Everything You Need to Know Before Eating Edibles for the First Time

by Nickolaus Hines Aug 9, 2019

It’s never been a better time to be a fan of weed edibles. Companies in states that allow recreational cannabis use have pushed the envelope in terms of taste, quality, and dosage. Thanks to these improvements (especially on the dosage front), edibles are an increasingly common way to consume marijuana, whether you’re in one of the best cities for cannabis tourists or a small town in a recreational cannabis state.

“While flower products have been the primary driver of cannabis consumption, people’s consumption habits are rapidly changing,” Maikel van de Mortel, the executive vice president of marketing at Cannabiniers, says. “With this change, we are seeing that edibles and drinkables are quickly becoming the primary choice for a new cannabis audience.”

“Edibles” is a general term that covers any food or beverage that’s infused with THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol). An edible is not, however, just marijuana flower that you eat. The plant has THCA (tetrahydrocannabinolic acid), which doesn’t get you high. THCA is converted to THC through heating it directly with a flame (smoking) or by a slow heating process called decarboxylation. The latter is used to make edibles.

But you don’t need to know all the science to enjoy the effects of edibles for the first time. These are the things to know to ensure you have a good time the first (and second, and third, etc.) time you try edibles.

How long does it take for edibles to kick in?

Zoot Rocks what to know about edibles

Photo: Zootology/Facebook

It takes longer to feel the effects of edibles than if you were to smoke a joint, bong, or vape pen. There’s also no cut and dry timeline with edibles. Factors like the strength of the edible, what you’ve eaten prior, and how your body digests all can impact how long it takes for edibles to kick in. On the short side, it could take 30 minutes, but it can take as long as two hours.

“Start slow and adjust as needed,” says John Gorst, CEO of Ionic Brands, which owns the edibles company Zoots. “Also remember to give the edible time to take effect. Don’t rush the process, everybody is different so give yourself time and enjoy!”

Edibles take longer because the THC has to pass through your liver and digestive system, whereas inhaling smoke creates a near instantaneous high from THC entering the bloodstream through millions of small air sacs in your lungs called alveoli.

While it’s hardly a satisfying answer, you know an edible is starting to work when you feel it.

How strong of an edible should I take?

“Taking into account that 10 milligrams is considered a single serving for an adult, both people who aren’t a regular cannabis consumer and a regular cannabis consumer who hasn’t tried edibles yet should try a lesser dosage,” Gorst says, adding, “2.5 milligrams to 5 milligrams is a reasonable first-time starting dose.”

Your body’s reaction to the amount you take largely depends on your tolerance and weight. On the low side, 2.5 milligrams will generally make you feel calm and mild euphoria. After registering how much the low dose affects you, work your way up to a full serving of 10 milligrams, which is a typical recreational dose. This goes for regular smokers or vapers as well as people who only consume occasionally.

In dispensaries, you’ll find brands making edibles with 2.5 milligrams of THC or less. There are also options with higher CBD ratios, like Wana Brands, which makes 10 milligram CBD to 1 milligram THC gummies. “New consumers might want to start with a higher CBD and lower THC mix as many people find that CBD lowers anxiety levels and helps mitigate the impact of THC’s psychoactivity,” says Wana Brands CEO and founder Nancy Whiteman.

“For first times, it is always recommended to take half or a piece, to fully gauge how the body will react,” Gorst says. “Additionally as a first-time user it is important to keep track of how much THC you are consuming. Choosing an edible that is store bought with a label rather than homemade is a safer and more enjoyable option.”

Careful dosing is one of the biggest edible advancements since states started legalizing recreational cannabis. The strength should be clear on the packaging, and budtenders at dispensaries can help you understand more about the potency of individual products. If you’re unsure, ask about micro-dosed products that come in small amounts. “After all,” van de Mortel says, “when was the last time anyone consumed only half a gummy in real life?”

What type of edible should I try first?

A trip to the dispensary can be overwhelming. Even trying to narrow it down to just edibles is a lot to take in. There are brownies and cookies, hard butterscotch candies, all shapes of gummies, and suckers. Then there are the things that you consume orally without technically eating, like tinctures (concentrated oil you drop underneath your tongue) and THC pills. Recently, there’s been an influx of cannabis-infused juices, ciders, and non-alcohol beer, like Cannabiniers’ Two Roots. All come in different flavors and potencies, and pretty much all taste great.

“The type of edible is up to the consumer, there are no advantages from one type to the other besides the dosage amount,” says Gorst. “For a first-time user, a gummy might be the best option because it is familiar. A lot of people are used to taking gummy vitamins or supplements in their daily routine.”

As mentioned before, edibles will hit different people differently every time.

“Bottom line, it’s more important to be totally clear on how many milligrams of THC are in a serving size of the edible, rather than its delivery platform,” Whiteman says. “Purchasing your edibles from a licensed dispensary will guarantee you are consuming what you paid for and what you are expecting.”

Can I overdose on edibles?

“Do not panic if you feel the effects too intensely,” Gorst advised. “The feeling should only last a couple hours, so in that time it is important to keep yourself distracted and drink plenty of fluids. It is always a good idea to have a dose of pure CBD with you in case you need to use it to counteract the THC, as well.”

You can’t overdose from marijuana in the same way you can with something like alcohol. In the worst-case scenario, you’ll get nervous and then end up sleeping — and sleeping a lot. Still, it’s best to start low and slow until you know how your body reacts. No one wants to end up like New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, who went into her first recreational edible experience without checking the dosage and ended up melting into an hours-long paranoia.

How much do edibles cost?

Two Roots beer what to know about edibles

Photo: Two Roots Brewing Co./Facebook

Prices vary depending on the state you’re in and the dispensary you’re at, but expect to pay between $20 and $40 for 100 milligrams of THC (most edibles are in packs broken up into 10 single-serving doses of 10 milligrams). To buy just a single-serve dose — whether it’s a candy, brownie, or drink — it’ll typically cost between $5 and $10.

Can I fly with edibles?

Federal authorities have authority as soon as you pass security, and cannabis is federally illegal no matter which state you’re in. Each legal recreational state handles cannabis in airports and on planes differently, but it’s illegal to fly with edibles — don’t keep them in your travel pack.

Why are cannabis edibles stronger than smoking marijuana?

Around 60 percent of the THC in cannabis flower is lost when you heat it to smoke a joint, pipe, or bong.

When you eat an edible, the THC is metabolized in the liver to make a more potent compound called 11-hydroxy-THC. A study found the effects of 11-hydroxy-THC to be more intense and longer-lasting.

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