to 60 minutes. The result is a high that is more intense than smoking and which lasts a lot longer. The other advantage of edibles is that they can be discreetly consumed where smoking is prohibited.

New users sometimes get it in their heads that they haven’t eaten enough.

This can be a problem for impatient eaters. So before the stone even takes hold they eat more and end up with an unpleasant high.

The effects can last anywhere from four to 12 hours, depending on the dose.

Edibles come in varying doses of THC, usually from 10 mg to 150 mg, although I recently bought a Caramel Nougat bar from a nearby dispensary loaded with 260 mg of THC. That kind of dose will send you to the moon and back, no matter how seasoned a user you are, and is not recommended. Edibles at this dosage should be used for multiple servings. The amount of THC should be clearly marked on the packaging. If it isn’t, take a pass.

Start with a low dose of 5 mg to 10 mg of THC.

It’s not fun to freak out. So get a feel for what’s up. The dose that is right for you depends on your weight and metabolism. Taking edibles on an empty stomach will heighten the effect.

If you begin to experience signs of an overdose –paranoia, anxiety, increased heart rate, dry mouth, lost coordination and hallucinations – don’t panic. If you are with friends, let them know what’s happening. Drink fluids and eat food. Stay in a safe, comfortable environment. Symptoms will usually subside within a few hours. Fortunately, marijuana is virtually non-toxic. You will most likely drift off to sleep for 10 to 12 hours. And wake up feeling groggy, but very well-rested.

Keep a bit of CBD-rich cannabis on hand for smoking to take the edge off your high.

Other antidotes to reduce the intensity of your high: pistachios or pine nuts (they contain pinene, which helps with mental clarity) and lemons, oranges and grapefruits.

Avoid drinking alcohol.

Alcohol can not only heighten the effects of edibles but cause nausea and dizziness.

People suffering from certain mental health conditions should also avoid edible marijuana. There is some evidence to suggest marijuana may exacerbate the symptoms associated with psychosis, depression, or schizophrenia.

Finally, store your edibles in a secure place.

A locked cabinet or box is best for your stash. This is mainly to keep them away from children. But it is a wise practice in general, because whether you’re a child or adult, a brownie or gummy bear laced with THC looks exactly like a brownie or gummy bear not laced with THC.

Erik Tanner is a writer living in Toronto and the co-author of Highlights: An Illustrated History of Cannabis.

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