What Are Edibles? How do They Work?

What are edibles?
December 10, 2020

What are Cannabis Edibles?

As the name implies, weed edibles are food products that have been infused with cannabis, with the sole intention of administering cannabinoids to your brain and endocannabinoid system, via oral consumption.  In other words, they’re edible weed goodies that get you high and/or provide the medical benefits of marijuana.

Cannabis edibles can take many forms and, with the huge array of infusion methods, almost any food is a potential marijuana edible.  Common forms of weed edibles are chocolates, baked products, and sweets.

What’s in Edibles?

Well, that largely depends on what strain of cannabis has been used to make the edibles in the first place, or what strain you chose to make your own, homemade weed edibles with. Typically, other than the edible’s recipe ingredients, they will contain a combination of THC and CBD, the two prevalent cannabinoids found in cannabis.  

Cannabis bud for edibles

By selecting an appropriate strain of weed, it is possible to tailor the THC and CBD levels to suit your own purposes.  For instance, if your intention is to reap the many medical benefits that CBD can provide, you could consider using a high percentage of CBD strain, like CBD Ratio. If, however, you’re simply looking to get high, a strain with a high percentage THC content is what you might consider; Gorilla Glue Lemon is a fine example.

Those who would prefer the best of both worlds and seek a more balanced high might consider a THC/CBD ratio of 1:1, using a strain such as CBD Super Lemon Haze.  There are enough strains of weed to chose from to find the balance of effects that is ideal for your needs, whatever they may be.

How do Edibles Work?

Ok, this is the science bit. When you smoke or vape weed, the cannabis is immediately decarboxylated, turning THCA and CBDA into their non-acidic versions, THC, and CBD. These and other cannabinoids are absorbed by the alveoli in the lungs and pass into the bloodstream.  As the already decarbed cannabinoids are immediately bioavailable, they pass straight to the endocannabinoid system and brain, and voila…the desired effect is what you get!

Now, in the case of how cannabis edibles work, it very much depends on whether the edible is a solid and has to be chewed, or if the edible marijuana is in a liquid form, or can dissolve in the mouth. In either case, however, the weed must have been decarboxylated during the edible manufacturing process.

If the edible requires chewing, it’ll be swallowed and pass into the digestive tract and to your stomach. There, it is broken down by the stomach’s acids and enzymes and the cannabinoids then pass through the stomach wall to the liver and small intestine, before finally reaching the bloodstream.  This entire process can take up to two hours, depending on your metabolism.

However, if your weed edible is liquid or soluble in the mouth, it is a different story. 

What are the Effects of Edible Weed?

The effects of your cannabis edibles will vary, according to the cannabinoid content, as mentioned above. In general, though, you can rely on a slower start than smoking or vaping but the effects can be far stronger and last for much longer. This is one reason that medical marijuana users often prefer edibles over any other method of dosing.

Ready for some more science?  When you smoke or vape, THC passes directly into the bloodstream, bypassing the ‘first pass’ of the liver. The THC that is immediately available to take effect on the brain and endocannabinoid system is Delta-9-THC.  When delta-9-THC passes through the liver, the liver converts it to 11-OH-THC. Both these variants are psychoactive, in other words, they both get you high. With time, the liver turns 11-OH-THC into 11-COOH-THC, which is not psychoactive, as it does this your high will fade.

The thing to take away from this information is that 11-OH-THC is 3-7 times more potent than Delta-9-THC. This is where that scientific knowledge starts to make sense, because when you smoke and vape, you get a quick hit from the delta-9-THC, but when you eat cannabis, it passes through the stomach and liver, taking up to two hours, and the THC that eventually takes effect is mostly 11-OH-THC.  This is why many consumers of cannabis edibles report a stronger high.  In addition, the peak levels of 11-OH-THC last for longer than the spike of Delta-9-THC.

The duration of a cannabis edible high can be many hours and some users report experiencing residual effects the next day, so go easy.

This is a generalized explanation of what happens to THC in the body and there can be a great variation in the high and effects experienced, depending on a user’s tolerance, frequency of use, and metabolism.

How are Marijuana Edibles Made?

To know how to make a weed edible, you must first appreciate the many different options available to you.  Your choice in the method of infusing your edible may dictate what type of edible you produce, and vice versa.

The one thing that is common to them all, is that your weed must first be decarboxylated.  From that point on, eating your weed will get you high, but very few people simply want to chomp down on a nugget. Firstly, it’s not a great taste and, secondly, there are ways of making that weed more efficient and your buzz stronger.

If you really do just want to decarb and chow down, you could make a firecracker, or sprinkle some bud into a peanut butter or cheese sandwich. However, if you want to get more creative and feel the effects of marijuana candy or do a little baking, you should really consider producing either canna-butter, canna-oil, cannabis sugar, or even cannabis honey. From there, as we’ve said in previous articles, the limit is your own imagination and, perhaps, culinary abilities.

If you wanted to make some weed-infused jello shots, some gummies, or even try your hand at shaking up some canna-cocktails, a weed tincture would be a good way to go.  Adding a few drops of a tincture is an easy and versatile way to bestow the benefits of your blessed-bud on any food item. Make some cannabis pesto, for instance, or drizzle a little over a pizza?  You see, ganja-goodies don’t have to take the form of marijuana-infused baked goods, lollipops, and gummies; get creative with your cannabis cooking.

Some of these ‘canna-carriers’ are more flexible than others.  You could add a few drops of tincture to sweet or savory foodstuffs, the same goes for cannabutter and canna-oil. Canna-sugar and cannabis honey may work better in sweet dishes and candies, but you can certainly use either in cocktails and hot drinks too.

As you can see, once you have a grasp of these basic infusions, you really can just dive into your favorite cookery book and give any edible products you like a THC twist!

How Many Cannabis Edibles can I Eat?

Because of the inherent time delay in getting high on weed edibles, together with the unknown elements such as the efficiency of the decarb, the concentration of THC, the extraction and infusion method used, etc, we always recommend that you start low and slow.  For example, you might want to eat all your weed candy quickly, but just know that marijuana candy effects can take a while to kick in. It’s quite important to maintain an awareness of your edible dosing to ensure no unforeseen or unfortunate side effects arise from eating marijuana.

Effects of weed candy

Give your weed edible time to take effect and If, after 2 hours minimum, you still need to have a little more, don’t just double up. You could just be stacking up the dose when a lesser amount would have been optimum; nobody enjoys surfing the big white wave on the sofa, for what feels like an eternity. You may end up with edible weed candy effects lasting far longer than you’d originally intended or wished.

You’re probably best leaving it to the next day, or another occasion and taking a larger dose than you are dosing twice the same day. At least until you know the strength and efficacy of all those individual contributory processes. 

Always keep in mind, the effects of edible weed can be much stronger than the effects of smoking marijuana or vaping and might last for very much longer!