Weed edibles account for a massive amount of our total cannabis use. For example, Colorado legalized recreational marijuana use in 2012; by 2014, recreational and medicinal sales of edible cannabis reached almost 5 million units. Scholars estimate weed edibles make up roughly 45% of Colorado’s total cannabis use!
So, what do we know about edibles? Weed cookies, candies, and all kinds of baked goods tempt our taste buds — but how do they compare to smoked cannabis? Are they a safer, more socially acceptable option? How do weed edibles affect our bodies, and how long do the effects last?
In this article, I’ll answer your questions about weed edibles and provide a balanced look at the pros and cons of this cannabis-intake method.
Recreational and medical marijuana users understand the vast differences between weed edibles and smoked cannabis. Smokers (and vapers) get a relatively quick high that starts within minutes of each hit. People who consume weed edibles experience psychoactive effects more similar to psychedelic drug users. When you eat THC goodies, expect longer onset times — and a qualitatively different experience.
As marijuana has become more mainstream in recent decades, a number of scientists have examined the “how long do edibles take to kick in” question. Medical experts have observed weed smokers’ blood THC levels peaking about 9 minutes after the first puff. Soon after that point, study participants’ heart rates and blood pressure levels also peaked. The psychoactive effects of smoked cannabis are greatest 20–30 minutes after use; after 2–3 hours, these effects taper off.
Weed edibles provide a vastly different experience than smoked marijuana. People who eat cannabis products usually don’t feel the effects for a half-hour to an hour-and-a-half. The peak experiences associated with edibles last longer than smoked cannabis and occur 2–4 hours after consumption. However, scientists have found factors like diet, metabolism, gender, and weight affect the length of time people feel high after eating cannabis.
Scientists have found a connection between the oral ingestion of Δ9-THC (the main psychoactive chemical in marijuana) and over consumption. However, many factors contribute to the intensity and duration of psychoactive experiences.
As I mentioned in the previous section, weed edibles take longer than smoked cannabis to kick in. For this reason, people may over consume cannabis treats in an effort to get the quick effects of smoked/vaped marijuana. When you enjoy weed edibles, take care not to overdose. If you’re new to edibles (or are trying out a new product/strain), choose a small and measured amount. Eat weed edibles well in advance of the time you want to experience their effects. Remember — you can always consume more if you want a stronger effect, but not the reverse.
When you consume cannabis as weed edibles, your body processes it in a far different way than when you smoke/vape. When Δ9-THC enters your bloodstream through your gastrointestinal tract, it follows your portal vein and ends up in your liver. At this point, your cytochrome P450 system metabolizes Δ9-THC into 11-OH-THC, a stronger powerful psychoactive compound. Though weed smokers get some 11-OH-THC, people who consume edibles get a much stronger dose due to this “first pass” liver metabolism process.
When choosing a delivery system for THC (and other cannabinoids), think about the reasons you’re eating cannabis. If you’re looking for an inconspicuous way to medicate your anxiety (or seizures) in the workplace, low-dose cannabis treats provide an excellent option. You can enjoy the health effects of cannabis without feeling the stigma of going outside to smoke/vape (and the lingering aroma of marijuana). However, you may enjoy the recreational effects of weed edibles and want an intense healing experience. If so, ask your provider about the potencies (and types of highs) associated with specific strains and products.
THC can stay in your body for weeks after ingestion, and is detectable in saliva for 48 hours. As states legalize and regulate marijuana, they are grappling with testing methods, legal limits, and acceptable doses. Scientists have determined THC’s half-life (the time it takes you to excrete half of a dose) at around 3–4 days, though they point out the quick taper-off near the end of this period.
THC duration is a new and confusing subject for patients, physicians, and municipalities. For example, San Diego has begun testing motorists for the presence of THC (and a variety of other drugs), but not any specific amount of the drug. States are trending toward more specific testing regimens over time (following the example of some European countries). Soon, we should have THC test kits much similar to today’s ubiquitous alcohol “breathalyzer” machines.
Weed edible labeling remains a work in progress as more and more states legalize cannabis. However, we can make some basic assumptions about the duration of marijuana edibles. If you consume a typical amount of edible cannabis, you can experience 6–10 hours of effects (though they taper off over this time).
Some people enjoy the psychoactive effects of edible cannabis; some people find them unbearable. Start with small amounts, get the right medical advice, and resist the urge to take a massive recreational dose.
Experts consider oral THC administration far healthier than weed smoking. Scientists find the negative effects of smoking cannabis outweigh its therapeutic benefits. For this reason, most medical marijuana products feature oral capsule (oil) or nasal spray delivery systems.
Weed edibles boast an impressive array of potential health benefits:
- Healthy Lungs — Many people prefer eating cannabis to smoking it because of lung/throat sensitivity. For example, patients with breathing problems, asthma, etc. may find edibles much easier on their systems.
- Less Stress/Stigma — Even in legalized environments, people often look down on those with the aroma of smoked cannabis. Patients can reduce their stress (one major reason to use THC, in general) with private, workplace friendly weed edibles.
- Lasting Effects — Weed edibles last longer and feature less-intense “after-effects” than cannabis smoking. Those who use cannabis for pain reliefand muscle spasm control often prefer edibles for long-lasting relief. (However, they may also smoke marijuana for acute, short-term pain reduction.)
- Medical Benefits — THC and cannabinoids, in general, offer a vast array of health benefits. Weed edibles can offer a gentler delivery method for medical marijuana patients with all kinds of conditions: cancer, glaucoma, epilepsy, chronic pain, Alzheimer’s, chronic pain, arthritis, etc.
In addition to THC, cannabis-based medications can include cannabidol (CBD),
cannabinol (CBN), and dozens of other cannabinoids. For example, one popular nasal spray uses a 1:1 ratio of THC to CBD to balance out the psychoactive effects of THC. Many people prefer weed edibles for long-term, low dose daily applications (as opposed to smoking) because they can gain the benefits of this drug without getting too high of a dose. Of course, this approach requires well-labeled products and a careful, scientific attitude to cannabis dosages.
Scholars have also found that hemp oil makes a great source of essential amino and linolenic fatty acids. Though hemp oil contains THC, U.S. products typically have low concentrations (in the 300–1500 mg/g range).
First of all, THC is far safer than alcohol. Only 10 times the recommended dose of alcohol can kill you. To ingest enough THC to risk your life (which no one has ever done, to our knowledge), you’d have to smoke literally thousands of joints’ worth in just a few hours.
That being said, you can ingest too much of any substance, including coffee (and even water, for that matter). However, scientists have highlighted the extremely low lethality of cannabis. In fact, we have no records of any person dying from a cannabis overdose. However, roughly two-thirds of marijuana users experience impaired cognitive and motor function. Some people also feel nausea, anxiety, extreme drowsiness, and cardiac stress. In certain cases, cannabis causes delusions, hallucinations, and intense anxiety/paranoia — which may contribute to certain psychiatric disorders.
Most healthy adults experience cannabis overdose symptoms for only a matter of hours; however, in certain cases, people can feel intoxicated for days. Scientists have found weed edibles a common cause of these rare, long-lasting psychotic reveries. But, don’t worry, most people can easily handle the effects of weed edibles — and find them quite enjoyable.
If you’re a first-time user, consider Colorado’s dosage recommendations for weed edibles:
- First-Timers — 1–5 mg
- Moderate Users — 5–10 mg
- Experienced Edible Users — 10–15 mg
The Rocky Mountain (High) State has also implemented a per-serving size of 10mg for weed edibles (though this certainly won’t stop people from having more than one). The best way to manage cannabis edible doses is to break them in halves or quarters and start small. Over time, you can increase doses and find your sweet spot. Remember, it’s a lot more comfortable to feel fewer, less-intense effects than you had hoped for than to get far more than you bargained for.