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According to an article published by the Medical Marijuana Review, both medical and recreational cannabis users are interested in edibles now more than ever. Edible companies operating in states that have been on the forefront of the legalization movement such as California, Colorado, Oregon and Washington are seeing their sales increase in leaps and bounds. According to the article, “oral modes of consumption is where 85 to 90% of the adult population will be looking toward in the future.”
You may not like smoking, and may need to stay away from pipes and vaporizers because of health reasons or may simply like the variety, both sweet and savory, that edibles offer. But how do you know that the edible you are about to consume (in the portion you are about to consume it) is right for you? The following is a brief run-down of the “pros and cons” of edibles as well as some tips to help you decide whether to smoke or munch your cannabis.
Edibles have come a long way from the “pot brownies recipe” of the 1950’s that was first published by Alice B. Toklas, life partner to novelist Gertrude Stein. These days there are not only brownies, but cookies, rice crispy treats, cakes, sodas, and savory treats galore. There are even “cannabis chefs” who can prepare an elegant pot-infused 5 course meal for your next get together.
The increasing variety offered by the prepared edible market, as well as resources such as cooking classes and cookbooks if you are a do-it-yourself, is one of the biggest draws of edibles for most people.
#2 Better for people who can’t smoke
According to the US Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, in the United States there are currently more than 23 million individuals who have asthma and roughly 13.6 million who have been diagnosed with COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease). If you are someone who suffers from respiratory issues, then you probably already know that any kind of inhaled smoke can cause a reaction, from mild irritation to much worse.
Although studies have shown that vaping is a safer option than smoking for those with respiratory conditions, the safest strategy by far is edibles. “There is a lot of great reasons why I think edibles are a wonderful method for cannabis ingestion, [especially] for people who are concerned with the side effects of smoking and even vaporizing,” says Christie Strong of Kiva Confections, a healthy edibles company in California that specializes in “micro-dose” chocolates as well as their signature Petra mints. “With vaping products, you don’t necessarily know what they are being cut with and how that is going to be effecting delicate lung tissue.”
And even if you don’t have a respiratory condition per se, you may just be tired of the coughing and sore throat that sometimes come with both vaping and smoking. Plus, edibles are discreet—no more cloud of smoke to give you away. Remember that even if you are a recreational state, it can still be technically “illegal” to smoke up in public, according to county laws.
#3 More long-lasting help with appetite, nausea and muscular pain
Experts also point to the fact that when you eat marijuana, it will produce more of a body-centered effect that will be distributed throughout your body than when you smoke it. This effect will also be longer lasting (about 3 to 7 hours), which can be great for muscle spasms, joint pain, back pain and overall pain relief.
“Basically [edibles] have longer, more sustained effects because of the way the [edible] cannabis passes through your digestive system,” explains Strong. “It’s like any other food. It is absorbed into the body through the gastro-intestinal tract as opposed to the lungs… For someone who doesn’t have the ability to be redosing themselves, say, every hour, you can take an edible and it’s going to last you, say, a couple of hours.”
Longer-lasting edibles also mean you have more control in “titrating” your dose for different medical effects. Titrating is the process of slowly raising your cannabis dose to find the right “minimum effective dose” (or MED) for you. It is much easier to titrate a dose with edibles than it is with smoke or vape.
“You are able to find out, ‘Oh, for this occasion — say for when I am going to work — I don’t want any psychoactive activity. I’m just trying to deal with a little stress or some localized pain,’“says Strong. “You will have a certain dose for a certain amount of time and it will be a different dose than when you are ready to go bed and you are dealing with something like insomnia.”
Of course, what is an “upside” for some can also be a downside for those who want more instantaneous effects.
#1 Takes longer to feel the effects
This is probably biggest complaint about eating edibles. When you smoke, you feel the effects right away, and if you are in acute pain or feeling nauseous, that “instant relief” can be a real life-saver. When you consume an edible, especially something that contains protein or fat such as nuts, seeds, chocolate or straight butter, that edible will need to be processed by your body first, as mentioned above. It will be digested in the gut and then metabolized by the liver before any effects will be felt. This process can take from a half hour to 90 minutes, depending on your own metabolic rate and whether you have anything else in your belly or not. If you just ate a meal, for instance, it will take longer for you to feel the effects of your marijuana desert than if your stomach is empty.
Also note: More of the THC in the cannabis will naturally be filtered out by the liver when you eat pot versus smoking it.
#2 Hard to regulate dosage
Almost everyone who tries an edible for the first time does it: you just eat too much (and you know what happens after that). Needless to say, most folks live and learn from the experience. Inconsistent dosing, however, can absolutely be one of the most annoying and uncomfortable drawbacks of consuming cannabis in edible form.
In part, eating too much pot in an edible has to do with #1 above; it is common for those who are new to edibles to not wait long enough for that first tiny bit of cookie to kick in before taking another bite. Strong recommends waiting at least 2 hours before consuming more edible if you are not getting the effect you want.
Another reason, however, is simply due to ineffective (or nonexistent) dosing laws when it comes to edibles. The cannabis industry is still in its infancy in most states and, on the federal level, it is still an illegal drug. Because of this, there may be a lack of consistency in dosing from one product to another. Some states are getting more regulated about their edible dosages, however. Since 2015, for example, the state of Colorado has had a mandated dosage for each edible at 10 milligrams (or portions thereof) of THC per serving.
#3 Not all Edibles Are Created Equal
This is especially true for those who are healing from disease, whether it be cancer or Crohn’s Disease. While a lot of edible companies do a decent job of checking and testing the potency of the THC in their products—and some even voluntarily test for pesticides—most tend to lag in terms of not only cannabinoid consistency and purity, but the quality of other ingredients as well.
There are those companies that stand out above the crowd, however. They are taking the lead in making sure that what is on the market are safe and that efficacy of the cannabis they use is maintained to the tee. Eventually, testing for cannabinoid consistency, pesticide load and other factors will hopefully be the norm. For now, it is up to the consumer to support those companies who are taking the initiative in maintaining the utmost safety.
“We use a ‘whole plant’ approach to our CBD products which means that we source from local outdoor whole plant cannabis plants as opposed to industrial hemp that is imported from overseas (which doesn’t have the best reputation for efficacy or even safety),” explains Strong. “Our testing protocols are actually in accordance with the FDA for food manufacturing and packaging of over-the-counter drugs so our commitment to safety is really unparalleled.”
Julie’s Natural Edibles is another company that strives to maintain over-the-top efficacy and safety for their products. Julie Dooley suffered from Celiac’s disease before starting her gluten-free, all-natural edibles line. She puts it rather bluntly in a recent blog on her product website:
“News flash—sugar isn’t good for you…When you’re eating cannabis as medicine, why would I pair it with something that’s potentially very bad for you?”
Studies that detail the specifics regarding interactions between GMO-derived, processed ingredients (like commercial white sugar) and marijuana are few and far between. One thing is for sure, however: combining cannabis with organic ingredients such as natural sweeteners (organic sugar, agave, honey, maple syrup), organic sources of fat (clarified butter from grass-fed cows and organic virgin coconut oils are best) and solid sources of natural protein, such as organic, non-GMO nuts and seeds, can only be a winning combination.
7 Tips to Make Eating Edibles Fun (and Safe)
If you are going to try edibles for the first time, here are a few guidelines to make your experience more effective:
- If you are new to edibles or you are trying a brand for the first time, take it slow at first. Eat just a little bit, then wait at least an hour. See how you feel before taking another bite.
- If you partake in a “cannabis cuisine” event, find out the THC levels of your pot-infused apps and entrees beforehand. Most chefs keep the THC levels very low in their food (about 1 milligram per bite), which keeps the taste of the cannabis out of the product and also keeps things safe.
- Take your own rate of metabolism into account when consuming edibles. This will help you know what proportion to consume for the desired effect. Research indicates that marijuana may have an effect on glucose levels and may provide help for diabetes as well. Take note, however that this is NOT a license to scarf down that chocolate chip cookie loaded with commercial sugar and preservatives just because it has THC in it!
- If you eat an edible on a full stomach, remember that it will take 60 to 90 minutes for you to feel the effects. On an empty stomach, it normally takes 30 minutes to an hour.
- Read the labels. Take note of the dosing information on the back of the package as well as the ingredients. Try for all-natural, organic ingredients if you can and, if at all possible, purchase edibles from companies like the ones mentioned above that voluntarily test for pesticides in the strains that they use. Remember that preservatives and commercial sugar will have the same effect as a normal commercially-produced cookie would: a lower immune system, gut flora imbalance and spiked insulin levels.
- Keep an “edible journal.” Take your time to find the prepared edible that is right for you. Once you have found it and have zeroed in on the right dosage through gentle experimentation and research, you can usually rely on that product to be fairly consistent over time.
There you have it—the best recipe for success if you decide to give edibles a try! Remember to take it slow and stay clear of products that contain loads of preservatives, high amounts of commercial sugar and do not check for pesticides in the cannabis strains they use. Then do some gentle experimentation—and you are bound to find the right edible for you!