Edibles are any food or drink containing THC, the main psychoactive 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.
Cannabis is usually infused into a fat-soluble medium, such as butter or oil, which is called an infusion. Examples of infusions include cannabutter, cannabis coconut oil (MCT), cannabis cooking oil, and more. A cannabis infusion is then used to make food. Like brownies, cookies, caramels, cereal treats, and more. Cannabis can also be infused with liquids and made into a tincture, and one of the most popular edibles, gummies.
Edibles are known to be potent, so be careful when consuming them—we’ve all known someone who has eaten too many edibles and had an unpleasant evening. We always recommend new consumers and seasoned stoners alike “start low and go slow” when consuming edibles. Wait until effects kick in before taking more.
Check out more on edibles, their benefits, dosing, and more, in our guide to cannabis edibles.
How do edibles work?
Edibles are consumed orally and processed in the stomach and liver, whereas smoked or vaped cannabis enters the lungs and is absorbed directly into the bloodstream. This means the effects of edibles take much longer to kick in as they need to be digested and metabolized first. Because of this, they are usually more potent and last longer than smoked or vaped weed.
The effects of edibles tend to peak 1-2 hours after consumption and dissipate over 2-3 hours, whereas the effects of smoked cannabis tend to peak within 10 minutes and rapidly dissipate over the following 30-60 minutes.
Edibles may be strong, but compared to inhaled cannabis, they actually deliver a smaller concentration of cannabinoids to the bloodstream. Ingesting edibles introduces only 10-20% of their THC content and other cannabinoids to blood plasma, whereas inhaled cannabis falls closer to 50-60%.
THC is fat-soluble—it needs to bind to fat for your body to process it and for you to feel the effects of the plant. People usually infuse butter or oil with cannabis because of their high-fat contents, and then use that infusion to make edibles.
Before infusing, cannabis must be decarboxylated to activate the compounds in it and for your body to absorb them. This commonly occurs with heat—when you smoke weed, this happens with the flame of a lighter, but when making an infusion for edibles, this usually happens in an oven at a low temperature before infusing it into the oil.
Types of cannabis edibles
Edibles come in many forms:
- Brownies, cookies, and other baked goods
- Sodas and other drinks
- Novelty items like beef jerky, potato chips, and more
Edibles bought in a legal, licensed store will be accurately dosed and the dosage clearly labeled. Measured dosing will allow you to have a consistent cannabis experience again and again, as opposed to consuming cannabis via other methods, such as smoking, vaping, or dabbing. See an example of Karma’s dosing guide below:
Benefits of Edibles
Many people like edibles because you don’t have to smoke them to get high, saving the lungs and not smelling up your space with weed. Edibles are also prized because of their discreetness—you don’t have to go outside to take a smoke, or have a bong, pipe, dab rig, or other devices on hand. Just pop one in your mouth and go about your day.
Edibles can provide long-lasting relief to chronic symptoms like pain, often making them a preferred choice for medical patients. Consumers also take them to relieve anxiety and for general relaxation.