If you’ve ever had a bad experience with edibles, you know that there's a big difference between the high you get from smoking weed versus the high you get from the edibles. While edibles have been available for many years, they’re still largely a mystery which is why we’ve compiled this guide to help you understand the differences.
What is THC?
THC, also known as tetrahydrocannabinol, is one of the 100+ cannabinoids found in marijuana that is responsible for the high you feel when you smoke marijuana or eat cannabis-infused edibles. It is one of the most commonly occurring cannabinoids found in cannabis and it reacts with the neurotransmitters in our brains. It helps with pain and inflammation, our appetites, nausea, and in some cases, even muscle spasms. Because of its chemistry, our bodies process it differently when it’s introduced into our bodies in different ways, such as smoking vs. edibles.
Smoking vs Ingesting THC
When you smoke weed, you inhale the THC through your lungs into your bloodstream. Your blood carries oxygen to all of your bodily cells through your heart and circulatory system. Within a few heartbeats, the THC makes it to your brain which can cause a high that begins instantly before you even begin to exhale. The highest you will be from your smoke session usually happens 15 minutes after your inhale and will usually be gone within an hour.
When you eat cannabis-infused edibles, the THC travels into your stomach, liver and through the rest of your digestive system before causing you to become high. The magic happens in the liver, where the THC is transformed from delta9-THC to 11-hydroxy-THC, which is where the intensity comes in. 11-hydroxy-THC is much more potent than THC and tends to cause more of a psychedelic type high.
Unlike smoking, edibles also take much longer to kick in because you have to go through the whole digestion process before the metabolized THC is absorbed into your bloodstream and carried to your brain. That means you might have to wait anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 hours for the edibles to kick in. Once the effect begins, you can expect to feel that edible high anywhere from 6-12 hours, depending on how much you ate.
While edibles sound like the way to go due to higher potency and longer lasting effects, dosing is everything. You can put yourself in hours of panic and paranoia if you take too high of a dose of edibles at once or (god forbid) you don’t wait long enough for your first dose to kick in so you double down. Smoking, on the other hand, is much easier to dose because of how instant the effects are.
Dosing Edibles vs Dosing While Smoking Marijuana
As we mentioned in the last section, smoking cannabis can provide almost instant effects. Because of this immediate feedback, you are better able to gauge our tolerance, doses, and measure your overall experience. You are able to stay in control which makes dosing while smoking the best way to find your limits.
On the other hand, there are edibles. In the previous section, we went over the process of digesting and metabolizing the THC, which causes the edible high. It’s a lot more difficult to gauge the dosage with edibles because everyone has a different digestive tract and metabolism. Some work faster than others, some have special enzymes that make it so the dose needed to achieve even a mild high would send someone else into a 3-day panic. Because of these differences, our bodies all process THC at a different rate. For example, if you and your friend both took the same dose of edibles, he or she might feel the effects in 45 minutes while you don’t feel it for over an hour.
That’s where the trouble comes in. Because your friend got high after 45 minutes and you didn’t, you might’ve felt obligated to eat another edible to speed things up. Unfortunately, that’s just not how it works, and doing so could make the high twice as intense and ultimately turn you off of edibles forever because it’ll feel like a bad acid trip full of anxiety, paranoia, and general discomfort.
Finding Your Perfect Edible Dosage
If you’re interested in using edibles safely, the best approach is to go slow and start small. Start with a milligram and work your way up by adding a milligram each day until you know what your sweet spot is. It’s a bit of a process and might take some time, but there is no harm in upping your dose every day until you find what works. But there is harm in taking more than you should at once. You don’t want to rush into an unenjoyable high by being hasty.
The perfect dose is different for everyone. My boyfriend’s perfect dose is 20mg, and our mutual friend Bill needs at least 200mg. One of our family members also needs about 500mg before he feels anything from edibles. There are also people that only need about 2.5mg doses and others who require over 1000mg.
Meanwhile, my only possible dose is 5mg. Anything more than that and I’m scared, uncomfortably high and unable to function properly. In fact, I took a 25 mg piece of chocolate before I knew what my specific dose was and I went through the Orlando airport hoping I’d sleep all the way back to Colorado. Instead, I spent the next 10 hours on a flight with a layover lost and afraid in the Dallas airport by myself with none of my luggage on a 5% cell phone battery. It kicked in on the flight and I felt like I was hallucinating. The flight had an animated movie playing over all the TVs which was bugging me out like mad and I was convinced that I was flying in purgatory. I tried eating more food and that just made the high more intense. Overall, very stressful. Don’t do what I did and jump right in without figuring out your dose, asking yourself “how bad can it be?” because the answer WILL surprise you.
Which Method is Best for You?
Determining which method makes the most sense for you is left up to personal preference. If you’re on a budget and only need a few milligrams at a time, edibles might be the way to go. However, if you need a high dose, edibles can get kind of pricey when compared to the cost of smoking flower. If you’re looking for a high that doesn’t take long to kick in and is easier to dose, smoking might be for you. But on the other hand, if you like stoney psychedelic highs edibles may be more your jam. Ultimately, there is no right or wrong as long as you ingest or smoke safely. We hope that we have taken some of the mystery out of edibles so more people will be able to safely enjoy them.