Of all the myriad ways you can access the benefits of cannabis, edibles are the second-most-popular, and it’s easy to see why. Eating cannabis is more discreet than smoking it, you have more options for flavors, and you don’t have to worry about smoke in your lungs.
The benefits are different as well. To understand why that’s true, you have to know how the body processes cannabis.
Cannabinoids and You
Cannabis contains several therapeutic and psychoactive chemicals, the most famous of which are THC and CBD. When you smoke or vape cannabis, those chemicals get absorbed directly into the bloodstream from the lungs and travel quickly to the brain, where they take effect almost instantly.
When you’re eating cannabis, the drug has to take a longer route to the brain. It passes first through the stomach and on to the liver, which processes the cannabinoids and sends them into the bloodstream.
A Slow Burn
Smoking or vaping cannabis gives you a quick high. You may feel it within seconds of inhaling, and it probably won’t take more than a few minutes to kick in.
Eating cannabis is a slower “burn.” Most people don’t feel it until 30 to 90 minutes have gone by. That time frame can be shorter or longer depending on your metabolism.
Once it hits your system, though, edible cannabis products stick around longer than most inhaled products.
A Lasting High
According to one study, the effects of eating cannabis peak around two to four hours after ingestion, and that’s just the height of it. You’re likely to keep feeling lingering effects for six to 12 hours, and then there’s a residual high that can last for up to 24 hours.
You might also notice that the high is stronger than what you get with inhaled cannabis.
Eating cannabis can have stronger effects than smoking. This is probably due to what happens in the liver, where THC gets broken down into a small metabolite called 11-hydroxy-THC. Studies have shown that 11-hydroxy-THC is more accessible to the body than pure THC, possibly because it crosses more easily into the brain, so less is wasted.
Because eating cannabis is a more intense experience, some people might feel stronger effects than they expected. Don’t worry, no one’s ever died from taking too much cannabis, but you might feel unpleasant effects like a racing heart or dry mouth if you take too much. Best to be safe and go slowly.
Eating Cannabis Safely: Tips for Beginners
Because it takes longer to get your attention, eating cannabis can be riskier for beginners than smoking or vaping.
Start small. Experts recommend that beginners start with as little as half a milligram if they’re worried about feeling residual anxiety or paranoia. If you’re less concerned, try a dose closer to 2 mg, but don’t go above 5 mg your first time.
Be aware that you might not feel anything for an hour to an hour and a half if your stomach is empty. If you’re eating cannabis on a full stomach, it might even take more than two hours.
Some people don’t even feel the effects the first time they try eating cannabis. Don’t assume that you just didn’t take enough — that could rocket you straight to “bad high” territory.
It’s a good idea to keep a bottle of CBD only oil on hand since CBD counteracts the psychoactivity of THC, it can quickly bring you back to planet Earth.
Be safe. Take a little, see how you feel, then try a little bit more the next day. You’ll thank yourself when you find your sweet spot.