Cannabis Edibles 101: Everything You Need to Know

As marijuana continues to become more mainstream, edibles are rising in popularity. Cultivators are finding out just how many delicious snacks and gummies they can infuse with cannabis oil, and consumers are here for it. 

Mary Lopez Carter, CBD Expert and Founder of Carolina Hemp Hut, says she has noticed a shift among consumers and how they’re reaching for edibles more and more. Especially when in a cookie or gummy form, the taste makes it an easier way for most users to get high.

What Are Cannabis Edibles?

Edibles are any food or drink that contain cannabinoids, namely THC, the main intoxicating compound in cannabis that gets you high. They can also contain CBD, a cannabis compound that does not get you high but offers medical benefits, as well as more niche cannabinoids like CBN, CBG, and THCV, all of which contain unique medicinal and recreational benefits.

“Edibles offer longer-lasting effects and are smoke-free, making them an often-preferred option for those who don’t want to inhale cannabis,” David Charles, the co-founder, CEO, and COO of Mood, says. “Recently, I’ve noticed a gradual increase in the popularity of edibles and tinctures. Many consumers appreciate the convenience and discreteness these options offer, along with the precise dosing control they provide.” 

Here are some of the main effects of edibles:

  • The effects can last longer than smoking. According to the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction, it takes a long time for your body to absorb the THC from edibles, so the THC is present in your body for longer than after smoking or vaping. The effects of ingesting cannabis last longer compared to when the substance is smoked or vaped and can last up to 12 hours, with residual effects lasting up to 24 hours. If you are new to edibles or to cannabis, use these products in a place where you feel safe and comfortable, and with friends or family who are experienced in using them. 
  • The effects can be more intense than smoking. For some people, the effects of edibles can be more intense than inhaling a similar dose of dried cannabis. This intensity is partly because when you ingest THC, your liver turns it into a stronger form. With edibles, both the THC from the original product and the stronger form of THC produced by your liver can influence the intensity of the high. Individuals who are new to edibles or cannabis should look at the THC content of the product and start with products containing no more than 2.5 mg of THC. 
  • The effects take longer to kick in. With edibles, the intoxicating effects or “high” do not kick in for about 30 minutes to two hours and peak at about four hours. This timing differs from smoking or vaping cannabis, where the effects start to be felt within a few seconds or minutes and peak at about 30 minutes. When you ingest edibles, the THC first travels to your stomach and then to your liver before making it to your bloodstream and brain. This process varies across individuals, making it difficult to predict when you will actually feel the full effects of edibles. Because it can take up to four hours to feel the full effects, consuming more cannabis within this time period can result in over-intoxication. Over-intoxication can take the form of anxiety and panic, nausea and vomiting, and symptoms of psychosis (paranoia).

How to Know if Edibles Are Right For You

For those who are new to cannabis edibles, Jessica Baker, CEO of Baker Botanica, suggests starting slow. “If you are considering edibles, start with products that are 5-10 mg/dose, wait 60 minutes, and see how you feel. Don’t overdo it with edibles, or it may turn you off cannabis altogether.” 

For Lauren Fontein, Co-Founder at The Artist Tree, it’s all about educating consumers on which product is right for them. With so many options out there, it can be overwhelming for newbies to find something to try. So every customer that walks into an Artist Tree location immediately gets assisted by a guide who walks them through the space, answers any questions and guides them to the right products. 

“We also have self-service ordering stations that have a whole consultation process so consumers can put in how often they use cannabis and whether they want to be more creative, energetic or get relief from stress. It will then give them details on the different product types and consumption. It’s important that people have access to all of that information while they’re shopping since there are so many options and new products that customers are not aware of,” Fontein said. 

Ashley Jelks, Founder of HIGH PRIESTESS, suggests that a combination of trial and self-reflection is the best approach to see if edibles are right for you. Consider how you prefer to consume and the environments in which you will be consuming. Edibles are perfect for moments where discretion is necessary or combustion simply isn’t possible.

How to Consume Edibles

Here are some tips to properly consume edibles:

  • Eat beforehand. Similar to drinking alcohol or caffeine, eating before consuming edibles can keep the effects more gradual and consistent. Having a full stomach allows you to process the edibles more slowly and makes you less likely to abruptly experience unpleasant side effects. Eating a meal before can also temper the “munchies” feeling you might experience later on.
  • Start small. As Baker noted before, it’s best to start with a smaller dosage when trying edibles for the first time to make sure it’s something your body can handle. If you notice the small dosage doesn’t give you the desired effects, you can always try a little more next time. 
  • Wait at least two hours. Edibles need to be digested and can take varying amounts of time to kick in. How quickly you begin to feel the effects can depend on how much other food you’ve eaten that day, your size, your metabolism and other factors. Most edibles can take anywhere from two to three hours before you start to feel their full effects, and the effects can last anywhere from six or more hours. The strongest side effects usually occur within three hours of ingestion. As a general rule, it is a good idea to take a small amount to start and wait at least two hours before taking any more.

Pro Tip: “Be careful because a lot of brands are trying to include a high amount of THC in their products because they’re finding that it sells,” Heidi Urness, Co-Chair, Cannabis Practice Group at McGlinchey Stafford, said. “For newer users, make sure you go for something with a lower THC percentage. You can enjoy cannabis without taking it to the extreme, so find something that works with your body. And I would find that with lower THC.”

“It’s amazing to see how the cannabis industry is growing, with new markets popping up all over the place,” Filip Luneski, a senior marketing professional with extensive international experience at some of the world’s most renowned companies including Coca-Cola, Molson Coors and Anheuser Busch InBev, says. “With the industry becoming more legal, there’s a unique mix of creativity and science that’s bringing new product categories to life. It’s exciting to see how even non-consumers are starting to take notice! As the industry grows and evolves, it’s likely what people are looking for in their shopping trips and consumption occasions will influence what products become the most popular.”