Cannabis Manual: To Smoke Or Eat Cannabis?

To Smoke Or Eat Cannabis?

Joshua Lee
3 min read
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Anyone who’s eaten too much of an edible already knows what a soul-stripping experience it can be. It feels like a panic attack, because it is one. The floor drops away. Your heart beats in your ears. Thoughts turn into slippery fish that thrash around in the choppy ocean of your mind. Scary stuff.

It can happen to even the most experienced smoker, who will find themselves in completely new territory that feels nothing like the places cannabis has taken them before. Last month someone I know took a trip to Colorado and had one too many bites of a peanut butter cookie with some ungodly level of THC. He’d had a very bad time and was more than upset. “It was laced, dude,” he told me. “They probably put something in it to get an edge. Capitalism,” he growled. It seemed unlikely. Angry customers who spent the night fending off images of their own failures and the absolute certainty that they were going to die rarely come back to shop a second time.

I tried to tell him what I’m about to tell you, dear reader—that the high of an edible is very different from the high of smoking—but he wouldn’t budge. “I should turn them in to the Better Business Bureau,” he said. Hopefully, someone there will know that eating edibles not only delivers a more prolonged experience, it also delivers a more potent form of the THC molecule, or else those poor shop owners will probably be swimming in complaints like my associate’s.

Here’s the thing: When you smoke or vape marijuana, THC enters the bloodstream through the lungs and moves on to bind with the body’s endocannabinoid receptors. When you eat it, though, the THC gets metabolized by the liver before it hits the bloodstream, and what the liver does to it makes all the difference.

According to
Leafly’s chief research scientist, Nick Jikomes, the form of THC that smokers are used to is Delta-9-THC. When an edible is consumed, a larger portion of that Delta-9-THC is converted into 11-hydroxy-THC by the liver. And 11-hydroxy-THC is a totally different beast from its predecessor.

There’s little to no real research on the effects of 11-hydroxy-THC, but it’s been observed to have a stronger psychoactive effect than Delta-9-THC and last markedly longer—peak effects from smoking generally dissipate in less than 2 hours, while those from eating can last up to 6.

Another problem I’m sure my pal had encountered without knowing was the issue of dosing. When you smoke or vape, the effect is almost immediate, and it’s pretty easy to tell when you’ve hit the wall (for more details, listen to Brewer and Shipley’s “
One Toke Over the Line”). But it can take between 60 and 90 minutes for an edible to kick in. That means you need to know what you can handle before you start.

So a healthy amount of experimentation is recommended before you go too deep. Start small and work your way up. Generally people will recommend 10mg THC for a first-timer. If an hour and a half passes and you feel nothing, try a little more.

Waiting For the Train

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