Read This if You’re Looking to Try Cannabis Edibles

Many people who’ve never tried cannabis-infused foods (called “edibles” in the dispensary) fall victim to the same mistake: we eat too much at one time.

The good side of edibles is their potency and longevity. When taken in the right doses, they help with nausea, chronic pain or poor appetite.

The bad side of edibles occurs when you accidentally eat too much at one time. There is such a thing as too much cannabis. The stories are legendary, like the police officer who ate a tray of cannabis brownies with his wife, then called 9-1-1 afraid they were going to die.

The couple suffered no long-term ill effects, but they were very miserable and frightened until the high dose wore off.

candies and biscuits with cannabis in Amsterdam shop window
Cannabis edibles in Amsterdam shop window [Wikimedia Commons]

How Long Do Cannabis Edibles Take Before They Kick In?

You will feel the effects of smoked or vaped marijuana almost instantly. You can tell if you’ve gotten too big a dose and can decide when you’ve had enough right away. Eating a cannabis infused food or drinking a cannabis-infused beverage doesn’t give an immediate effect. According to Leafly, “Different delivery systems are absorbed into the body at different rates.”

After eating an edible, your body needs to digest and metabolize the food before you feel the effects. The amount of time it takes for the effects to kick in depends on your metabolism as well. People with faster metabolisms may feel the effects after an hour, while people with slower metabolisms may not feel the effects for two hours or more.

What is a Dose and How Long Do the Effects of an Edible Last?

Metabolizing cannabis strengthens and lengthens the effects. Most cannabis edibles are made from concentrated cannabis, including hash oil, cannabis butter, or cannabis-infused oil.
For most people, the same amount of THC (the psychoactive chemical) in smoked cannabis will not provide as long-lasting an effect as it will in an edible. Different “doses” or amounts of cannabis are measured in milligrams (mg).

Colorado and many individual edible makers consider 10 milligrams (mg) of THC or any of the other active chemicals including CBD (non-psychoactive) to be a basic dose. Think of this dose amount as being like a serving of alcohol. One beer or one glass of wine will affect some people strongly, while others will feel little effect.
Depending on your metabolism, one dose will take at least an hour to begin to show an effect. That is why most medical marijuana cannabis edible packages urge you to eat or drink only a small amount, then wait at least one hour before consuming more.

How does an empty stomach affect the process? It’s better to eat a normal meal first, then have a dose from your edible rather than taking the edible on an empty stomach and eating later. Eating more after you’ve taken the cannabis can push more THC into your system more quickly.

What Should You Look for on Edible Labels?

The cannabis industry is just starting out. There are no Food and Drug Administration regulations. You will find that nearly all dispensaries and medical marijuana manufacturers care about their customers. As the business grows, they are acting responsibly and developing their own ways to inform customers.
You should not buy any edible package that doesn’t say how many total milligrams of THC, CBD (non-psychoactive) or any other cannabis-derived compound are in the edible. One well-known brownie package is advertised as containing 1,000 milligrams of THC. This brownie can be divided into 20 segments of 50 milligrams. Only a tiny piece would be a 10 milligram dose.

It’s unlikely if you are just now trying medical cannabis, you will buy one of the high-dose edibles like that brownie. Let’s talk about gummies, for example.

Clearly-labeled cannabis edibles with doses of THC
Cannabis edible labels with THC amounts per package and piece: for example, one sandwich cookie has 25 milligrams THC. Half would be slightly more than one basic dose.

A typical gummy package will contain 10 candies. The package should say how many total milligrams THC are in the entire package of all 10 candies. Most of the better manufacturers also say “15 mg THC per piece, 150 mg total THC.”
One ten milligram dose would be ⅔ of the 15 milligram gummy bear, for example.

Unless, and here’s a tip: some edible gummy candies aren’t made by the cannabis being infused in the candy itself. The oil is just sprayed on the surface. You can tell this type of candy just by looking at the package. If it’s oily, don’t buy it. The effective ingredient will be rubbed off on the interior of the bag and you’ll be ingesting a regular sugary gummy.

Final Thoughts: What to Buy or Not?

Responsible manufacturers also regularly run tests and maintain quality control. Even so, you will find some items like larger candy bars, cookies, and brownies where some pieces do seem to contain more THC than others. Gummies, caramels and hard candies can be a little more reliable because of differences in how the products are made.

Our best tip for you right now is: if the package isn’t clearly labeled with the amount of THC or CBD and the dose, and preferably the strain or type of use such as Indica or Sativa, you shouldn’t buy it. Your medical provider should tell you which strains or a CBD product is most beneficial for your health needs.