Cannabis-infused brownies are a favorite joke of sitcoms across the TV dial, but in today’s legal recreational cannabis market, they’re also a very real product you can just as easily purchase as bake yourself.
In fact, there’s a stunning array of edible options when it comes to marijuana-infused edibles, everything you can imagine from gummies to lozenges, baked goods and even sodas and teas. Just because you’re not a smoker doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the benefits of marijuana, especially with so many choices in the edibles market.
Keeping it Legal and Safe
Before you bite into that herb-enhanced muffin, it’s a good idea to get familiar with the marijuana rules of Washington State.
After all, just because it’s legal doesn’t mean you can do whatever you want—and we don’t want you to have a bad time because you accidentally broke the law. There aren’t a ton of laws concerning herb usage, but there a few that are worth mentioning:
- According to RCW 69.50.4013, you must be 21 years of age to purchase, transport or possess marijuana products. The only exception is for medical patients and they’ll need to be able to provide documentation if asked.
- RCW 69.50.360 establishes just how much marijuana you can purchase and possess at any given time. For an edible product, that limit is 16 ounces of a solid product like a brownie or candy and 72 ounces of marijuana-infused liquids like cannabis tea.
- You absolutely cannot open or consume any cannabis products in reasonable view of the public or in a public place, according to RCW 69.50.445. This rule applies to all the same areas where public drunkenness would be illegal, as defined by RCW 66.04.010, excepting that federal lands are not excluded. So, in short, you can consume your cannabis products at home or inside your friend’s house with their permission—as long as you’re indoors. If you’re staying at a hotel, you’ll want to call ahead to reserve a marijuana-friendly room, especially if you’re planning to smoke.
Although it’s not required by law, Washington Poison Control urges all cannabis edibles consumers to always keep these products locked up and out of the reach of children and pets. Because they’re often brightly colored and look just like regular treats, kids and pets don’t realize they’re getting into marijuana-infused products and can make themselves incredibly sick. Clearly label anything you take out of the original package for the safety of your household.
Commercial Edibles in Washington State
Edibles are totally legal in Washington State, but there are rules governing exactly what can and cannot be produced commercially. The Washington Department of Agriculture has created a list of items they consider to be a low hazard for bacterial growth and relatively easy for facilities to produce without a lot of specialized training.
Currently the list includes:
Baked Goods: They’re quintessential marijuana edibles, what more is there to say? This includes brownies and cookies as well as fruit pies and tarts.
Candy and Confections: Any sort of candy made from sugar or syrup to which flavoring and colorants are added are popular items. This category also includes coated nuts, granola bars, chocolate bars and molded chocolates, plus hard candies and gummies.
Beverages: Shelf stable beverages that don’t require refrigeration for preservation are staples for marijuana users. Common items in this category include vitamin waters, sodas and lemonades.
Vinegars and Oils: Oils and vinegars infused with marijuana extract, but no other plant pieces or flavors, are popular for cooking projects. These products have to be pure, meanings no herb flowers or other plant pieces like garlic cloves or rosemary stalks are allowed.
Dry Mixes: A dry mix is any food that has very little water content and needs no refrigeration. These include popular items like tea bags, soup and beverage mixes and seasonings.
Jams, Jellies, Preserves, Nut Butters, Honey and Syrups. Someone, somewhere, was going to find a way to mix marijuana with these sugary taste bud pleasers. As long as they’re properly processed and shelf stable, your favorite cannabis-enhanced jams, jellies, preserves, nut butters, honeys and syrups will be available through recreational cannabis shops.
The list of currently allowed edibles might seem a little short at the moment—after all, who has a cannabis-infused brownie without a scoop of herbal ice cream? For now, at least, edibles are a new area for the Washington Department of Agriculture to juggle and they’re going to approach it slowly. The list is likely to get a lot longer as these items prove to be safe and cannabis dispensaries show themselves able to provide increasingly sophisticated food storage equipment in their facilities.
The Gastrointestinal Route vs. Taking a Hit
Many users of edibles prefer them because they eliminate the risks associated with smoking, as well as the coughing that can be an unpleasant side effect of toking up.
Getting started using concentrates can represent a large monetary investment, so edibles are often the first non-smokable cannabis product these consumers try. After all, they’re easy to use, there’s no special equipment to buy and there’s really no technique to master in order to use an edible properly.
Edibles Create a Different Kind of High
Besides the obvious reasons to eat your weed instead of smoking or dabbing it, there’s another more interesting reason to try edibles.
They literally create a different sort of high. A smoking high typically lasts less than an hour, with the peak occurring as quickly as 10 minutes into the experience. Although as much as 60 percent of the THC in smoked weed can end up in blood plasma, because of the form the chemical takes, it dissipates quickly, leaving you stone sober in a couple of hours.
On the other hand, a high via an oral route can take up to two hours to set in, but it lasts significantly longer. The THC that’s found naturally in marijuana is processed by the digestive system and the liver, creating entirely different chemical compounds and changing the high. It lasts longer, up to ten hours. Cannabis enthusiasts describe the effects of an edible product as more of a “body” high than a “head” high—that is to say that it’s more relaxing and felt throughout the body instead of solely in the mind.
How Edible Highs Work
Edible cannabis-infused products are meant to be consumed using one of three routes: oral mucosal, gastrointestinal or a mix of the two.
Within the mouth, there are three major areas that can absorb THC directly into the bloodstream, creating an effect much like what you’d get from smoking. The mucosal lining of the mouth and the tongue can both absorb THC, but products designed to be placed under the tongue absorb the most efficiently. Since these highs don’t bother to process through the digestive tract at all, you can think of them working the same way as a smoking high.
Gastrointestinal highs are a whole different thing, though. Marijuana-infused baked goods and chocolate bars that must be fully digested before the THC becomes available to the body are useful to imagine when illustrating the effect. Because digestion is slow, the high is often slow, as mentioned above. What’s happening to that pot brownie, though, is that the THC is being completely broken down by the liver and rebuilt into something else. What was once a compound called delta-9-THC is now 11-hydroxy-THC, an entirely different chemical. Your brain only gets the 11-hydroxy-THC, without any of the delta-9-THC that was originally in the edible.
The same thing does happen with smoking, but on a much more limited scale. Because the delta-9-THC goes straight to the brain via the bloodstream and is much more volatile than the 11-hydroxy-THC, most of it never makes it to the liver to be metabolized. Effectively, when you’re smoking or using edibles meant to be absorbed through the oral mucosa, the slower to hit, but more potent metabolite 11-hydroxy-THC is sacrificed for an immediate high from the fast-acting and highly available delta-9-THC.
These details may not make too much of a difference to recreational cannabis users, but medicinal marijuana users who are looking to maximize their weed dollars will tend to get a lot more effect from edibles for a longer amount of time. This means fewer doses each day and more control over their symptoms for longer.
No journey into the world of edible marijuana-infused products would be complete without a thorough discussion of the product known as cannabis butter (aka. cannabutter).
A significant percentage of the commercial edibles market was built on the back of this workhorse, but it’s also still a popular home brew. If you’re considering making your own cannabis-infused edibles, cannabutter is an absolute necessity for a good quality result.
Cannabis Butter 101
As you might expect, cannabis butter is made when you combine cannabis with butter.
It sounds simple enough, but there’s a little more to it than your basic infused herb butter recipe. For starters, in order for marijuana to be more than just a really weird looking plant in your grandma’s basement, the flowers have to be heated. As they sit, raw cannabis flowers contain a lot of THCA, which isn’t all that interesting on its own. When you add heat, though, that all changes.
Heating cannabis (and THCA) decarboxylates the THCA into THC. It doesn’t take much heat, either -- in fact, the lower and slower you roast your weed, the more terpenes you’ll preserve, which will in turn also preserve more of your strain’s unique flavor notes. Before you make any cannabutter, you’ll want to decarboxylate your stash by breaking it up by hand and spreading it evenly on a baking sheet, then baking it for 30 to 40 minutes at 240 degrees Fahrenheit.
Why Use Cannabutter?
Premade edibles are readily available in Washington State, leaving a lot of people wondering why they’d even want to go to all the trouble of making cannabutter.
It’s just like with buying any sort of packaged food—sometimes you can’t beat homemade. Because packaged edibles are held to rigorous laboratory testing standards, they can take a while to get to market, requiring products that can never be as fluffy, as fresh or as free of preservatives as what you can make at home. In other cases, medical marijuana patients may be on medical diets that the currently limited field of vendors simply can’t accommodate.
Whether you want to incorporate healthier edibles into your diet or just want something a little more special next time you open the cookie jar, cannabutter can help you create the exact product you have in mind without any compromises. Although butter is by far the most common fat used to extract cannabis oil, nearly any cooking fat will bond with marijuana oil—so the sky’s the limit. You can experiment and create oils and butters using bases like coconut oil or vegetable oil for an even more versatile product.
Common Uses for Cannabis Butter
Marijuana-infused butters (and oils) are simple to use in a huge range of dishes.
Although many people prefer to add them to baked goods or chocolate confections, there are few applications where they won’t work. The main things to keep in mind when cooking with cannabis butter or oil are the smoke points of the fats that make up the bulk of the product and the temperatures that the butter or oil will be exposed to during cooking. Sometimes, it’s better to cook using conventional fats and add the cannabutter later.
Cannabutter isn’t fragile, but it will burn just like any oil, ruining all your hard work. Once the oil is made and the THC is activated, additional cooking doesn’t do anything extra for your butter and can actually damage the delicate terpenes. Low and slow cooking, like what’s common with baking, produces the fullest and richest flavor from a batch of cannabis butter. Does this mean you can’t stir fry with cannabutter? Of course not. But it does mean you might get a better result by simply spreading some infused oil onto a finished dish.
Tips for Success with Edibles
Edibles are a very different experience from any other form of cannabis use and because of that many people rush in thinking they’re ready and end up having a really bad time.
Eating a marijuana-infused cookie isn’t the same as smoking a joint—it’s not small stuff. However, if you’re properly prepared for your edibles, you can have a very positive experience.
Try these tips to make your next edible trip a good one:
- Go slow. Remember that it can take several hours before you feel anything from your edible, so don’t take more simply because you haven’t felt anything. Your first edible probably just hasn’t finished metabolizing yet.
- Monitor your intake carefully. A single dose of edibles contains 10 milligrams of THC, dividing your edibles into individual portions (as described on the package) will make it really easy to know exactly how much THC you’ve consumed. If you’ve never used edibles before, dividing those portions into half doses might be an even better idea.
- Eat and drink before you get merry. Although diving into an edible on an empty stomach might make you feel it faster, it’s also a recipe for disaster. Instead of making yourself sick chasing a high, make sure you’re well-hydrated and have had a good meal before your marijuana-infused chaser. Edibles are notorious for dehydrating people, so ideally you’ll start consuming plenty of fluids a few days ahead of your edible experience.
- Keep other snacks around. Edibles affect different people differently and you may well have a bad case of the munchies once your cannabis treat kicks in. Don’t be tempted to nosh on more of the same, instead keep some regular snacks handy to control your high.
- Don’t mix your pot with anything else. Mixing pot and alcohol or other substances together is a recipe for disaster. Just like mixing your liquor, mixing weed and beer is going to seem like a lot worse idea in the morning.
- Eat with a friend. Like any type of drug use, including alcohol, you can never be absolutely sure that you’ll behave responsibly when you’re under the influence of your edible. Keep a friend close by, especially if you can trust them to stay stone cold sober. This way any temporary lapses in judgment, like eating more of that marijuana edible once you’re under its effects, can be derailed right away.
- Prepare for the worst. This is especially important for first time eaters. There’s no guarantee that a particular dose will affect you the same way it does your friend because of the intricacies of digestion and body chemistry. What is just right for your pal might have you literally climbing the walls. Have a plan written down for what to do if everything goes the worst way it can. Too much of an edible can induce anxiety in some people, or it can get much worse and become confusion, disorientation or even suicidal ideation.
Remember…Call 9-1-1 if you need help—it’s legal to accidentally overdose yourself and it’s legal to seek help, there won’t be any negative consequences to calling in help.
Whether you’re trying edibles to help manage a medical condition or simply out of curiosity, they can be a great way to experiment with cannabis without having to buy any special equipment or learning how to smoke a joint. From the ever-popular pot brownie to more recent additions like weed-infused soda and candy, you have a ton of options in today’s market.