Edibles are cannabis-based food products. They come in many different forms, from gummies to brownies, and contain either one or both of marijuana’s active ingredients: THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol). With the legalization of marijuana, edibles are increasing in popularity. CBD-only edibles have even been found to help treat ailments such as anxiety and chronic pain. As an added benefit, edibles don’t pose risks to the respiratory system — unlike smoking marijuana. The edible experience tends to differ from that of other cannabis products. The “high” from edibles can feel more intense, and it may last longer than the high you get from smoking. Edibles also take longer than smoking or vaping cannabis to kick in, although many factors affect the timing. Keep reading to learn more about the best edibles in San Fransisco, including how long they take to kick in and how long the effects last, along with dosage, side effects, and precautions.
Edibles are food products that have been infused with marijuana. These products come in a variety of different forms that can include:
- Baked goods.
Edibles can be homemade or prepared commercially for dispensaries. When made at home the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, is usually extracted into oil or butter that can be used in cooking or spread directly on food. Although smoking remains the most prevalent method of marijuana consumption, the ingestion of edibles is quickly becoming a popular way to take the drug. Unfortunately, many people who consume edibles are unaware of the dangers associated with their use.
How long does it take before you begin to feel the effects of edibles?
Cannabis contains compounds such as cannabidiol and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC is the compound responsible for the “high” that people associate with the drug. The Washington State Liquor Control Board define a THC serving as 10 milligrams (mg), while products are limited to 100 mg of this substance in total.
According to research, edibles are slower to kick in but last longer compared to inhalation. This is because compared to smoking, where cannabis is absorbed quickly into the bloodstream and distributed rapidly in the brain, edibles first need to enter the digestive system.
One study indicates that oral ingestion of THC requires 30–90 minutes for effects to begin. These effects reach their peak after 2–3 hours.
Some factors affect how soon someone can feel the effects of edibles. These include:
- the edible’s non-cannabis ingredients
- body weight
- when a person last ate
Consumption under the tongue, also known as sublingual absorption, is theoretically faster since it bypasses the digestive system and absorbs straight into the bloodstream. Therefore, items, such as lollipops or tinctures held under the tongue, may have quicker effects.
According to one study, the effects of edibles last 4–12 hours, depending on the dose and a person’s characteristics, such as tolerance and metabolism. A 2017 study analyzed 5,000 tweets about edibles and found 12% described the intense or long-lasting effects following use.
Other ways of consuming cannabis
People can also smoke the cannabis plant or vape cannabis oil. THC inhalation typically triggers effects within seconds or minutes. These effects plateau after 15–30 minutes and begin to taper off within 2–3 hours.
Some people prefer ingesting edibles to smoking cannabis because of the potential health risks associated with smoking. A 40-year cohort study of males in Sweden suggests that smoking cannabis might increase the risk of lung cancer.
However, not all the research is in agreement. A recent review of epidemiological cannabis and cancer studies concludes there is no evidence linking smoking cannabis with lung cancer.
Lozenges, gum, and lollipops kick in faster because they’re absorbed sublingually
Some edible products, such as lozenges, gum, and lollipops, are ingested but not actually swallowed. In these cases, absorption occurs through the mucus membranes of the mouth. This is called sublingual absorption, and the effects are more likely to appear faster.
Chewable edibles take longer to kick in because they’re absorbed through the digestive system
Chewable edibles, such as gummies, cookies, and brownies, may have longer onset times. This is because absorption first occurs in the digestive tract. From there, active ingredients enter the bloodstream and travel to the liver.
In the liver, active ingredients are metabolized before they are released back into the bloodstream and enter the brain, at which point the effects appear.
Other factors affecting onset time
Other factors that can affect how quickly you start to feel the effects of ingested edibles are related to your habits and physical makeup. They include your:
- tolerance to cannabis
Since edibles don’t kick in right away, it can be tempting to take more soon after your first dose. This can lead to taking too much.
You should always wait at least 24 hours before taking another dose.
How much should you take?
Most edible cannabis products identify how much THC or CBD is in a single serving. For instance, a single gummy typically contains 10 milligrams (mg) of THC.
In some cases, though, the manufacturer lists the THC or CBD content of the entire package or food item. To use the gummy example, a package might contain 100 mg of THC. If the package contains 10 gummies, that’s 10 mg per gummy.
This can be quite confusing with food items such as brownies and cookies. In some cases, it might mean that a single dose corresponds to a fraction of the item.
How to try edibles for the first time
Trying edibles for the first time can be intimidating, but it’s all about taking it low and slow, as we’ll explain in a four-step process. Here are the key takeaways for an optimum edibles experience:
- Try edibles with both THC and CBD
- Start with 2 mg of THC or less
- Shop for products that are easy to dose
- Wait at least two hours before consuming more, preferably 24 hours
Pick your cannabinoid
Let that sink in for a moment. You can find cannabinoids in weed and your own body. Though we do have different names to distinguish the two: endocannabinoids and phytocannabinoids. Endocannabinoids are the cannabinoids we produce within our own bodies. Phytocannabinoids are produced by the cannabis plant. Often called cannabinoids for short, we can thank phytocannabinoids for the mental and physical effects we feel when we consume cannabis. While much more research is needed, they have the potential to affect a range of processes in our bodies from pain and inflammation to anxiety and sleep. We have a full list of cannabinoids you can read up on later, but for the sake of simplicity and to reflect what is most widely available on the market today, we’ll focus on THC and CBD here.
- For a psychoactive high, pick THC. As the most plentiful cannabinoid in the cannabis plant and the one known for producing that classic weed high, THC tends to get a lot of attention. Depending on the person, this famous cannabinoid may produce feelings of euphoria, creativity, relaxation, or pain relief. Others may experience confusion, short-term memory loss, shifts in time perception, rapid heart-rate, lowered coordination, and anxiety. Starting with the lowest possible dose and combining it with other cannabinoids (which we’ll get to in a minute) is the safest way to experiment and avoid some of these potentially unpleasant side effects.
- For a barely-there, calm feeling, pick CBD. Contrary to popular belief, CBD does have psychoactive effects — just not in the same way as THC. Anything that changes the brain’s activity is considered psychoactive and CBD is an FDA-approved medication (Epidiolex) thanks to its psychoactivity. That said, taking a bunch of CBD with the hope it’ll unleash the euphoric feelings associated with THC is like expecting to start your car with your house key. So, while CBD may be non-intoxicating, it’s also been shown to be better at addressing anxiety. If you’d rather risk not feeling anything at all than feeling too much, start with CBD-only edibles.
- For a balanced high, pick a combination of THC and CBD. When THC and CBD work together, users tend to feel a more mellow, nuanced high than a THC-only high. When CBD is present, they also have a much lower chance of experiencing THC-induced paranoia. Cannabis newcomers are best off trying a combination of cannabinoids if the goal is to experience a noticeable, yet soothing high.