They come in many different forms, from cookies to caramels, and can contain multiple active ingredients: ∆9THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), CBD (cannabidiol), CBC (cannabichromene), ∆8THC (delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol), CBG (cannabigerol), and so many more.
With the legalization of cannabis (hemp & marijuana), edibles are increasing in popularity. CBD-only edibles have even been found to help treat ailments such as anxiety, stress, and chronic pain. As an added benefit, edibles don’t pose risks to the respiratory system — unlike smoking marijuana.
The edible experience tends to differ from that of other cannabis products. The “high” from edibles can feel more intense, and it usually lasts longer than the high you get from smoking. Research shows that the effects from an edible can take up to about 1 hour to kick in but can last for 6 or more hours. In contrast, the effects of smoking or vaping cannabinoids (CBD/THC) tend to last 1–4 hours.
When trying out a new edible, it is important to start with a low dose to see how the body responds. With edibles, it is easier to take an excessively high dose and feel negative side effects than it is with smoking.
How long does it take to kick in?
Edibles typically take around 30-60 minutes to kick in. However, onset time depends on a lot of factors. First, it depends on the product’s active ingredients. If the product contains a high dose or concentration of THC, it could take effect faster. Keep in mind that CBD-only edibles are not psychoactive. They don’t cause the “high” typically associated with THC-infused edibles. As a result, it may be harder to identify when CBD products have taken effect. For both types of products, onset time also depends on where in the body the edibles are being broken down and absorbed into the bloodstream.
Another major factor for determining an edible’s onset time is the type of cannabis product that you consume. For example, sublingual edibles like hard candies or suckers, begin to work while they are in the person’s mouth and therefore slight effects may begin within several minutes with the peak effects usually kicking in after 30-45 minutes. This happens because sublingual absorption occurs through the mucus membranes in the mouth.
Then there are edibles you swallow, like gummies, caramels, and brownies.
These will take slightly longer to kick in. The absorption of cannabinoids does not occur until the edible hits the digestive tract. From there, the active cannabinoids enter the bloodstream and travel to the liver which is where the cannabinoids are metabolized. Then the metabolized cannabinoids travel back into the bloodstream and enter the brain, which is when the effects finally begin to kick in.
Other factors that can affect how quickly you start to feel the effects of ingested edibles are related to your habits and physical makeup. They include your:
- tolerance to cannabis
Since edibles don’t kick in right away, it can be tempting to take more soon after your first dose. This can lead to taking too much. You should always wait at least 4-6 hours before taking another dose.
How long do edibles last?
Edibles not only take longer to kick in, but they also last much longer than if you were to just smoke. Eating a normal dose of an edible (roughly 10-15mg) is expected to last for 6 or more hours. The peak effects should last you from the time it kicks in, to about hour 3, then users usually “settle in” to their high at that point and slowly climb into a state of relaxation or even sedation. However, you can also easily expect to be high for up to 6-9 hours depending on the strength of the edible and your overall tolerance to cannabis.
How long an edible lasts for you will vary greatly similar to the determinations of onset times. Varying factors such as metabolism, edible potency, and tolerance levels will determine how long you will feel the effects.
Individual tolerance levels will also play a large part here. People who are not used to cannabis products may feel the effects more strongly and for much longer than a person who regularly uses cannabis products, if they take the same dose. Tolerance levels will also fluctuate depending on how much cannabis a person has smoked or ingested within a period.
What’s the right dosage?
The potency of an edible is measured differently than cannabis flower or concentrate. Instead of stating the percentage of cannabinoid strength, the potency of an edible product is indicated by the milligrams of cannabinoids contained in the product.
Edibles can come in doses as low as 0.5 milligrams (mg) THC. However, many consider 2.5–5 mg of THC to be the lowest effective dose and will recommend starting with this dose if the person has never tried edibles. The average edible will contain 10–15 mg of THC. These doses are generally effective for a person who is used to cannabis and wants to feel the effects of the edible for a few hours.
An edible’s package will typically label the milligrams of THC and/or CBD per serving, along with the total milligrams in the entire package. For example, an entire chocolate bar may have 50 milligrams of THC. If the desired dose is 5 milligrams, the bar can be divided into 10 pieces of 5 milligrams each.
A very high dose begins at about 20 mg of THC. Doses this high are generally not a good idea, as they may increase the risk of some unwanted effects from taking in too much THC at once. However, some heavy smokers or people who are used to taking very high amounts of THC may use a very high dose edible to experience stronger or longer-lasting effects.
Do edibles expire?
Just like regular food, edibles have expiration dates. On top of the food having the potential to spoil, the cannabinoids in these foods will degrade over time. Most cannabis product manufacturers put labels on them so be sure to follow these expiration dates just like you would if they were not infused with cannabis. Regardless of what product you have, consider storing your edible in a fridge or freezer if you intend to hold onto it for a while.
When purchasing edibles, it’s important to evaluate the manufacturer carefully. In general, reputable edible manufacturers are transparent about the contents of their products and the required dosages. A trustworthy source should take the time to answer your questions without pressuring you to purchase the product.
Still, it’s not always possible to know exactly what you’re getting. A 2015 study evaluated the dose and label accuracy of 75 different products. After testing the products for THC content, researchers found that only 17 percent were accurately labeled. Among products that were inaccurately labeled, 23 percent contained more THC than stated, and 60 percent contained less THC than stated.