If you're familiar with cannabis edibles then you'll agree, there is one major mistake many people make: accidentally eating too much.
Cannabis-infused foods and drinks are a healthy and effective alternative to smoking, and there are a few things newcomers should know before they take their first bite.
If you’re interested in ingesting cannabis, here is a complete beginner’s guide to cannabis edibles.
You'll discover the essential nuances around edibles and we’ll even get into some important dosage tips for THC edibles, how much cannabis edibles cost, and how to find the right edible for you.
What are cannabis edibles?
Edibles, sometimes referred to as “medibles”, are cannabis-infused foods.
These food items typically contain “activated” cannabis.
“Activated” cannabis is plant material or oils that have been heated and chemically transformed into psychoactive substances that are easily used by the body.
Edible cannabis concoctions have been used by humans for thousands of years.
In Eastern Europe, candies made from the cannabis plant were preferred among women and sometimes given to children as medicine.
In India, bhang has been used in food and drink as early as 2000 BC. Bhang is an edible preparation of psychoactive cannabis, used for medicines and spiritual purposes.
In cannabis-progressive Western countries, cannabis is infused into a wide variety of food goods. These now include drinks like lemonade and soda, in addition to pastries, chocolates, and basic foodstuffs like pasta sauces and cooking oils.
How are edibles different from other forms of cannabis?
Believe it or not, ingesting cannabis and inhaling cannabis can provide two different experiences.
Edibles are much stronger than inhaled forms of the herb.
While both forms of cannabis can produce a psychoactive “high”, edibles tend to produce a more potent body-centered experience with similar changes in cognition, perception of time, memory, and movement.
The potency of edibles can take novice consumers by surprise.
While their effects are not incapacitating like alcohol or other substances, it is important to start with small doses and work up only after you have developed a tolerance for cannabis.
What are the benefits of edibles?
Many consumers may be hesitant to smoke cannabis, but would be more likely to try something they can eat, especially if they are new to cannabis or coming back to cannabis after a long break.
Some of the benefits of edibles include:
- Measured dosage
- Longer effects compared to smoking/vaping
- More thorough body high
- Doesn't require extra equipment
For some patients smoking or vaping cannabis is not an option because their condition(s) prevent them from being able to inhale cannabis.
Also, many consumers do not like the taste of burnt cannabis, or how it feels on their throat or lungs.
Edibles are a great alternative and a worthwhile delivery method in their own right.
How long does it take for edibles to take effect?
When you inhale cannabis, onset of psychoactive and medicinal effects can occur within 15 minutes.
Edibles, however, need much longer to take effect. You may need between 30 minutes and two hours before you notice onset of effects.
The total length of time it takes before you experience effects from an edible varies from individual to individual.
This is why proper dosage for THC edibles can be a little tricky.
Your personal metabolic rate and whether or not you have eaten the edible on an empty stomach will impact the amount of time it takes for your body to break down the edible.
Since this delivery format has such a long activation time, it is recommended to wait until the AT LEAST two full hours after first trying an edible before increasing your dose.
Some experts suggest waiting as long as six to eight hours – or even until the next day.
Once you have figured out how a beginning dosage of an edible might affect you, you can slowly increase or decrease the dose over time.
How long do the effects of edibles last?
Not only do edibles have a longer onset time, but their effects can last up to six hours when appropriately dosed.
If you consume a particularly large amount, residual effects of the herb may still be felt within the first 24 hours.
However, the edible experience typically peaks within the first four hours after consuming.
The day after eating a high-dose cannabis edible, it is not uncommon to experience some fatigue, lethargy, headache, or simply feel like you are moving and thinking a little slower than normal.
While these effects are generally mild, this is the closest thing you can experience to a cannabis-induced “hangover”.
Why are edibles more potent?
Edibles are more potent than other forms of cannabis because of the way that they are metabolized (broken down) by the body.
When you inhale cannabis, the active compounds in the herb are quickly absorbed by the lungs and enter the bloodstream.
From there, they make their way to fatty tissues like the brain where they connect with receptor sites on the surface of cells.
With inhaled cannabis, the peak experience typically occurs at about 30 minutes after consumption. The experience of inhaled cannabis only lasts two to three total hours at maximum.
Eating activated cannabis is different.
After being eaten, the edible must first be digested by the stomach and intestinal tract. It must also be metabolized by enzymes in the liver before the effects of the infused-food can be felt.
Enzymes in the liver are what break down the primary psychoactive component in cannabis, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
When cannabis is eaten, THC is broken down into a more powerful compound called 11-hydroxy-THC.
This metabolite (breakdown product) is smaller than THC and is thought to more easily enter the brain than its precursor.
It is the way that THC is metabolized and digested that make edibles both strong and long-lasting.
Can you overdose on cannabis edibles?
It is impossible to fatally overdose on the herb, even when ingesting cannabis.
However, it is entirely possible to have an uncomfortable experience with edible cannabis.
An “overdose” on edibles will not cause you serious harm, though it might make for several hours of discomfort.
Some of the negative side effects of high-dose edible cannabis products include:
- Paranoia and anxiety
- Excessive drowsiness
- Skewed sense of time
- Slowed movement
- Red eyes
- Dry mouth
If you do experience too high of a dose, don't panic.
The only thing you can do is wait it out.
There are however a few tips you might try to counteract a high that is too intense:
- Distract yourself with relaxing music or a favorite game.
- Chew on a couple of fresh peppercorn balls (can help ease THC-induced anxiety).
- Get some fresh air (be sure you have a 'sitter' if you go outside -- safety first).
- Get some rest in bed.
- Try CBD (it can help modulate the THC in your system).
Again, in case of a cannabis edible overdose, no need to panic. You will feel uncomfortable for awhile, but the cannabis in your system will not harm you.
And if you start with a small dose, 2.5 to 5 mg of THC, and are careful not to re-dose too quickly -- you will likely not have any issues.
If you do take too much and experience discomfort, don't let this put you off cannabis completely. Just listen to your body and take less next time for a much better experience.
Why don’t I feel the effects of a cannabis edible?
In some cases, you may not feel the effects of an edible even after waiting two hours.
If you do not feel the effects of an edible, it may be because of a phenomenon known as “first-pass metabolism”.
Sometimes, liver enzymes are very good at cleaning out unwanted compounds like THC.
Instead of breaking down THC into its more powerful metabolite, the compound is cleared from the body without effect.
First-pass metabolism is a problem that limits the effectiveness of many common substances, including pharmaceutical medications.
It’s because of this first-pass effect that some people may not experience strong effects from a cannabis-infused edible.
Eating a small meal before trying a cannabis edible may minimize this effect.
In fact, eating something fatty like cheese, avocado, or almond butter will help your body to better metabolize the THC and get the effects you desire.
Just be careful not to re-dose too quickly. You are best off waiting several hours before trying a larger dose.
How much do cannabis edibles cost?
Edibles can be a cost-effective way to consume cannabis depending on people's tolerance levels, and what options are available at dispensaries in their area.
Cannabis flower can cost as much as $20 per gram depending on where you live, and can be consumed fairly quickly.
Compare that to an edible which provides an effect that is much longer in duration, and for a cheaper price.
How much edibles cost depends entirely on where you are purchasing the product and what type of edible you are buying.
Some dispensaries will have sales on certain products, whereas other locations may have standard pricing.
As with all food products, the cost of the ingredients is going to directly determine the cost of the edible. The only thing that is different is you are also paying for the cannabis that has been infused into the product.
One of the cheapest products out there is usually an infused caramel, which can range from $1 to $3, and it just goes up from there.
A cannabis-infused rice krispy treat costs about $10, and cannabis-infused ice cream will usually cost around $25 for a personal sized container.
Some of the most popular edibles are gummies and chews, which usually cost about 15-20 dollars according to menus found online.
The more cannabinoids in the product, the size of the product, and the higher the quality of the ingredients involved will result in a higher price.
A one-size-fits-all price for edibles does not exist.
Your best bet is to look at dispensary's menus online (if they have them) to see how much edibles cost at you preferred dispensary.
How do you make cannabis edibles?
Many people prefer the DIY route with edibles, and with a little guidance, cooking with cannabis is easier than you might think.
Edibles are often made by infusing some type of cooking oil with activated cannabis.
Cannabis compounds are fat-soluble, meaning that they melt into fatty substances.
Many baked goods are made with cannabis-infused butter, olive oil, milk, or coconut oil.
Oils are infused with cannabis by using low heats over extended periods of time.
Dried cannabis can also be “activated” in the oven using very low temperatures.
Low temperatures are needed to prevent the cannabis components from burning off, rendering your edibles inactive.
It is not recommended to heat or cook cannabis using high heats. Generally speaking, temperatures of below 340 (177) are required.
How do you dose cannabis edibles?
Dosing edible cannabis can be a very personal experience.
However, several U.S. states that have legalized the adult use of cannabis cap edible serving sizes between 10 and 15 milligrams of THC or CBD.
For beginners however, THC edible dosage should start at five milligrams THC or lower, as 10 milligrams of the psychoactive can seem quite strong for beginners.
Medical cannabis consumers sometimes require higher doses per serving.
However, the appropriate dose for treatment or management of a medical condition should be determined by a doctor.
Tips for having a good experience with edibles
If you have read stories about people's experiences with edibles, chances are you have come across some horror stories.
Don't let those stories deter you from trying edibles. It is very easy to have a great experience with edibles as long as you approach them with caution.
When you eat cannabis it goes into your bloodstream, and not your nervous system like when you smoke or vaporize cannabis.
As such, the effects are much stronger and last a lot longer. When cannabis is smoked or vaporized, the effects tend to last a couple of hours. But when you eat cannabis, the effects can last as long as 7 hours.
You will want to keep this in mind when you are consuming edibles, especially if you are new to cannabis. Other things that you need to keep in mind:
- Know exactly how much you are eating
- Start off with an edible that has 5-10 mg of THC
- It generally takes 45-90 minutes for a consumer to feel the effects of an edible
- Only eat more if after 1.5 hours you still don't feel the desired effects
When it comes to edibles remember that you can always eat more to increase the effects, but once you have crossed a certain point the only thing that will help the overwhelming effects go away is letting time go by.
Public policy limitations
States that allow cannabis edibles for adult use have put restrictions in place on how much THC can be in the products, and in some cases, on what types of edibles are allowed.
In Colorado for instance new rules were implemented which prevent products from being shaped like humans, animals, fruits or cartoons. Edibles in Colorado that can be confused with regular candy are prohibited.
Another state that allows cannabis-infused food products is Oregon. In Oregon edibles that are for adult use are capped at 50 mg of THC per package.
These trends are likely to continue and spread to other states that are implementing legal cannabis sales. Because of how strong the effects are, regulators are fearful of edibles and will continue to put tight regulations in place.
Hopefully over time the hysteria subsides and THC limits will increase, but that is not likely to happen any time soon.
Find the right edible for you
Long gone are the days when the only options are brownies and cookies. If you can think of a food, chances are there is someone out there infusing it with cannabis and trying to get it on dispensary shelves.
If a particular product is not in your area, be patient and let your local dispensary operator know that you would purchase said product. They will likely find the supply to meet the demand sooner than later.
Not all cannabis-infused products are created equal. Some taste better than others from a purely ingredient standpoint, and some do a better job of masking the taste of cannabis than others.
Depending on what type of consumer you are, you may even prefer that the taste of the cannabis comes through in the product as much as possible.
Or if you're using cannabis for medical reasons, you might prefer to avoid products laden with sugar or gluten.
Shop around and see which product or products you like best. Ask people that you know which products they prefer. Find ones that fit your desired taste, level of effects, and price range.
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