How to Consume Cannabis Edibles
With different ways to consume cannabis and with the coronavirus pandemic, the rise of edibles is predictable. People have become somewhat reluctant to smoke when there is a raging virus that negatively impacts lung health, and as a result, edibles are an easier way to consume cannabis, whether the goal is to medicate or simply enjoy.
“[Due to the pandemic] a lot of people want to shy away from actual inhalation methods and they went right into the edibles” noted Dennis Gonzalez, General Manager at Bloom, “That was one of the biggest things that we noticed right at the beginning of the pandemic. Sales in our edibles skyrocketed.”,
The industry studies back up what Bloom’s staff are seeing on the ground. According to the BDSA Beyond Brownies & Beer Report 2020, there has been a 130 percent increase in edibles sales between June 2019 and June 2020 and 71 percent of cannabis consumers consume edibles. While this increase shouldn’t be solely attributed to covid-19 stress, it is impressive.
Types of Edibles Options
So edibles are popular and are poised to become even moreso. Why is that? Partly because there is a range of edible consumption options.
- Alcohol tincture
- Butter / oil
- Homemade sugar cookies
- Starburst-style candies
Some of these preferences are because people enjoy making their own cannabis butter or oil at home while others prefer to purchase candies like gummies and taffys from their local dispensary.
Regardless of whether you prefer to DIY or buy your cannabis products, there are plenty of options for consumers, including the emerging cannabis beverage market.
The Edibles Experience
Before you decide to try an edible, there are a few things you should keep in mind. Consuming edibles is a very different experience than consuming cannabis from a vape or joint and part of that is due to edibles onset and duration times.
Onset and Duration
Onset refers to how long it takes for the cannabinoids to become medically effective. Unlike vaporized or topical cannabis products, edibles need to pass through your digestive system before entering the bloodstream, which is a slower process than entering through the lungs or your skin. Edibles typically have an onset of action of 30-90 minutes with peak action typically being reached between two and four hours from ingestion.
Duration is how long it takes for your body to cease to feel the effects of the edible and it varies depending on your metabolism, body mass, eating habits, and biological sex. Depending on these factors, how long do edibles last? The total duration for edibles generally ranges between four and 12 hours.
Because your edibles experience will depend on so many personal factors, finding your ideal dose is an important part of the process.
Your ideal edibles dosage will depend on many factors but there are recommendations for dosing ranges, depending on your tolerance and goals. The best thing to do is to find a trusted doctor or budtender who can help customize your edibles experience to your needs but if you don’t have access to one, the following chart may be helpful.
Edibles Dosage Mg Chart
|Users with no tolerance||1.5-5mg|
|Users who vape multiple times per week||2-12mg|
|Users who regularly consume edibles and have a tolerance for edibles||10-30mg|
|High tolerance for edibles||30-60mg|
How Edibles Metabolize in the Body
Your body metabolizes a cannabis edible dosage differently than it processes vaping cannabis or using cannabis topicals. The bioavailability of cannabinoids through the digestive tract is just 4-20 percent. This lower bioavailability is due to first-pass metabolism where some cannabinoids are absorbed by binding to cannabinoid receptors in your gastrointestinal tract on their way to the liver, where they are processed into altered forms before entering the bloodstream.
As an example, Delta-9-THC is processed by the liver into 11-Hydroxy-THC, which is believed to be a more potent version of THC and, for many people, leads to a more intense experience.
Because your metabolism is unique and your edibles consumption goals are too, edibles may not be a perfect fit for your goals. Or they might be just what you need. One consideration will be the edible itself – the dose, the flavoring, how it’s made etc.
How Edibles Are Made
Decarboxylation is the process that activates the compounds (like THC) in cannabis and some decarboxylation naturally occurs as part of the cannabis curing process. However, most decarboxylation occurs when you expose cannabis to the heat of vaping or smoking. In order to make potent edibles, decarboxylation is a critical step of the preparation process and is done before the final product is prepared.
In order to ensure proper decarboxylation in homemade edibles, DIYers often rely on tools such as the Levo Oil machine or Magical Butter machine to properly infuse butters and oils they then use to prepare an edible. While it’s possible to use the typical home oven, it can feel more error-prone to home chefs, especially to those who are just starting out and who don’t want to waste flower as they learn the process. They’d rather experiment with new recipes than with decarboxylation options.
Big commercial edibles manufacturers rely on professional decarboxylation machines in order to ensure precise decarboxylation in large volumes. Some commercial products are handcrafted in small batches. Those chefs often rely on the same machines home bakers use and simply own several of the machines in order to increase cannabis oil or butter production volumes.
Tips from Experts
If you’re new to consuming edibles, there are several recommendations all cannabis experts make to ensure your experience is both enjoyable and effective.
Start Low, Go Slow
Even more so than with other forms of cannabis consumption, starting with a low dose and slowly titrating up to higher doses is important with edibles. It’s all-too-easy to get impatient because of the slow onset time of edibles, take another dose, and then have consumed too much and have an unpleasant experience.
This applies even if you’ve consumed edibles in the past, perhaps a few decades ago.
Gonzalez advises “If you’re a beginner, start off low and slow. You might get somebody who consumed their medication back in the 70s and is thinking that this is the exact same thing. But this is a whole ‘nother ball game. We have different genetics now. Our cannabis is testing significantly higher than it used to. Now these guys are finally getting familiar with terpenes and so forth. So they’re kind of trying to target set effects.”
It’s much better to have a too mild experience and increase your dose next time than to overdo it and scare yourself off edibles or any specific edibles type.
Label & Seal Products
Unless they’re labeled and sealed properly, edibles can look like any other food and people can accidentally ingest them when they just wanted a normal cookie or candy to satisfy a sweet tooth craving.
Commercial products will come in properly-labeled packaging but if you’re storing those products in another packaging or making your edibles at home, be sure to label them properly. There are affordable and easy-to-use labeling options and you can always just write on the packaging with a sharpie.
Just like adults, kids love sweets. Make sure your edibles are marked properly and then also stored in a tamper-proof package and/or inaccessible location. Edibles, especially at high doses, can be terrifying and dangerous to children and you could be in legal hot water if a child accesses your edibles.
If you over-consume cannabis edibles, you likely don’t need to rush to a hospital for treatment. Most experts recommend doing your best to sleep off the rest of your dose. If you can, drink some water and watch a silly movie until you fall asleep. With any luck, you’ll wake up hours after the peak has passed and just feel a little groggy. Take it easy that day and make sure that you note what that dose was so you never accidentally repeat it.
Edibles Aren’t For Everyone
As with any other type of medication, edibles might not be a great fit for you, even if other cannabis consumption methods are. Our bodies are unique in how they process everything, including cannabis through different forms of consumption.
“It has been a trial and error process towards the beginning. Everybody assumed that edibles would work for any given patient. However, one of the things that we’re starting to realize is that everybody is different in the way that their body responds to the medication and a lot of people don’t actually respond well to edibles. They could eat up to 500 milligrams and still might not feel anything,” explains Gonzalez
Try edibles slowly and carefully. Record what you’re taking, when, and how you feel. And if edibles don’t work for you, that’s ok. Talk to your doctor or cannabis professional (like the helpful experts at Bloom!) to find out what might be best for you.