Beginners Guide to Eating Edibles

Smoking cannabis isn’t for everyone, and that’s OK.

While puffing a pre-rolled joint, pipe, or vape pen are all common ways of consuming cannabis, there are some who prefer other methods of ingestion, such as in the form of food (edibles).

Maybe the inhalation of smoke irritates your lungs and throat, causing you to cough a bit more than you’re comfortable with. Maybe you just don’t want to smoke anything and you like the low key feel to eating your cannabis in the form of non-confrontational food items.

The variety of cannabis infused edibles may be what draws you in, including items that are sweet, salty or spicy. Plus, the edible experience can often feel different than the sensations from traditional cannabis smoking.

Different Kind of High

With smoking, you can get high in a matter of minutes. The smoke goes down your throat and into your lungs, and then travels into your bloodstream and brain, where the nice all-over mental and physical feeling kicks in. This can be appealing and makes it quick and easy to enjoy your weed.

With edibles, the timing is different.

The effect can vary greatly by someone’s weight, experience and tolerance, metabolism, type of plant/strain, other ingredients in the food, portion size, what else has been eaten prior that day or if the edible is eaten on an empty stomach.  

Due to all of these variables, most edibles typically can take between 30 minutes to two hours to fully take effect. This requires the food to be digested in the stomach, be processed by the liver, and then enter the bloodstream. The effect is often more of a relaxed, full body high versus a cerebral high.

The World of Edibles

But before we get too far into the digestive process, we should explain what makes edibles special and unique.

Essentially they are foods where cannabis is a prime ingredient. In the pre-legal days, people commonly baked their bud into easy-to-make and easy-to-hide items like cookies or brownies.

But today, processors are getting creative and people in legal medical or recreational states can try a wide variety of items from dispensaries, provided they’re not banned by local jurisdictions. (In our country’s patchwork system of legal cannabis, some types of edibles are allowed in certain states but restricted in others, such as gummy products or suckers.)

There are still plenty of sweets, such as mints, chocolate squares and caramels, along with classic cookies and brownies. There are also salty/savory items like crackers or crackers, chewy items, even beverages, called ‘drinkables.’ There are also even -choices for special dietary needs, including gluten-free or premium treats made from organic chocolate and other exotic ingredients.

Part of the appeal of commercial products is that they all are required to state the percentage of THC, a natural compound in cannabis that can produces mental and physical sensations in users; and CBD, another compound that’s known to provide pain relief.

They also state the recommended serving size, which can be a good guide if you’re curious whether you’re supposed to eat one brownie bite  or the whole package.

Though some do still enjoy experimenting in their kitchens to find flavor combos they like, it can be tricky to get the portion size just right. Plus some methods of preparing the ingredients can leave one’s kitchen and home with a strong skunky odor that’s noticeable and hard to remove.

Instead, going to a favorite dispensary to pick something up can make the process easier, safer and less aromatic.

How to Dose Your Edible

The accepted individual serving size for an adult man or woman is 10 mg of THC. However, some items, especially for medical patients, can have higher recommended servings, even higher than 40 or 50 mg of THC or CBD.

Not following the portion size can also cause trouble. Too little can have little effect, and too much can cause unpredictable reactions.  

Sometimes having too much edibles can be accidental: someone may not feel like their edible is taking effect or believes it may have been a weaker dose. In reality, it simply may not have kicked in yet. Or, if it was an especially tasty treat or the portion seemed too small, it’s often tempting to want to eat more.

So in these cases, it’s not uncommon for someone to eat another similar-sized edible, which effectively doubles their consumption when both take hold.  

How to Choose Your Edible

Trying to pick your favorite edible can be a fun exploration, since new products keep on showing up in dispensaries.

Budtenders can provide advice on interesting products they have in stock, but they also usually will start by asking you about your personal taste preferences, experience, budget and what you’re interested in accomplishing with your edibles.

For instance, someone wanting to simply have a good time and get a little high with a little flavor should start small. Experts also advise reading the label closely, which can give all the details about recommended servings, strain potency and proper dosage.

It’s also smart to have the edible with other food or have a snack prior to indulging. This way the effects won’t be as powerful as they would be on an empty stomach. Mixing alcohol isn’t recommended, as it can alter metabolism and either provide a stronger or weaker effect.

Overall, people trying edibles, especially newcomers, are encouraged to do so with excitement of trying something new rather than something frightening.

Required disclaimers:

  • Buy and use at own risk. Some states may legally sell pre-made edible products for medical or recreational purposes, or the ingredients and supplies to make your own. Other states may not allow people to possess anything, even if purchased legally in another state, so please research your state’s laws.
  • Keep edibles out of the reach of children and pets. Because many edibles can look like non-infused cookies, brownies or other treats, it could be difficult to distinguish them from non-cannabis treats when left on a counter or table. Keep them out of sight or even in a locked container, as the smaller bodies of kids or animals could have more serious effects if they accidentally find and eat a plate of cookies. Store-bought items also are encouraged to remain in their original packaging.  
  • Because edible effects can take longer to take effect than smoking, make sure you’re in a safe space when they do take hold, like in the passenger seat or couch, but not the driver’s seat.

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