Baked goods, gummies, chocolate, mints…the cannabis edible market is full of exciting and intriguing possibilities. Over recent years the popularity of cannabis based food products has exploded. In fact, the Arcview Group predicts that the edibles market will be worth more than $4.1 billion in Canada and the U.S. by 2022, and a Deloitte survey done in Canada stated that 59% of people were interested in cannabis edibles and that edibles have the highest interest rate out of all cannabis products.
While most people think of brownies when they hear the term “edibles,” modern cannabis edibles can come in a wide variety of forms. There are CBD-only edibles and marijuana edibles that contain both the THC and CBD cannabinoids. With recent reports of vaping related deaths, smoking laws, etc. the popularity of edibles continues to rise. Edibles are enjoyed by many users for a variety of reasons, but it is important to have a clear understanding of how edibles work, correct dosage, and the possible impacts on the user before ingesting edibles for medicinal or recreational purposes.
How Edibles are Made
Unlike smoking flower or vaping concentrates, consuming edibles is easy, intuitive (you already know how to eat and drink), and discreet. An edible is any type of food or drink item that is made with cannabis flower or infused with cannabis distillate or concentrates. Infused edibles are made with cannabis distillate or cannabinoid crystals. Distillates are often mixed into liquids or moist ingredients, while crystalline can be sprinkled on foods or blended with wet or dry ingredients when cooking or baking.
Edibles can be made into a wide variety of products. These can include:
- Candy – gummies, chocolate, lollipops, gum, mint, marshmallows, hard candy, truffles
- Baked Goods – brownies, cookies, waffles, biscuits, muffins, and breads
- Drinks – coffee, tea, soda, alcohol, and energy drinks
- Other – butter, oil, lozenges, syrup
Some people make edibles at home using cannabis butter and oil by infusing these fats with dry flower and then slowly heating and straining the mixture to remove plant material. Although some users make homemade edibles it is very difficult to know how much THC is in each edible and the correct dosage unless the edible is manufactured and labeled correctly. This can be concerning because as we will see further down, dosage is extremely important when it comes to edibles!
How Edibles Work in the Body
Some edibles such as gum, lozenges, and lollipops are not usually swallowed or ingested. Rather the cannabinoids in these edibles are absorbed sublingually through the membranes of your mouth. Most edibles however are consumed through the mouth, swallowed, and absorbed through the digestive system. The cannabinoids in the edibles enter the bloodstream and then are metabolized in the liver. When THC is metabolized in the liver it becomes a compound called 11-hydroxy-THC which is released back into the bloodstream and then travels to the brain. Once it reaches the brain the effects of the edible is felt by the user. According to experts, this 11-hydroxy-THC compound is more potent than THC and can be more sedating. This is one of the reasons why edibles can have a longer and more intense effect on many people when compared to other forms of cannabis consumption.
Metabolizing THC in the liver can take anywhere from 20 minutes to 3 hours which results in the delayed onset that is common with edibles. However, typical onset from a marijuana edible usually occurs within 30-60 minutes. The potency of the effect of the edible can gradually increase over time and the duration can last up to six hours! This delayed onset and the extended duration of the effects are one of the things that set edibles apart from other methods of consumption. This is also why it is extremely important to be knowledgeable about how your body responds and interacts with THC and about dosage information before consuming cannabis edibles.
How Dosage Works
One of the biggest differences when it comes to marijuana edibles compared to other forms of cannabis is dosage and potency. Potency in edibles is measured differently than in flower, concentrates, or other forms or cannabis. Instead of stating the percentage of cannabinoid strength (for example 20% THC) the potency of an edible product is typically stated as milligrams (mg) of THC and/or CBD in the product.
Depending on the company and packaging, the potency might be labeled per serving (10 mg per gummy) or the potency might be for the total product (50 mg THC). If the edible has the total product’s potency, it would then be up to the user to split the edible into portions based on how much THC was needed for their desired dosage. For example, if a chocolate bar was labeled as 100 mg THC, a person could then split the bar into 10 pieces in order to have ten 10 mg doses.
It is very important to read the label on manufactured edibles in order to understand the potency and determine the correct dosage for your body.
As stated above, the effects of edibles are delayed and can be much more potent. There have been many people over the years who have gotten overly intoxicated on edibles because they ate a large dosage, because 1.) they didn’t feel like it was working at the time and didn’t feel the effects until much later, or 2.) didn’t know how much THC was in their edible. Don’t let this happen to you! Remember the delayed onset rule when using edibles and pay attention to the potency in each edible you consume!
It is important to consume edibles at a slow pace and to be as knowledgeable as possible about the potency in each edible you consume. Because the effects of edibles are so different than other forms of consumption, it is recommended that everyone start as a beginner, even if you have been smoking or vaping marijuana for a long time. Experts recommend that edible beginners start with a 1-5 mg dosage of THC in order to determine how their body will react and then work their way up to their desired result. Many experts also suggest that beginners should not consume more than one dose of edibles in a 24 hour period as well.
Edibles As Medicine
Edibles are a preferred choice for many medical marijuana patients. Because the effects of marijuana edibles can last longer than other forms of consumption, edibles can be a good method for medical patients who experience pain or discomfort. Chronic pain patients can potentially find longer relief with edibles. Patients who have lupus, migraines, or go through chemotherapy may also find relief with edibles. Patients have found that the sedating effects of edibles can also help those suffering with insomnia and/or anxiety as well.
One surprising medical condition that can be treated with edibles is Crohn’s disease. Because the CBD in edibles immediately goes into the digestive system this can bring relief to those experiencing Crohn’s or IBS symptoms. Edibles can also be helpful for patients who struggle with asthma, COPD, and lung disease, rather than smoking or vaping.
There are also many CBD only edibles that are not psychoactive. These CBD edibles can also help with various medical conditions. Many people have found that CBD edibles have been useful for anxiety, pain, ADHD, and insomnia. Some pediatricians have even recommended CBD gummies and other CBD edibles for their pediatric patients.
Marijuana and CBD edibles are extremely popular forms of medical and recreational marijuana. They offer discreet and accessible ways to consume cannabis and produce long-lasting effects. Unlike smoking and vaping, edibles do not pose possible health risks to the lungs or respiratory system. However, it is important to ensure that the cannabis edibles that you consume are made from the highest quality cannabis and are created in a safe and sanitary facility. It is also vital that manufactured edibles include accurate information about the potency of THC and CBD on the packaging so patients and other users can determine the correct dosage.
The effects of marijuana edibles can feel more intense, last longer, and take longer to kick in due to the delayed onset of metabolized THC. It is important to pay close attention to dosage and how your body is affected by cannabis edibles. When taking edibles it is recommended that you start with a very small dosage and work your way up until you feel the desired result, and as always, consult with a medical professional if you have any questions or concerns.