Consuming cannabis edibles can be a wonderful, discreet, delicious way to consume cannabis, but they can also pose safety concerns if not consumed responsibly. Here you will find cannabis edible education and recommendations to ensure your cannabis edible experience is safe, positive, and rewarding.
A Beginners Guide to Cannabis Edibles
Cannabis edibles can be a wonderful, discreet, delicious way to consume cannabis, but they can also pose potential safety concerns if not done responsibly.
Additionally, cannabis edibles have a delayed onset of 90-minutes to several hours, making it extremely difficult to predict the onset time, dose-response, and duration of the experience.
Of course, cannabis edibles are meant to be enjoyed and can be an excellent addition to and healthy lifestyle with some basic education. By following these few safe edible recommendations below, you can ensure you are prepared to have an experience that is safe, positive, and rewarding.
In this article we will cover:
- The Importance of Decarboxylation
- Understanding Edibles Delayed Onset
- Exploring Why Edibles Can Be More Potent
- Determining Final Product Potency
- Safety Considerations for Consuming THC Edibles
- Edibles Are Both An Experiment & Commitment
- Dosing Recommendations for Beginners
The Importance of Decarboxylation
Before getting started, it is important to note that all raw or dried cannabis must undergo a process called decarboxylation in order to be able to enjoy the active forms of CBD or THC.
Raw and dried cannabis flower contains what is known as tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) and cannabidiolic acid (CBDA).
These cannabinoids are found in the raw cannabis plant material and contain their own powerful health benefits. However, these cannabinoids are not intoxicating in their natural state.
Decarboxylation is a process that converts THCa → Δ9-THC and CBDa → CBD. Using heat and/or solvents is the most common way to decarboxylate the cannabis flower before enjoying it.
Mastering the process of cannabis decarboxylation is an important skill to have for anyone who wants to infuse their own cannabis recipes home.
Decarboxylation Summary: When making cannabis edibles, it is important to decarboxylate your cannabis material before consuming it in order to reap the full benefits of activated CBD or THC.
Understanding Edibles Delayed Onset
It can be difficult, potentially dangerous, and sometimes time-consuming for you to find your ideal cannabis edible dosage. One reason being the delayed onset time of cannabis consumption to produce the desired effect.
It is even more difficult to determine how the consumed product will affect you and to know how long the effects will last because the experience varies widely from person to person thanks to our own unique Endocannabinoid System (ECS).
It can be difficult to determine your ideal dosage when orally consuming cannabis because the onset of the desired effect is significantly delayed in comparison to sublingual, topical, or inhalation administration routes.
Orally ingested cannabis is slower to take effect, with the typical onset time ranging anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours, or even longer, depending on the individual.
While the effects of consumed cannabis are delayed, they tend to manifest stronger and last longer with a peak onset of noticeable effects setting in between 1 to 3 hours post-consumption.
The effects of cannabis edibles can last anywhere from 6 to 8 hours or more and vary gratefully from person to person.
It is important to remember that cannabinoids like CBD and THC that are eaten have anywhere from a 6-10% bioavailability rate. Individual physiological factors, such as absorption rates, rates of metabolism and excretion, body weight can have an effect on the bioavailability of cannabinoids that also varies from person to person.
Edibles Delayed Onset Summary: Consuming cannabis edibles have a much longer delayed onset time than traditionally inhaling cannabis. The onset time of intoxicating effects can be anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours, peak experience from 1 to 3 hours, and duration lasting 6 to 8 hours or more post-consumption.
Edibles Can Be More Potent
It is true that orally consuming cannabis will provide stronger, more potent, or intoxicating effects in some individuals. There are anecdotal reports of people even experiencing hallucinogenic effects in some situations where too much THC has been orally consumed.
The edible consumption method is different from inhaling or topical administration because once the cannabis is eaten and digested, the THC is then absorbed into the bloodstream and travels to the liver where it undergoes the hepatic first-pass metabolism.
During this process, enzymes hydroxylate Δ9-THC to form 11-hydroxytetrahydrocannabinol (11-OH-THC), a potent psychoactive metabolite that readily crosses the blood-brain barrier.
It is this potent intoxicating metabolite that causes potentially unwanted (or wanted) side effects for many unknowing culinary cannabis consumers.
It is important to note that there is a portion of the population who report feeling no effect from cannabis edibles at all. This may be because they lack the enzyme (or enough of the enzymes) needed to convert Δ9-THC → 11-OH-THC.
Edibles Can Be More Potent Summary: When cannabis is eaten, it goes through the digestive system. As it goes through the liver, Δ9-THC is hydroxylated to 11-OH-THC, a potent psychoactive metabolite that readily crosses the blood-brain barrier. It is this intoxicating metabolite that causes more potent, increased intoxicating effects with cannabis edibles.
Determining Final Product Potency
For many cannabis consumers, the most difficult piece of the oral cannabis consumption puzzle is accurately assessing the potency of their final product in order to understand their final dosages.
It is nearly impossible to determine the exact concentration of final cannabinoids like CBD and THC without lab testing when making an at-home recipe, like the staple cannabis coconut oil or cannabis butter.
This is a disadvantage for you because it is nearly impossible to accurately assess and track how much of each cannabinoid you will be orally consuming.
This uncertainty opens up the risk of you either underdosing or overdosing, which will ultimately prevent you from experiencing the desired health benefits of your edibles.
It can help if you know the strain and cannabinoid concentrations of your cannabis product before cooking. For example, if the flower was purchased at a dispensary, it may say 22% THC, 4% CBD. If you have this information, there are a few calculations that may help you to guestimate your final product potency.
Determining Final Product Potency Summary: Without knowing the concentration of CBD or THC in your starting material, and without lab testing, it is nearly impossible to estimate the final potency of your homemade cannabis edibles.
Safety Considerations for Consuming THC Edibles
I always encourage my Cannabis Compass students to prepare their own medicinal oils, butter, edibles or capsules at home for many reasons, including the cost savings and flexibility with personal preferences.
Consuming CBD oil in food does not pose much of a risk and making homemade CBD gummies is unlikely to produce any intoxicating effects at all.
It is when you are working with THC dominant strains that you begin to run the risk of accidentally experiencing an intoxicating or even a hallucinogenic effect if the enzymes in your liver hydroxylate Δ9-THC to form 11-OH-THC, the potent intoxicating metabolite mentioned above.
Consuming too much THC can pose a safety risk, mainly for unsuspecting individuals. The most common unwanted side effects that may pose a safety risk to some individuals include:
- Disorientation or dizziness
- Short-term memory issues
- Slow reaction time
- Tachycardia (rapid heartbeat)
- Increased appetite with dry mouth1
THC Safety Considerations Summary: Unknowingly consuming too much THC, especially in the form of cannabis edibles, may result in disorientation, dizziness, drowsiness, anxiety, and tachycardia.
Edibles Are Both An Experiment & Commitment
Consuming cannabis edibles is truly a self-experiment that requires both curiosity and patience. It will likely take several tries for you to find a dosage with an identifiable onset and duration time that you can rely on.
It is for this reason that I always recommend to my students that they consume cannabis edibles in the safety of their own home when they have a significant amount of time, at least 24 hours, to stay put and comfortably enjoy the experience.
Experimenting with dosages and duration times requires a time commitment from yourself. With the notoriously delayed onset and duration time of edibles, you should plan on devoting at least 6-12 hours to your experience.
During this time, plan to be safe in your home with no need to travel anywhere, no driving a car, and no operating heavy machinery.
Edibles Are a Commitment Summary: The delayed onset time and unknown intoxicating response meaning that it may take a few tries for you to find your perfect dose or edible recipe. Consuming cannabis edibles is both a self-experiment and a time commitment.
Dosing Recommendations for Beginners
With cannabis, there is no such thing as standard dosing recommendations, as cannabis affects everyone differently. Everyone’s body metabolizes cannabis differently.
You and your identical twin could consume the same teaspoon of cannabis-infused coconut oil and have drastically different experiences. It is important to start with one very low dose first and to monitor your body’s reaction.
I repeat, begin with one very low dose to start with (>5mg THC if you know the final potency).
Remember, cannabis edibles can have a delayed onset time of 30-minutes to 2 hours or more, so don’t take a second dose after just one hour or you risk the chance of consuming more than you can comfortably handle.
If you do not feel any response after four hours, then gradually titrate up the dose and try again. Remember to record the amount you took before you take it, so you can go back and compare dosages, if needed.
Dosage Recommendations Summary: There is no standard dosage recommendation for cannabis edibles. Start LOW and go SLOW. Try a small amount first and gradually titrate up as needed. Your patience will be rewarded with a safe, enjoyable experience.
Important: Take Notes After Consuming!
If you are new to cannabis edibles and are using cannabis to improve your health, it is very important to take notes on each cannabis edible experience so you can learn from each experience.
This will help you to repeat the good experiences and avoid bad experiences and allow you to track your dosages and progress over time.
I offer a signs & symptoms dosage tracker to all of my students who take my Online Cannabis Education Class.
If you’re brand new to cannabis and are looking for the educated guidance of a healthcare professional, be sure to check out these 5 Reasons You Need To Work With a Cannabis Practitioner to help you improve your health and wellness with safe and responsible cannabis use.