Cannabis consumption is layered, just like an onion. While smoking cannabis is still the most common method, the plant can be consumed in a number of different ways, be it for medical or recreational purposes.
In 2019 food infused with cannabis was predicted to be the hottest food trend. Meanwhile in Canada, edibles are soon to be rolled out in the legal market, and curiosity around edibles is peaking.
Without a doubt edible cannabis is gaining a reputation as a healthier, more convenient and discreet alternative to smoking, but eating cannabis has been practiced in some cultures for millennia. In India its called Bhang, and it’s commonly consumed for medicinal and religious purposes. To this day, Bhang is sold and consumed across many cities of Northern India, and of course, is wildly popular with tourists.
Perhaps you already know that the effects of edibles last longer, that dosage is key and that patience is a virtue when it comes to infused foods. Perhaps you don’t.
Either way, understanding the difference between ingesting cannabis and smoking it could be the difference between a good cannabis experience and a bad one.
So we thought now would be a good time to cover the basics of cannabis infused food, better known as edibles.
What exactly is an edible?
You’ve probably heard of the infamous pot brownie, but “edible” can refer to any food or drink that has been infused with the activated cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant.
Cannabinoids like THC and CBD are what we call activated compounds; in their raw form they’re known as THCa and CBDa, and are among hundreds of other compounds found in the cannabis plant. Activation occurs through the process of decarboxylation (a fancy word for heating the cannabis), and without this the compounds will not have any of the psychoactive effects commonly associated with cannabis.
In a nutshell, eating or juicing raw cannabis flower, leaves or stem, while having its own set of impressive health benefits, will not get you ‘high’.
Pro tip: If you vape your cannabis flower, you’re essentially decarboxylating the cannabis. You can reuse this plant matter to make your own cannabis edibles at home.
How is it different to smoking?
Unlike inhalation, where the effects of cannabis compounds are felt almost immediately due to it passing through the blood brain barrier, edible cannabis is absorbed by the liver through the digestive tract.
This is where the compound THC is converted into a more potent version of itself, known as 11-hydroxy-THC. It is also why people often describe the effects of edibles as longer lasting with heightened intensity, even when they have consumed a familiar dosage.
How long will it last ?
The effects of edibles are notoriously hard to predict with any accuracy, and will vary from person to person. Factors such as your metabolism, how you feel on a given day and whether you have eaten or if you are taking the edible on an empty stomach, all play a role in your overall experience.
The general consensus is that it will take about 1-2 hours for the effects of ingested cannabis to be felt, yet this can vary from person to person, with some people reporting the onset after 4 hours. Similarly, how long it takes for the effects to wear off can vary wildly, with a common timeframe for a light to moderate dose being 4 to 8 hours, all the way up to 16 hours. The more you consume the longer it takes your body to metabolise the compounds responsible for the effect.
If you’re new to cannabis edibles, it is highly recommended that you clear your day and refrain from operating machinery - cars, lawnmowers or anything else for that matter - as the long lasting effects could alter your psychomotor function.
It might interest you to know that edibles are a popular choice for medical use for this very reason that it lasts longer. For example, a person suffering from insomnia might prefer an edible as it will last throughout the night without there being a need to re-dose.
How much is too much?
Start low and go slow is a well-known cannabis mantra, and perhaps the golden rule of cannabis edibles. Things can turn quickly with edibles if you’re unaware of the potency or simply impatient. As we mentioned the onset of effects vary widely, and if you’re not careful, reaching for that second serving could mean greening out or freaking out - believe me, I’ve been there!
On the bright side, cannabis is very safe, one of the safest in fact, and any adverse reactions are typically relegated to an uncomfortable experience as opposed to a dangerous one.
Most edible products will list the potency per serving, which can vary from *5mg of THC to 500mg of THC, so being aware of serving sizes is extremely important.
On the other hand, if you’re making cannabis infused food at home, working out the potency per serving comes down to some good old fashioned cannabis maths.
(Milligrams of dried cannabis x Percentage of THC) / Servings = THC per serve.
For example, we will use 7 grams (a quarter) of cannabis with a THC potency of 20% and infuse it into one cup of olive oil.
One gram of cannabis is equal to 1000 milligrams, so in this instance that’s 7,000 milligrams of cannabis times 20% (the THC potency of our dried flower), which equals 1400 milligrams of THC in one cup of olive oil.
For simplicity we will use the whole cup for this recipe and make a batch of 50 scones. Simply divide 1400 by 50 and each scone will have approximately 28mg of THC per serving.
You can also store the infused oil for 6 months, using 1/4 cup at a time if you prefer to cook smaller batches or decrease the overall potency in recipe.
As the cannabis landscape evolves, so too does our understanding of this plant. Beginning your cannabis journey can sometimes seem daunting, but it might help to remember that we’ve been using this plant for thousands of years - allow yourself to be curious and let your intuition guide you.
TOP TIPS ON HAVING A GOOD FIRST CANNABIS EDIBLE EXPERIENCE.
Start low and go slow
Know how much you’re consuming
Consume in a comfortable and familiar environment
Have a trusted friend on speed dial in case you need some reassurance
Remember cannabis is very safe for consumption
You could try sniffing pepper or drinking orange juice as these are said to help reverse the effects of overconsumption.
Enjoy yourself! Cannabis is a wonderful and healing plant that loves to serve us.
*In Canada, edible products on the legal market will be required to come in single serve packaging with a max 10mg THC potency. However, in the US and other countries regulations vary widely, make sure you read the label and be aware of potency PER SERVING.