THC is THC, right? So why does the high from edibles feel so different from smoking? The answer lies in how THC is absorbed and processed inside our bodies.
Smoking cannabis actually delivers more cannabinoids to your body than consuming edibles does. But as anyone who has munched a canna-cookie knows, the edible high is longer and stronger than the kind you get from smoking. The extra potency is thanks to how your body metabolizes THC after eating an infused-treat.
THC Absorbed by Your Lungs Versus Liver
When you smoke or vape cannabis, the THC goes into your lungs where it is absorbed into your bloodstream and heads directly to your body and brain. This results in a high that is felt almost immediately, within two to 10 minutes. If you smoke or vape, you know the high usually lasts between one and three hours.
Edibles such as cookies, brownies, and gummies follow a very different path to reach your brain.
Once you’ve swallowed your psychoactive snack, it begins its journey through your digestive tract. A lot of the THC will simply be excreted, but some of it will be absorbed into the bloodstream via the small intestine. Your metabolism, physical activity, and even genetics, influence how much you absorb this way. The bloodsteam goes to the liver, where you metabolize the THC. Only then, does it head to your brain.
In the liver, THC is converted to 11-hydroxy-THC, which is better at crossing the blood-brain barrier. This active metabolite of THC is responsible for the significantly stronger stone that edibles are notorious for.
Whats more? Edibles take longer to kick in, especially if they’re eaten on a full stomach. You won’t feel anything for at least 30 minutes, and it could take up to two hours for the full effect to kick in. Once the high hits, it can last between six to eight hours.
Because edibles take a while to kick in, it’s easy to think they aren’t working and be tempted to eat another one. This can leave you with a much more intense high than you planned on, so pay special attention to the dosing. If you take nothing else away from this — remember — don’t go back for seconds until the first dose has kicked in.
Pro tip: keep some cannabis-free treats nearby if you have a sweet tooth and get tempted to munch more just because they’re so delicious!
How to Safely Dose Edibles
If you’re new to edibles, the safest bet is to stick to the old adage: start low and go slow.
How hard an edible hits you will depend on a variety of factors. Everyone’s digestion and metabolism are slightly different, as well as the sensitivity of their endocannabinoid system and tolerance to THC.
One factor you can control is how much THC you consume. If you’re buying edibles from a licensed dispensary, read the packaging carefully. It should tell you how many milligrams of THC are in each edible, and you can use that to control how many you consume.
Remember, you can always bite off half a gummy or share a cookie with a friend if you aren’t feeling up to a whole one. If you’re baking edibles at home, the dosing gets trickier, and you might need to whip out a calculator to figure out the amounts.
Say you order a 1g tub of Papaya Pipe Bomb concentrate and infuse it into some butter or cooking oil. At 63.83 percent THC, that gives you a whopping 638.3mg of THC in total. If you bake all of this into a bumper batch of 20 cookies, each cookie will have around 34mg of THC, which is a hefty dose and should probably be shared with a friend unless you already have an impressive edible tolerance.
Edible Dosing Guidelines
So, how many milligrams should you be aiming for? It’s a good idea to consider your current THC tolerance level and then go according to your desired effect.
- Under 2.5mg
This is where to start if you’re trying cannabis for the first time or if you’ve smoked a few times but are new to edibles. It’s also good for microdosing for more experienced users.
- 5 to 10mg
This is as heavy as you should go if you’re new to cannabis. It’ll be a medium stone for those with a bit of THC tolerance and a mild buzz for regular users.
- 10 to 20mg
A bit stronger for occasional smokers and the beginnings of a buzz for edible fans.
- 30mg and over
This is ideal for those with a solid THC tolerance looking for a hard-hitting high.
Stay on the Safe Side with Edibles — Start Low, Go Slow
Because the THC in edibles is metabolized in the liver, it can interact with other drugs such as anticoagulants. It’s a good idea to check with your doctor first if you’re concerned about interactions with medication.