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What are cannabis edibles and how do you consume them?

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Contents

  1. Onset and duration
  2. Edible dosage
  3. How edibles work
  4. How edibles are made
  5. Making edibles at home

Edibles are food items made with cannabis flower or concentrates. Thanks to advances in the cannabis culinary arts and the emergence of distillate, you can find a wide selection of high-quality baked goods, brownie mixes, beverages, cooking oil, and treats such as CBD mints and THC gummies that provide the desired effects of cannabis.

You can find a wide selection of high-quality baked goods, brownie mixes, beverages, cooking oil, and treats such as CBD mints and THC gummies that provide the desired effects of cannabis. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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The benefits of consuming cannabis-infused edibles is the ability to feel the effects of cannabis without having to smoke flower or vaporize concentrates. Consuming is easy and intuitive — we all know how to eat and drink.

The disadvantage of consuming weed edibles is that they’re absorbed through the digestive system, which means the effects may take hours to set in and the potency of effects gradually increases. The onset of effects may occur as quickly as 20 minutes or as slowly as 3 hours, and the duration can last between 4 and 6 hours.

Onset and duration

How long do edibles stay in your system?

Edibles are absorbed through the digestive system, which results in delayed onset, compared with inhalation or sublingually (i.e., administered underneath the tongue). While it can take anywhere from 20 minutes to 3 hours to feel the effects, edibles provide a longer duration of effects compared with other consumption methods.

Edible dosage

The potency of an edible is measured differently than cannabis flower or concentrate. Instead of stating the percentage of cannabinoid strength, the potency of an edible product is indicated by the milligrams of cannabinoids contained in the product. A marijuana edibles package will typically state both the milligrams of THC and/or CBD per serving, plus the total milligrams in the entire package. For example, an entire chocolate bar may have 50 milligrams of THC. If the desired dose is 5 milligrams, the bar can be divided into 10 pieces of 5 milligrams each.

An entire chocolate bar may have 50 milligrams of THC. If the desired dose is 5 milligrams, the bar can be divided into 10 pieces of 5 milligrams each.

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Weed edibles have a wide variety of CBD-to-THC ratios. Ratios with a higher concentration of CBD tend to be less intoxicating than edibles with no CBD. However, intoxication is entirely dependent on how much THC you consume. No matter what the edible contains, it’s recommended that the THC dose dictate how much is consumed.

Finding the right dose

Knowing the accurate dosage of an edible product and consuming at a measured pace is extremely important due to the delayed onset time and variable dosage options. The recommended dose for beginners is 1 to 5 milligrams of THC.

Beginners should start with an initial dose of 5 mg then wait 24 hours to evaluate the effects. Increase the dose by 2.5 or 5 mg every 24 hours until you feel the effects.

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Because so many factors affect how your body might interact with cannabinoids found in marijuana edibles, dosing recommendations contain ranges rather than definitive quantities.

How edibles work

Edibles enter the body through the mouth and are absorbed through the gut. The absorbed compounds are metabolized in the liver. Then the remaining THC and its metabolites circulate through the heart and reach the brain. Most drug testing and urine testing for cannabis look for THC as well as its metabolites such as THC-COOH.

How long do edibles take to kick in?

THC is metabolized in the liver into a compound called 11-hydroxy-THC. This compound is more potent than THC, has a longer half-life and can be very sedating. It’s this mechanism in the liver that causes edibles to have different effects in most people. This entire process can take between 45 minutes and 3 hours.

How edibles are made

When it comes to anticipating the effects of edibles, it’s important to understand how they’re made. The ingredients used and the methods used for producing edibles affect the resulting product, onset time, and duration of effects.

Infused edibles found in the marketplace are made using hashish, cannabis distillate — an odorless and flavorless oil — or pure cannabinoid crystals, which are infused into an edible made using a fat such as butter or oil. It’s important to recognize what form of cannabis concentrate was used to create your edibles as they can yield different effects.

What happens if you eat weed?

Decarboxylation plays a key role in determining the type of effects an edible may present. Decarboxylation is a process by which THCA, present in the raw form of cannabis, is slightly heated and changed into the intoxicating THC. The human body cannot convert THCA to THC, which is why eating raw cannabis won’t have intoxicating effects, regardless of whether you consume it with a shake or smoothie, or on an empty stomach.

Decarboxylation is a process by which THCA, present in the raw form of cannabis, is slightly heated and changed into the intoxicating THC. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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Distillate is used for weed edibles that are meant to produce an intoxicating effect. They’re popular among commercial edible producers because the cannabinoids are completely decarboxylated during the distillate production process.

Crystalline is popular because it contains a single cannabinoid — usually CBD or THCA. Crystalline can be sprinkled on foods or blended with dry or wet ingredients when cooking or baking, while distillate can be blended with other moist ingredients or mixed directly into liquids. Should you decide to bake your edibles with THCA crystalline, decarboxylation will take place during cooking or baking and the THCA transforms into the intoxicating THC.

Making edibles at home

Cannabis-infused butters and oils can be made from scratch at home using dry flower. The overall concept of infusing butters and fats with cannabis involves submerging the dry material in the desired carrier fat and gently heating it to slowly extract the cannabinoids from the plant material. The mixture must then be strained to remove any remaining plant material. The infused fat or oil can then be substituted at a 1:1 ratio for any food recipe.

Cannabis-infused butters and oils can be made from scratch at home using dry flower. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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It’s relatively easy to cook with cannabis and make homemade edibles, but it can be very difficult to make edibles that are dosed properly. For consistent dosing, effects, and taste, consume manufactured edibles and check the labels for cannabinoid contents to find what product suits your needs.

What are cannabis edibles and how do you consume them? Copy article link to clipboard. Link copied to clipboard. Contents Onset and duration Edible dosage How edibles work

How Long Do Edibles Take to Kick In?

Edibles are cannabis-based food products. They come in many different forms, from gummies to brownies, and contain either one or both of marijuana’s active ingredients: THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol).

With the legalization of marijuana, edibles are increasing in popularity. CBD-only edibles have even been found to help treat ailments such as anxiety and chronic pain. As an added benefit, edibles don’t pose risks to the respiratory system — unlike smoking marijuana.

The edible experience tends to differ from that of other cannabis products. The “high” from edibles can feel more intense, and it may last longer than the high you get from smoking.

Edibles also take longer than smoking or vaping cannabis to kick in, although many factors affect the timing.

Keep reading to learn more about edibles, including how long they take to kick in and how long the effects last, along with dosage, side effects, and precautions.

Edibles typically take around 30 to 60 minutes to kick in. However, onset time depends on a lot of factors.

First, it depends on the product’s active ingredients. If the product contains a high dose or concentration of THC, it could take effect faster.

Keep in mind that CBD-only edibles are not psychoactive. They don’t cause the “high” typically associated with THC-infused edibles. As a result, it may be harder to identify when CBD products have taken effect.

For both types of products, onset time also depends on where in the body the edibles are being broken down and absorbed into the bloodstream.

Lozenges, gum, and lollipops kick in faster because they’re absorbed sublingually

Some edible products, such as lozenges, gum, and lollipops, are ingested but not actually swallowed. In these cases, absorption occurs through the mucus membranes of the mouth. This is called sublingual absorption, and the effects are more likely to appear faster.

Chewable edibles take longer to kick in because they’re absorbed through the digestive system

Chewable edibles, such as gummies, cookies, and brownies, may have longer onset times. This is because absorption first occurs in the digestive tract. From there, active ingredients enter the bloodstream and travel to the liver.

In the liver, active ingredients are metabolized before they are released back into the bloodstream and enter the brain, at which point the effects appear.

Other factors affecting onset time

Other factors that can affect how quickly you start to feel the effects of ingested edibles are related to your habits and physical makeup. They include your:

  • diet
  • metabolism
  • sex
  • weight
  • tolerance to cannabis

Since edibles don’t kick in right away, it can be tempting to take more soon after your first dose. This can lead to taking too much.

You should always wait at least 24 hours before taking another dose.

Edibles don’t kick in right away

Since edibles don’t kick in right away, it can be tempting to take more soon after your first dose. Wait at least 24 hours before taking another dose.

An edible high generally lasts much longer than smoking or vaping, from six to eight hours.

Among edibles that contain THC, peak blood levels occur around three hours after administration. That’s when the effects are likely to be the most intense.

As with onset time, the length of an edible high depends on a variety of factors, including the dose and potency. The high from products that are chewed and swallowed may last longer than the high from products that are absorbed orally.

Individual factors, such as metabolism, weight, and tolerance, also affect duration.

Yet, it may not be possible to predict how long the effects of edibles will last. In a 2016 study , researchers analyzed over one hundred thousand tweets about edibles. An “unpredictable” high duration was one of the most common adverse effects listed.

Edibles come in many different forms, and new products come onto the market almost daily. Common types of edibles include:

  • Baked goods: brownies, cookies, biscuits, and waffles.
  • Candy and sweets: gummies, chewing gum, lozenges, lollipops and hard candy, chocolate, truffles, fruit bars, and marshmallows.
  • Beverages: coffee, tea and iced tea, soda, energy drinks and shots, beer, wine, and alcohol.
  • Other products: jerky, butter, sugar, and syrups.

Most edible cannabis products identify how much THC or CBD is in a single serving. For instance, a single gummy typically contains 10 milligrams (mg) of THC.

In some cases, though, the manufacturer lists the THC or CBD content of the entire package or food item. To use the gummy example, a package might contain 100 mg of THC. If the package contains 10 gummies, that’s 10 mg per gummy.

This can be quite confusing with food items such as brownies and cookies. In some cases, it might mean that a single dose corresponds to a fraction of the item.

Be sure to read the label

It’s important to read the label carefully before you consume the product. Look for the THC or CBD content per serving, and identify whether the serving size refers to the entire product or only a portion.

That said, even when you know exactly what you’re consuming, edible dosing isn’t always predictable. There are a lot of variables involved.

Start slow

It’s best to start with a low dose, and work your way up to a dose that produces the desired effect.

It’s best to start with a low dose, and work your way up to a dose that produces the desired effect.

Here are some general dosing suggestions for THC and CBD edibles.

THC dosing

THC tolerance isn’t the same for smoking and edibles. Edible THC typically produces more intense effects.

According to a 2015 report commissioned by the Colorado Department of Revenue, the behavioral effects of eating 1 mg of THC are comparable to those associated with smoking 5.71 mg of THC.

Even if you’re a regular marijuana smoker, you should start with a low dose. Over time, you can increase the dose until you reach the desired effect.

Doses that exceed 20 to 30 mg per day are associated with an increased risk of negative side effects, including dependency.

Effect Limited to no THC tolerance Some THC tolerance (smoking) THC tolerance (smoking) THC tolerance (edibles)
mild > 2.5 mg 2.5–5 mg 5–10 mg 10–15 mg
moderate 2.5–5 mg 5–10 mg 10–15 mg 15–30 mg
strong 5–10 mg 10–20 mg 15–30 mg > 30 mg

CBD dosing

Since CBD does not produce psychoactive effects, there’s less risk if you take too much. Still, high doses may cause undesirable side effects, such as fatigue.

As with THC edibles, it’s best to start small. Opt for a low dose between 2.5 and 10 mg, and work your way up to a CBD dose that produces the desired effects.

Since CBD can make you sleepy, it’s best to take it in the early evening until you understand how it affects you.

Cannabis-infused edibles present distinct advantages over smoking. These include:

  • No respiratory risk. Cannabis smoke contains carcinogens. In addition, regular cannabis smoking is associated with respiratory issues such as lung inflammation and bronchitis. Edibles do not involve burning marijuana and inhaling the smoke, and therefore do not pose the same risks.
  • Longer duration. Edibles last longer than smoking or vaping, which makes them ideal for medicinal users who want long-acting relief from symptoms.
  • Accessible. Taking edibles does not require going outside. People who cannot smoke may also find edible products easier to consume.
  • Discreet. Much like medication, it’s possible to take edibles without others noticing. Unlike smoking, edibles aren’t associated with odor. This may be helpful for those who use cannabis for medicinal purposes, and need to take it while at work.

Edible side effects depend on the active ingredient.

THC edibles

High doses of THC edibles can produce unpleasant symptoms that persist for several hours up to several days. This is sometimes referred to as “greening out” or a cannabis overdose.

Some symptoms associated with edible cannabis overdose include:

  • cognitive impairment
  • motor impairment
  • extreme sedation
  • agitation and anxiety
  • increased heart stress
  • nausea and vomiting
  • hallucinations
  • delusions
  • psychosis

CBD edibles

According to a 2017 review , known side effects of CBD include:

  • tiredness
  • diarrhea
  • changes in appetite
  • changes in weight

More research into short- and long-term side effects of CBD use needs to be done.

When purchasing edibles, it’s important to evaluate the manufacturer carefully.

In general, reputable edible manufacturers are transparent about the contents of their products and the required dosages. A trustworthy source should take the time to answer your questions without pressuring you to purchase the product.

Still, it’s not always possible to know exactly what you’re getting. A 2015 study evaluated the dose and label accuracy of 75 different products.

After testing the products for THC content, researchers found that only 17 percent were accurately labeled. Among products that were inaccurately labeled, 23 percent contained more THC than stated, and 60 percent contained less THC than stated.

Edibles can interfere with medication and other supplements. If you’re thinking about using them, speak with a doctor. In states where edibles are legal, a doctor may be able to recommend a dose or brand.

Edibles can take up to several hours to kick in. If you’ve already taken a dose, you should wait at least 24 hours before taking more. Taking another dose could cause unpleasant side effects.

When taking edibles for the first time, start with a small dose and work your way up to a dose that produces the desired effect.

Is CBD Legal? Hemp-derived CBD products (with less than 0.3 percent THC) are legal on the federal level, but are still illegal under some state laws. Marijuana-derived CBD products are illegal on the federal level, but are legal under some state laws. Check your state’s laws and those of anywhere you travel. Keep in mind that nonprescription CBD products are not FDA-approved, and may be inaccurately labeled.

Edibles take longer than smoking or vaping cannabis to kick in — typically around 30 to 60 minutes. However, onset time depends on a lot of factors. Learn what these factors are as well as how long the effects last, dosage suggestions, side effects, and precautions.