Edibles have become very popular among both medical cannabis patients and lifestyle users. Enjoying edibles can be more convenient than smoking or vaping, and many people prefer their effects over other forms of consumption. However, consuming edibles can be much trickier than smoking or vaping. And, it's important to keep some basic rules of thumb in mind before you imbibe!
For one, it’s a lot easier to titrate your dose when you vape, as the effects of come on almost immediately. Edibles, on the other hand, can take 60 - 90 minutes (or more) to take effect, so it’s not uncommon for people to overdo it. (Often, they don't wait long enough for the effects to occur.) Moreover, dosing is very different with edibles than smoking. Edibles list cannabinoid content in milligrams, whereas flower lists cannabinoids by percent. And, to make things more complicated, because of how the body metabolizes orally consumed THC, the psychoactivity can be five to ten times more powerful than inhaled cannabis.
Maybe you had a bad experience with edibles? Or, maybe you haven’t tried edibles yet. Whatever your interest is, here are a few important guidelines to consider to ensure you have a positive experience.
How experienced are you with cannabis and how often do you consume?
It’s common for consumers who don’t have a lot of experience with edibles to go their dispensary and ask their budtender for an edible recommendation. The budtender, who may have had a lot of experience with edibles, may consume 75 mgs, 100 mgs, or more, and find the effects to be mild. However, for most first timers, these doses would be incredibly high. A new user might find 10 mgs to be really high and produce effects that they don’t like.
If you don’t have a lot of experience with THC (or don’t consume often), start really low and gradually increase your dose. The same goes if you’re highly sensitive to THC. You may need as little as 5 mg to start. Likewise, if you’re an occasional user, starting off with 10 or 15 mgs is probably a good place to start. Keep in mind, you can always increase the dose later!
Pay attention to doses listed on the packaging.
Edibles come in all sorts of doses, so it’s vitally important to pay attention to the doses listed on the packaging. All edibles are NOT the same! Some edibles, like chocolate covered espresso beans, may be 2.5 or 5 mgs per bean. A brownie could be 15, 45, 100 mgs or more. Never assume that one brownie or one cookie equals one serving. It could be one serving, or as many as five servings or more!
Also, many people don't realize when you ingest THC orally, the THC becomes much more potent. When you consume an edible, delta-9-THC (which is what most people think of when they think THC) is metabolized by the liver. As it's metabolized, delta-9-THC becomes 11-hydroxy-THC, which passes the blood-brain barrier much more quickly and is far more psychoactive.
Does the edible only contain THC (and no CBD)?
Most edibles only list THC content unless they’re designated a high-CBD edible. Keep in mind that without CBD, the effects will likely be more profound. CBD tempers some of the potential effects of THC (psychoactivity, anxiety, etc.), so it’s important to be mindful of whether or not your edible contains a CBD buffer. Without the CBD, the edible will be more psychoactive.
Start with a low dose, and gradually increase.
Most people who have an unpleasant experience with edibles do so because they started with too high of a dose. Everyone’s physiology is different, so people will react differently to the same dose. You can always up your dose, but you can’t decrease your dose once you’ve consumed.
Patience is not just a virtue. It’s imperative.
Most people are used to the effects of cannabis happening right away. After all, when you vape or smoke, the effects are almost immediate. Not so with edibles. Keep in mind that edibles can take 60 - 90 minutes (or more) to produce any noticeable effects. And, the effects will last longer than inhaling. Effects could last four hours (or much more).
Don’t make the same mistake as Roger Martin, a veteran and retired law enforcement officer who heads up the non-profit Grow for Vets. Martin recounts how the first edible experience was not a pleasant one. “I went to a dispensary in South Lake Tahoe. The kid behind the counter told me to consume ‘a little bit,’ and if I didn’t feel anything after a little while, to consume some more,” Martin says. “I didn’t know what ‘a little bit’ was, and I thought ‘a little while’ meant 15 to 20 minutes. I ended up scarfing down two cookies, which I later realized each had a lot of THC. Needless to say, I did not a have a pleasant experience.”
Edibles can be unpredictable.
Edibles, or any orally consumed cannabis-derived product, can produce results that aren’t always predictable. This is because there are a lot of factors that could influence the outcome. What you ate prior. How you’re digesting. What cannabinoids may (or may not) be present in the edible you consume. Inconsistent dosing. Not every edible has necessarily been lab tested, and the dosing on the package could vary from what is actually in the edible. (Make sure you purchase edibles produced by a company that does regular lab testing and that you can trust.)
Keep some CBD nearby.
In the event that you consume too much, you can lessen the effects by consuming CBD. CBD counteracts (or mitigates) the potentially adverse effects of THC. If you feel the effects are too intense — too psychoactive or you feel paranoid — consuming CBD can make you feel a lot better.
Don’t freak out if you consume too much.
If you follow the right protocol, you shouldn’t have a bad experience. But, even the most seasoned edibles consumer can be vulnerable to having a bad experience. If you do, keep in mind that it’s basically impossible to consume a toxic level of cannabis. If you have a bad experience, know that the effects are temporary and will pass. Hopefully, you have some CBD to temper the effects, but even if you don’t, there’s no need to freak out and call 9/11 Unless, of course, you’re experiencing side effects like tachycardia — an abnormally rapid heart rate. But, these types of adverse effects are rare.
Follow these simple rules, and you’ll be well on your way to having an enjoyable experience with your edibles. Enjoy!