Edibles are a popular way for people in Canada to consume cannabis products, but for many others they remain a bit of a mystery and for some they seem very intimidating.
In Canada, cannabis edibles and cannabis oil can be legally purchased if you are over the age of 18 or 19 depending on what province you live in. You can buy edibles online through a government-licensed online cannabis dispensary under the advice of a medical professional, or recreationally from a government store.
I personally prefer edibles when it comes to consuming cannabis, mainly because I don’t like to smoke or the idea that I am sending large weed-smelling smoke signals into the air. I also find the “high” from THC edibles to be very different than smoking dry leaf cannabis: it’s more mellow, allowing me to function throughout the day. The high also lasts longer, sometimes up to 6 or 7 hours. But that is just me, the effects of cannabis and THC, regardless of whether you are smoking a dried leaf product or eating an edible, vary widely amongst individuals based on all sorts of factors. So if you are thinking of trying an edible cannabis product, please read on. I hope this information will help increase the likelihood that your first time is a positive one.
Not to get into the technicalities too far, but in a nutshell the high you get from edibles is different from when you smoke because by eating THC, say in the form of brownies made with cannabutter, infused gummie bears or a simple THC oil, it is processed by your liver, versus smoking cannabis where the THC is processed by your lungs. Turns out that your liver is a much better filter and it can process a lot more of THC than your lungs. The liver can also process a lot more different cannabinoids than the lungs can, producing different psychoactive effects than inhaling THC..
For many people, the most anxiety around edible cannabis use comes from the fear of getting ‘too high” and this can be a real problem. It is one mistake I can assure you that even I still make from time to time.
Consuming too much of an edible product is a mistake that you can most likely avoid by consulting with a physician or healthcare practitioner trained in the use of medical cannabis products.
The process of making edibles has not always been the most exact science. Nowadays, with the help of technology, we are able to create edibles that have a much more consistent dose than back when people made cannabutter on their stovetop. In Canada, where edibles can be purchased with a medical prescription or recreationally, the THC dosage is much more exact and you will see it listed on the packaging.
Typically you will see one number (i.e. 60 Milligrams THC) which indicates the entire amount of THC contained in the package. The second number (i.e. 10MG per unit) indicates the amount of THC contained in a single product. For example, a bag of 2 THC-infused dark chocolate bars will have a label showing that all the THC combined in the 2 chocolate bars has a total of 20MG THC and that each individual chocolate bar has a total of 10MG THC.
While measuring the amount of THC is way more accurate than it used to be, I find even today that regardless of the amount listed on the package, sometimes edibles can sneak up on you.
I’m sure you’ve heard stories of people who tried a little of something like a THC-infused sour gummy, didn’t “feel anything”, took another sour gummy and an hour later they are freaking out because they are way too high. This is a real thing and a common outcome the first time, which turns can turn a lot of people off edibles for the rest of their life. So you have to be very careful when it comes to dosing the correct amount for you.
Take it slow. The Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction recommends that first time users start with a dose of no more than 2.5MG THC.
If those sour gummies are 10MG THC each, take a quarter of it, and wait. It takes those gummies a long time to get through your digestive system, into your liver and processed into your bloodstream. On a few occasions, I have not felt the effects of an edible for 5 hours and BANG, there it is (which is sometimes a pleasant surprise and sometimes not, depending on where I find myself at the time!).
The key here is to be patient, trust me they will work, but the answer to making them work is not to take more!
If after an hour, you still don’t feel the effects, try eating some food. For whatever reason, I find coffee can help, or something with some fat content like butter or olive oil. If you still don’t feel the effects, and you are new to trying edibles, I would highly recommend you do not take more and instead call it a day and try again some other time.
It is better to have tried and failed than ending up on the couch having a panic attack because you ate too many edibles. But try again whenever you want and this time change up the pattern a bit. If you tried them last time before dinner, try them after dinner, maybe try washing the edibles down with some coffee or tea. Maybe try a different product — I have found that can make a big difference. For instance, I find that taking a 10MG brownie with 10MG CBD oil has a very different (more intense) effect than taking a 10MG THC tincture oil that does not contain CBD.
A 2016 study,Tasty THC: Promises and Challenges of Cannabis Edibles, reported that, “THC effects of edibles can appear in some individuals at doses as low as 2.5 mg, while others need doses of 50 mg to experience any of the effects of THC. This range is very wide, reinforcing the idea that individuals should start with a low dose.”
Okay, so you have successfully taken a responsible dose and you are starting to feel it. Sometimes people don’t even know that the THC is kicking in and it is really hard to describe that feeling. It is definitely a little different for everyone, so I will describe how they feel when I take them and maybe that will help you recognize the effect.
When edibles first kick in, I feel my thoughts slowing down, I often will feel a little giggly or giddy. The things that are stressing me out: work demands, family concerns and such start to just not seem as big of a deal. I can really feel the effects in my hands, they feel a little numb and like I somehow have a little less control of them (I am guessing since I am a writer that I am feeling less tension in my hands). I often feel a little dizzy, but not in a bad way, just a little less coordinated — my head swims a little.
Sometimes, if I take a little too much, I can start to get a little anxious. I worry that I am going to be too high and not be able to function. Considering that the effects of edibles can last for 6 to 8 hours, my anxiety is warranted. When this happens, I remind myself that I have taken a responsible amount over a reasonable timeframe and that it is very unlikely that I will have any serious adverse effects. If I am still feeling anxious, then I just lay down on the couch and close my eyes for a while (sometimes I just end up having a really nice nap!).
In a 2017 study published in the journal Substance Use and Misuse, eight focus groups were conducted to discover why user’s of marijuana edibles prefer them to other forms of consuming cannabis (i.e. vaping, smoking dried flower etc.). Participants also reported their concerns about the use of edible cannabis products.
Participants in the study reported that they preferred using marijuana edibles, “because there is no smell from smoke and no secondhand smoke.” Other reasons cited were that, “participants like edibles included convenience, discreetness, longer-lasting highs, less intense highs, and edibles’ ability to aid in relaxation and reduce anxiety more so than smoking marijuana.” Concerns raised by participants in the study centred mainly around, “delayed effects, unexpected highs, [and] the unpredictability of the high…”
If you do feel that you are “too high” it is important to recognize the symptoms and potentially contact a health professional or go to the emergency room.
Some of the more serious effects to watch for are: extreme confusion, anxiety, paranoia, panic, fast heart rate, delusions or hallucinations, increased blood pressure, and severe nausea or vomiting.
The Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction published a white paper titled the “7 Things you Need to Know about Edible Cannabis” [PDF] that provides some good information on the effects of edible cannabis, and also some important safety tips. I would highly recommend taking a full read of this 3-page paper, as it is packed with good information.
1. Be Sure to Read the Label Carefully
2. The Effects of Ingesting Cannabis Last Longer than Inhaling Cannabis
3. . The Effects of Ingesting Cannabis Can Be More Intense than Inhaling Cannabis
4. It Takes Time to Feel the Full Effects
5. Be Sure to Properly Store Your Cannabis Products
6. Cannabis Should Not Be Mixed with Alcohol or Other Substances
7. Regular Use of Cannabis Can Affect Your Mental Health
For me, it can be very frustrating when I hear people who have had a bad experience trying edibles, because they have the potential to be an excellent way to deal with anxiety and stress, versus other means like alcohol. If done right, and done under the recommendation of a physician or medical practitioner, edible cannabis might be just what you are looking for.