How are edibles processed in the body?

The human body is very complex; the closer we look, the more complicated things get. In a similar fashion, simple forms of cannabis can act in complex ways. The simplicity of the cannabis edible is one of its best charms. No need for fire, flower, smell or smoke. Just eat it, sit back and enjoy.

But, there are many misconceptions about edibles, but some quality, credible information can help determine whether your experience will be a rewarding one or not.

How is cannabis processed in the body?

Let’s compare the general effects from edibles to smoking cannabis. When we inhale THC, it enters the bloodstream through the lungs and makes its way into the brain. We experience a high in 5 to 10 minutes lasting anywhere from 4 to 6 hours. Sometimes more, sometimes less. How does that compare to edibles? Cannabis consumers who are experienced in consuming edibles will summarize the effects of eating cannabis as, “it feels stronger, lasts for longer and takes more time to kick in”. But, why?

When we ingest THC orally, our liver will get access to it before it gets released into the blood. The liver turns the delta-9-THC from the edible to 11-hydroxy-THC which is several-folds more potent than it would have been if you smoked it. The converted 11-hydroxy-THC slips into our brain much easier, so a small amount of it packs a bigger punch. The conversion process takes time. For one hour to 90 minutes the user should patiently wait for the effects and resist increasing or doubling up on the dosage.

Dosing

This all depends on the user and their history. The way we perceive the THC we convert can vary from person-to-person. Age, sex, body size, genetics, current drugs or medications and even our medical history will change the rate we convert ingested THC and how we feel it. This is why there’s such a wide range of effects. Some feel edibles three times more strongly than if they had smoked. Some people will feel the effects seven times as strongly or more, and some outliers barely feel effects at all.

General dosing guidelines:  

  • People with no cannabis experience whatsoever should opt for a low dose: 5mg of THC per serving
  • Those who are beginners with some cannabis experience should use 5mg of THC per serving
  • Experienced users can increase the dose to 10mg of THC which is the limit per package
  • Advanced users can increase their serving size to 20mg of THC or above

 

The recommendations also apply to those who have consumed black market edibles. This crowd may see the doses as too small. Because they didn’t have to conform to regulations, most black-market edibles label their products with THC levels far above the actual contents. What may have been advertised as a 10mg dose may not even approach that amount. It’s important for everyone to start back at square one and find the dose that makes you comfortable.

Safety should be the focus when it comes to edible cannabis. Doubling up doses, not waiting for the dose to take effect, not knowing one’s limits and consuming with alcohol are factors that lead people to use edibles once and never again. However, responsible use and the knowledge of how ingesting cannabis works makes the experience unique and enjoyable for all involved.

 

So, let’s talk a bit about what you can or cannot do after consuming edibles:

  • Taper your high – while there are some tactics to help feelings of unease if you’ve consumed too much, these methods will not decrease the impairment enough to safely drive or reduce the THC in the body, they will simply reduce the psychoactive effects.
  • Donate blood – interestingly enough, once the initial consumption/impairment period has passed, you can donate blood! Just a little fun fact we wanted to share.
  • Pass a drug test – depending on frequency of use, you may not pass a drug test. This can be an issue for those who do trade work, work in the public sector or have mandated drug tests. While cannabis is legal, your employer does maintain the right to test for the presence of drugs to ensure the safety of their employees. Keep this in mind if your job may require a drug test!
  • Drive – after the initial impairment period, you are fine to drive. But remember, since edibles can last 8+ hours, your best bet is to just hunker down and get cozy wherever you are or plan a ride ahead if you know you will be consuming edibles. Authorities can press charges if they find 2 nanograms or more of cannabis in the body, so keep this in mind if you are planning on consuming.