How Are the Effects of Eating Cannabis Different Than Smoking It?

Lifestyle Johnny Green 10/11/2016
Cannabis edibles can be an ideal delivery method for many cannabis consumers.

Many people are exploring the idea of whether cannabis should be a part of their wellness strategies, especially with the increased attention being paid to cannabis' wellness benefits.

One concern that would-be consumers often express to me is that they don't like smoking, and not just specifically cannabis, but anything.

This presents an opportunity for me to educate them on smoke-less forms of cannabis, including topical rubs, trans-dermal patches, soaking salts, and of course, edibles.

Edibles are usually the first thing people want to try, but that isn't always the best idea, at least not without some education first.

More than just brownies

As cannabis becomes more mainstream, we are starting to see many different types of edibles come on the market. 

Edibles are cannabis-infused foods. For a long time, there was no standard name for cannabis-infused foods. The term 'medible' caught on years ago, and has since morphed into the more encompassing term 'edible.'

Soon, I think they will be referred to as 'consumables' because there is such a variety of cannabis-infused products out there, including beverages, that consumables may become more appropriate.

Most people think of cannabis brownies when they think of edibles, but there are so many more things being made these days.

If you can think of a food, chances are it can be turned into an edible. I have eaten entire meals made out of cannabis-infused edibles, including protein and vegetable dishes.

But as I always tell people, I have a very high tolerance for cannabis. I have consumed a lot of cannabis daily for over two decades now.

Do as I say, not as I do is a word of advice that I offer up to everyone, even people who smoke regularly. If they smoke, but don't eat cannabis, they need to proceed with almost as much caution as someone who is a total newbie.

How edibles affect the human body

Some cannabis consumers require higher doses, others need lower amounts.

When someone is smoking cannabis, regulating dosage is fairly easy. The effects come on quick, and a person can stop taking hits once they feel that they have achieved the desired state.

The same is not true of eating edibles. The effects from edibles do not come on for 45-90 minutes, and there's no way to know how the amount consumed will interact with a person if they have never eaten them before.

Ingested cannabis goes into the digestive system, gets metabolized by the liver, and passes ‘the blood-brain barrier' more rapidly compared to when cannabis smoke is inhaled.

The effects from eating cannabis edibles can be more intense, and lasts much longer than other consumption methods, usually anywhere from 4-10 hours depending on how much a person ate, how often they consume cannabis, and how cannabis interacts with their personal biology.

Alternatively, the effects from inhaled cannabis smoke come on quick, and start to dissipate as quickly as an hour, but usually not longer than a couple/few hours.

Start low and go slow

Cannabis dosing can be quite confusing, especially for newcomers.

No one has ever died from eating a cannabis edible, or from consuming cannabis in any other form for that matter.

But eating too much cannabis can result in undesirable experiences.

My advice to people is to start slow. Eat a 5 mg dose first, and wait 90 minutes. If you feel that you can eat more, go for it, but only in 5 mg increments.

It's generally the case that a newbie cannabis consumer has a very low tolerance, but it's not always the case. Cannabis and biology is a funky thing, unique to each person.

I know people that can't even really handle 5 mg, and others that can handle hundreds of milligrams of THC. The important thing is to determine what is right for you personally, and stick with what works.

You can always eat more when you don't 'feel it,' but you can't put the brakes on once you have passed the point of no return and eaten too much.

Microdosing and the use of CBD edibles

Microdosing isn’t for everybody, which is a reminder that we all have different experiences and relationships with this plant.

I was at a private dinner with other members of the Green Flower team, which was catered by Jeff the 420 Chef. Jeff is an unbelievably talented chef who is taking the cannabis world by storm with his amazing dishes and new book.

Jeff introduced me to a concept that I have passed along to many people since he shared it with me. That concept is layered microdosing.

Essentially, rather than eat on edible that is packed with THC, Jeff recommends infusing smaller amounts of cannabis into many things.

For example, with the meal he made for us, the protein had 3-5 mg of cannabis per serving, as did the vegetables, other courses, desserts, and beverages.

So by the time we were done with the multi-course meal, which we ate over a stretched out duration of time, we had consumed tens of milligrams of cannabis.

By spreading out the time and cannabis consumption, less frequent consumers were able to regulate their intake, enjoy the food more, and have an overall more pleasurable experience.

Another tip is combining THC with CBD. CBD can 'counteract' the effects of THC to an extent.

So if someone can't handle even smaller amounts of THC, if they eat a little CBD too (2:1 ratio, 3:1 ratio, etc.), it can result in a milder experience, which is more desirable to most newbies.

Cannabis edibles require practice and respect

Mainstream media’s edibles fear mongering has resulted in a lot of hysteria surrounding edibles.

The truth is, edibles are not harmful. Consumers just need to know what they are dealing with ahead of time.

Just as people need to 'drink responsibly,' so too do they need to eat responsibly.


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