by Silent Jay on 06/01/2015 | Consumption

Smoking vs. eating cannabis

Consumption Cannabis edibles have been much written about by mainstream media as of late. A few places in the world have given total cannabis legalisation a chance, which means that varied items containing cannabis are being sold over the counter to anyone aged 18 or older. These items are becoming increasingly popular for numerous reasons, which is why they have been under scrutiny these past few months.


Smoking vs. eating cannabis

Smoking

In our previous instalment, “Smoking vs. vaporising”, we explained why smoking cannabis can be an issue for some people. Especially when medicating on a long term basis, or when medicating for ailments impacting the respiratory system, it can be interesting to consider other available options.

Smoking cannabis should still be considered a valid, rapid method to medicate, depending on what symptom the patient is trying to alleviate. For instance, an asthma sufferer dealing with severe shallow breathing should avoid smoking cannabis at that particular moment if other options are available. When combustion is the only solution, cannabis can still improve lung capacity in some cases, but not all; it could also make the patient’s state temporarily worse (just like smoking tobacco could). Vaporising is a better option but again, depending on the severity of the asthma attack, could still impact the user negatively, as the vapour can turn out quite harsh and difficult to handle for already weakened lungs.

There are many patients who are unable to consume cannabis by combusting it or vaporising it. For these people, or for recreational purposes, there is the solution of ingesting cannabis through edibles, sometimes also called “medibles”.

Smoking vs. eating cannabis

Eating

To make an edible, one must first prepare the cannabis which will be mixed with the rest of the ingredients. The most recommended base for edibles is an oil-based mixture in which the cannabis flowers (or whichever part of the plant is being used) are infused. The result of this preparation is generally cannabis butter (“cannabutter”), although many other methods are possible. Once said cannabutter ready, it can be baked, used in a sauce, made into a drink, etc.

There are many different edibles available on the legal cannabis market: cookies, candies, salty snacks, etc. These products are very popular as they do not require an affinity with smoking, and in a medical context, can be administered to almost any patient – although in these situations, it is preferable to ingest the necessary cannabinoids through capsules filled with the purest cannabis oils for best results.

Whether one is merely consuming an edible purchased in a dispensary or making it from scratch, some knowledge of the process is necessary.
When purchasing an edible, it is important to carefully read its label(s). It should indicate in some manner the dosage that has been used, either in terms of grams of cannabis infused, amount of cannabinoids in milligrams, or even number of servings to be made of the whole item. However, especially if you are inexperienced in the matter, none of these indications are to be trusted solely, as none of them are precise enough to give 100% accurate information. The best solution is always to ask the budtender who sold you the product about serving size.
When making an edible product from scratch, it is also very important to mind the dosage. Looking up best practices from several different sources will allow an overall view on which amount is deemed “reasonable” or simply “enough” regardless of the cannabis strain used. Especially if you smoke cannabis, do not assume the same amount you put in a joint will result in the same level of intoxication, and the same set of effects.
In both cases, the key to a good experience with edibles is to be patient. Taking a small serving and waiting for effects to manifest themselves is a good first step to assess the potency of the product and help decide later on whether or not to ingest more. Indeed, when cannabis is eaten, it is not processed in the same way by the body than when smoking it or vaporising it. The THC contained in the edible will be processed by the stomach and metabolized by the liver. A slower process takes place than when smoking or vaporising, due to the immediate nature of the cannabinoids intake in the latter methods. Edibles take much more time to affect the user; more on this below!

Why should you switch to edibles?

Smoking vs. eating cannabis

  • More potent than smoking or vaporising

When cannabis is being heated up and inhaled in the form of smoke or vapour, cannabinoids are released with each hit taken off the joint/pipe/vaporiser, through the lungs, heart, and brain in a matter of minutes (5 to 10 min). When cannabis is ingested, it gets processed by the organism, which can take several hours (30 min to 2 h), and allows the release of cannabinoids through waves. This creates the feeling of heightened “high” people associate cannabis edibles with, and makes it somewhat of a more efficient, more potent method. In facts however, the amount of cannabinoids released is actually in much smaller concentration than when they are inhaled.

  • Longer-lasting effects

The effects triggered by ingesting cannabis can last much longer than those provided by inhalation – from 2 to 12 hours depending on product, user and context. Patients seeking for immediate alleviation of acute pain or anxiety will find the fairly slow onset of effects to be an issue, but others, for instance in the case of muscle tension or chronic pain, can benefit greatly from the lengthy intoxication period that ensues.

  • Different edibles for different experiences

Consuming cannabis in edible form can provide as varied an experience as when combusting it or vaporising it. Strain used, state of the consumer before consumption, fluids and food ingested before consumption, all of these are parameters can make an experience with edibles go one direction or another. But it is also possible to choose the right edible for the right experience.

  • Processed through the stomach – Cakes, cookies, pretzels, etc. Effects can take up to 2 hours to show, but can last for 6 hours or more.
  • Processed through saliva – Candies, tinctures, etc. Effects show within 30 minutes, and last 2 to 3 hours.
  • Others – Drinks and everything that melts but can be eaten (Fudge, chocolate, etc.). Onset and effects can vary. Ask your budtender or medicinal cannabis dispensary!

Do you medicate with cannabis edibles? Tell us about your experience, tricks and tips in the comments!

Comment Section

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Cherrie Heikes

As a Colorado MMJ patient I have tried many forms of the cannabis plant product, yet find it for me to be most beneficial as an edible. The effects are by far longer lasting, a more even effect and a much easier way to medicate no matter where I am. I am always researching and trying new recipes and love to share with other's around me who also are in need of the wonderful plant given to us for our use & benefit by Mother Nature. Currently my project at hand is looking for ways to use cannabis to help my best friend who suffers from Hep C and a failing liver.

08/01/2015

Rob

hi can any body tell me why cannabis oil is used for cancer patients and why carnt you just eating raw cannabis
Many thanks

08/09/2015

Lee

Because for cancer treatment, the cannabinoids need to be decarbed to be effetive. Decarbing involves exposing them to a certain temperature for a certain length of time.

28/02/2017

Mr Biggs

Because the oil is much more concentrated and easier to take, but eating raw herbal cannabis can work but doses would be much lower, you would have to eat quite a lot to get the same benefits.

05/06/2019

sam ju

Smoking weed offers quite predictable effects, and is easier to control. Edibles can cause intense highs, that fit some perfectly, but their onset is a bit less predictable.

11/10/2017

Bianca

I'm wondering if there are any studies out there on the efficacy of edibles on an individual basis. The reason I ask is that for myself, my brother, and my mother, smoking has a much more potent effect than eating cannabis. I'm 120lbs and can eat 50mg with barely a high. In taking cbd internally (all three of us have chronic back pain), none of us has a change in our pain picture, although I've found smoking high cbd content cannabis to be have powerful antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory, and anodyne effects. Just curious <3

02/03/2018

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