Two Toronto police officers were recently suspended from duty after allegedly eating too many marijuana edibles, becoming completely fucked up, then calling the cops on themselves. The officers complained of “hallucinations” and were later treated at a hospital.
It’s kind of a funny story, but can edibles really screw you up that much? Like any drug, the answer depends on the dose and the route of administration, yet there is a fundamental difference between the high you get from smoking weed and eating a pot-laced brownie.
Compared to puffing a joint, edibles can give you a much stronger “couch-locking” body high that lasts longer, sometimes four to six hours, but they take longer to kick in. Yes, you’ll feel the effects of smoking within minutes, but they’ll peak within 30 to 60 minutes and taper off between two to four hours. But when you smoke you actually absorb more cannabinoids, the high-inducing ingredients in weed such as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), than you do from edibles. So why would an edible high be more potent and linger on?
“The issue isn’t that [weed is] metabolized differently, it’s that it’s gonna get metabolized to different degrees in different parts of the body, depending on the route of administration,” Nick Jikomes, the principal research scientist at Leafly, explains.
Jikomes earned his PhD in neuroscience at Harvard Medical School. His work includes collaborating with cannabis testing labs to create better ways of classifying marijuana strains based on their cannabinoid and terpene profiles. (Terpenes are the essential oils found in plants that give off distinct aromas.)
Ever been curious about how to change up your high? Want to make the effect of your smoke session last even longer? Edibles are a great way to explore a different high, with longer-lasting effects.
How smoking works
Smoking is one of the most popular ways of enjoying cannabis, but how does it work?
When you inhale cannabis smoke into your lungs, the active compounds, such as THC, are almost immediately absorbed into the bloodstream, making their way to the brain.
Once the THC hits the brain, it binds to receptors in the endocannabinoid system, most notably the CB1 receptors, which produces the euphoria typically associated with getting high.
Because the time between inhalation and THC reaching the brain is so short, smoking cannabis has a rapid onset. You’ll feel the effects of smoking weed almost instantly.
How your consumption method affects your high
Now that you understand how both smoking weed and edibles work, let’s cover how each consumption method affects your high.
As mentioned, the process of metabolizing THC is significantly longer when you ingest an edible, typically anywhere between 45 minutes and three hours. The delayed process of absorbing and metabolizing THC means it takes longer to feel the effects.
But because 11-hydroxy-THC is both more potent and has a longer half-life than THC, once you do start feeling the effects, they’re typically going to feel stronger and last longer than if you hit a joint.
When you smoke weed, on the other hand, the THC almost immediately travels to the brain. That means you’ll feel high almost immediately, but because of the rapid absorption of THC, your high has a shorter duration than with edibles.
While the intensity and length of your high depends on a variety of factors (including quality, dosage, and potency), a high from smoking weed typically lasts one-to-two hours whereas an edibles experience can last four-to-six hours or more.
Another way consumption method affects your high is how much you consume. Because smoking weed creates almost immediate effects, users can gauge how high they’re getting in real time. As a result, they are typically less likely to overconsume.
On the flip side, people can run into trouble with edibles and overconsumption. The process of metabolizing THC can take up to three hours, and some people may think the edible isn’t working, leading them to ingest another edible, increasing their dosage and the intensity and duration of their high. With edibles, it’s always recommended to start with a low dose and wait a full 24 hours to gauge the edible’s effects. Only then should you try increasing the dose in small increments (between 2.5 and 5 mg) every 24 hours until you reach your desired experience.
How to smoke weed
If you decide smoking weed is the right consumption method for you, there are a few things you’ll need to get started: cannabis flower, a tool or method for smoking the cannabis (rolling papers, a bong, pipe, etc.), and a lighter. Add the cannabis to your smoking tool and use the lighter the ignite the flower. Inhale the smoke and voila, you’re smoking weed.
(Want to learn more about the ins and outs of smoking weed? For more information, including full instructions on smoking options, be sure to check out the Weedmaps guide How to Smoke Weed.)
How to consume edibles
Most dispensaries have a selection of edibles, including different types of edibles (like cookies, gummies, and chocolate bars), different dosages, and different CBD to THC ratios. You can also take the DIY route, whip up some cannabis-infused butter or oil, and make your own edibles at home. Just be careful. While making cannabis-infused edibles at home is fairly straightforward, it’s much harder to control potency and dosing. For more consistent dosing and a more consistent experience, stick with professionally manufactured edibles purchased at a reputable dispensary.
What Are Edibles?
What really makes an edible, an edible? Any food that is infused with cannabis is considered an “edible”, this means that you can find edibles in many different forms such as chocolates, gummies, baked goods, or even oils and tinctures. You might believe that you are familiar with cannabis, but if you’ve never had an edible before you might be surprised by its effects! When eaten, the liver transforms THC into 11-hydroxy-THC which is then dispersed into the bloodstream. This process takes time, so while the effects of smoking flower can be felt immediately, the effects of an edible may not be felt for over an hour, and can have you feeling great for up to 8 hours! There are a couple of explanations for this process but these vary depending on what strain is consumed. When speaking about 11-hydroxy-THC, Jeff Raber, CEO of The Werc Shop said:
“THAT METABOLITE HAS FIVE TIMES THE ACTIVITY AT THE CB1 RECEPTOR, THE PSYCHOACTIVE ONE, AS THC ITSELF”
How Do Edibles Make You Feel vs. Smoking
11-hydroxy-THC can cross the blood-brain barrier faster than THC, which means that it can access the CB1 receptors, the receptors that create that euphoric, psychoactive feeling, more effectively. Since you can feel the metabolized THC more intensely than smoking or vaping, it’s important that newbies to edibles start with a low dosage and work up to one that is comfortable but not overwhelming for yourself. We recommend starting with a dose as low as 2.5mg of THC and waiting up to two hours for the effects of the edible, then we suggest that you gradually increase the dosage and wait longer for further effects. When you find the appropriate dose for yourself, edibles can provide a long-lasting high and be an alternative to smoking or vaping.
For those who want fast-acting effects, smoking or vaping cannabis allows the THC to skip being metabolized by the liver, and instead goes straight into the bloodstream. You can also bypass the liver metabolizing THC by taking THC oil or tinctures sublingually (or under the tongue).
What About CBD Edibles? While metabolized THC activates those psychoactive CB1 receptors, cannabidiol or CBD does the opposite and inhibits the activity in those receptors. A strain that has a combination of some THC and higher CBD can be great for first-time users. CBD actually binds to at least 12 different receptors in the brain, affecting and creating multiple pathways, which is why it’s promoted for its therapeutic effects. If you are using CBD for medical purposes, please consult with your doctor ahead of time as you would for any medication. Many consumers of CBD claim that the most noticeable effect is the feeling of relaxation and calmness. This can, of course, vary per individual, as well as per type and dosage of CBD. Different CBD products may benefit each individual differently depending upon how it is consumed. CBD edibles will create a longer-lasting feeling of calm over the whole body, while CBD topicals may treat specific areas on the body that are in pain.
It’s important to do your research on the type of CBD used in your edible, if possible, to ensure you are receiving the maximum effect. There are a few different types of CBD but the main difference is where the CBD is sourced from and how. Full spectrum CBD oil is sourced from a cannabis plant and contains the terpenes and cannabinoids from the plant as well as low to moderate levels of THC. Broad spectrum CBD oil is derived from hemp plants and contains little to no THC but still has all the effects of CBD. In a study conducted in 2016, it was found that a combination of THC and CBD was more efficient at treating chronic pain symptoms from MS. The evidence for using a combination of THC and CBD together to treat pain or any other chronic illness symptom has been studied and echoed by many researchers over the past five years, ultimately leading to legalization in many countries. With that said, many medical cannabis patients choose to use strains that are very low in the compound THC, and rich in the compound CBD during the day, in order to manage their symptoms, without feeling ‘high’.
Choose the consumption method that works for you
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to consuming cannabis. Different consumption methods, like smoking or ingesting an edible, will deliver different experiences. The best consumption method for you depends on what kind of experience you seek. Now that you know exactly how smoking and edibles work, and how each method affects your high, you have everything you need to choose the consumption method that’s best for you.
There are many different ways to treat yourself to a different type of high, now it’s time to find one that fits for you! One of the knowledgeable Budtenders at Oakridge Cannabis will be happy to assist you. As always, please ensure that you are consuming your cannabis in a responsible way and have fun with it!