Why Do Edibles Have a Different High?

Ever notice that consuming cannabis edibles is a drastically different experience than smoking cannabis? Or maybe you are a longtime cannabis smoker and are “canna-curious” about trying edibles. With the legalization of recreational cannabis spreading from state to state across the US, more people than ever are turning to the plant for a variety of reasons.

One option consumers are looking for is alternative ways to consume cannabis that doesn’t involve smoking.

Maybe you enjoy the calming effects of cannabis, but don’t want to smell like it at social functions. Then there are the benefits to cannabis use in the professional realm as well. Many creative professionals utilize various strains of cannabis to aid them in their day-to-day work. Or you might have kids at home, so you would rather not smoke around them.

In each case, edibles present a great alternative to smoking. A potential drawback to making the switch from smoking to edibles, though, is that people can have vastly different experiences ingesting cannabis orally than they do when smoking it. That is where Mankind comes in.

Mankind Dispensary’s staff is a team of self-proclaimed “weed science nerds” and longtime cannabis professionals. When we asked them to explain why ingesting edibles is so much different than smoking cannabis, a couple were kind enough to kick some science our way. Here’s what the team had to say.

Edibles vs Smoking: Why the Edibles High Is Different

When you smoke marijuana, THC makes its way into your bloodstream via the alveoli in the lungs. However, THC is a fat-soluble compound, meaning that it doesn’t break down well in blood, which is mostly water. So within seconds, it looks to bind with the endocannabinoid receptors in the body, never really having a chance to be metabolized by the gastrointestinal tract.

On the other hand, when you ingest cannabis in the form of an edible, your saliva immediately starts to break down the THC. You still won’t feel the effects just yet, though. But once the edible hits the stomach and then the liver, it’s converted into 11-hydroxy-THC.

What Is 11-hydroxy-THC?

It’s one of the dozens of cannabinoids we’ve been able to study so far. Interestingly, it does not naturally exist in the cannabis plant. Rather, it is formed within the human body after the digestion of THC.

This accounts for the biggest difference between edibles vs smoking. When processed by the liver, delta-9-THC (the form of THC that is often referred to as simply “THC”) is converted into 11-hydroxy-THC, which many experience as more potent than delta-9-THC. Not only that, but it appears in the blood in higher quantities than when cannabis is smoked. This is why people often experience a more powerful and longer-lasting high with edibles.

Is There Really Such Thing As “Too Much of a Good Thing?”

Essentially, when science references “highly intoxicating,” we assume they are referencing stories of people calling an ambulance for themselves or sleeping for 14 hours. Usually, this is something that occurs after eating an entire 500 mg edible in one sitting. Or, when a new or inexperienced consumer eats too many gummies. Even at 10 mg each, it adds up quick to a body that isn’t used to the effects of THC.

Going “all-in” with an edible of any kind isn’t something that any experienced, wise cannabis connoisseur would recommend doing.

Start Low and Go Slow: It’s Not Just a Cheesy Gimmick

When Colorado and Washington first legalized recreational cannabis, there were a lot of stories of people overdosing on edibles. But it raised awareness of the dangers of the safest “drug” you could ever try and how different the effects of edibles can be.

Soon after, the slogan “start low and go slow” started going around, and now it’s used in most places where adult-use cannabis (and even just medical marijuana) is legal.

The advice is simple. Start low: you should always start with a small amount of an edible (even just 5 mg when we’re talking edibles with THC and you’re new to edibles). Go slow: since you won’t really feel the effects of an edible until at least 30 minutes later, you should always wait at least an hour to 90 minutes before ingesting any more—everyone’s digestive system processes at different speeds!

This might seem less “fun,” but in the end, it’s a lot better than ending up way more intoxicated than you intended. Especially when the only thing you can do once you’re there is wait for the effects to wear off, which can take much longer with edibles.

Can You Overdose on Cannabis Edibles?

It is important to note the estimated lethal levels for cannabis, called an LD50 rating, would require an adult to consume somewhere between 4-15 grams (or 4,000 to 15,000 milligrams) of THC. Theoretically, you could consume 15 grams of it. However, it wouldn’t be an easy thing to accomplish.

How Do Sativa Edibles vs Indica Edibles Feel?

As for edibles being considered indica, sativa or hybrid…there’s some room for debate on this one. When referring to the starting plant material you can absolutely classify what the origins of the cannabinoids are.

However, does that really matter when judging what the effects will be?

During decarboxylation and the processing of the plant material into an edible, most of the time, many of the more complex terpenes and cannabinoids are lost. Plus, many commercial edibles manufacturers are choosing to use cannabis distillate in their edibles to avoid the edible having the familiar unpleasant “weedy” or herbal flavor of the plant itself.

What makes the effects of the edible heavy and sedating or not has a lot to do with your metabolism and the environment you took it in, along with the other cannabinoids that may have been in the edible.

That doesn’t mean that an edible can’t still demonstrate similar effects to the type of plant it was sourced from, but it isn’t a guarantee. At a baseline, you should expect edibles marked as indica to make you more relaxed or sleepy, and edibles marked sativa to have you feeling more awake, stimulated, or euphoric.

Edibles vs Vape or Smoking: Onset Time and Duration

One of the other things that give edibles a different high is that their effects can take a while to kick in and tend to run for much longer than an inhaled cannabis high. The effects of smoking cannabis usually hit you within a few minutes at most.

Can edibles hit instantly? Not usually. When it comes to edibles vs smoking onset time, an edible can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours to begin producing noticeable effects.

Inhaled cannabis hits your bloodstream almost instantly through your lungs, but when you eat cannabis, you have to digest it first.

The digestion process is slow, and it also means that your edible trip is likely to last between 6–8 hours as the cannabis gradually hits your bloodstream and works through your system. As a result, you can expect an edible high to take longer to kick in but also last for much longer when comparing edibles vs smoking effect duration.

Some people who visit Mankind dispensary want to know if there is a way to get edibles to hit instantly, or at least faster. Unfortunately, the answer is not really. There are types of edibles and infused beverages that have been specifically made with nano-emulsification technology to allow them to produce effects much more quickly, but it’s still not instant.

Are Edibles Stronger Than Smoking?

If edibles can be so intense then it’s fair to ask: are edibles stronger than smoking?

It’s possible, but, as previously mentioned, many more THC metabolites are created by your body when you have an edible, but this isn’t the only reason. Really, people tend to simply eat too much THC. Usually, this is because they didn’t think it was working because they hadn’t noticed the effects yet.

Another reason this may happen is it can be tough to gauge just how much THC is in any given edible if it’s not individually dosed at 5 or 10 mg.

This is especially true if you’re making your own at home, in which case it’s very difficult to get consistent dosing and is likely the most common cause of someone eating too much THC. It is especially important to follow the start-low and go-slow slogan with homemade edibles, making the pieces smaller than you would normally eat until you know how it will affect you.

Edibles vs Smoking: Anxiety

Some people can experience feelings of anxiety when they ingest cannabis, and this is true no matter whether it is eaten, smoked, or vaporized. This is especially true if they have consumed large amounts of THC.

It’s especially important to be careful with your edible dosage if you think you may get anxious during your trip since the high lasts for so long and can feel more intense. If you normally have a sensitivity to paranoia, you should start with the smallest dose and move up to avoid the uncomfortable experience that is too high from edibles.

How Do Edibles Work: Eat Right, Eat Smart

There’s still so much science has yet to uncover in the cannabis world. Until cannabis is completely decriminalized nationwide, we simply can’t understand every last complexity. Even then, it will take years of research to truly understand just how our bodies really react to different cannabinoids, including 11-hydroxy-THC.

That doesn’t mean that there aren’t already lots of brilliant minds out there working every day to learn what they can, with years of professional experience behind them.Just that they will be able to do so more effectively once those restrictions are lifted.

As they say, a little knowledge can go a long way. The first piece is understanding how your body reacts to the different ways you can use cannabis. Edibles are much different than inhalation options that most are familiar with.

However, when done right, oral consumption is a great way for people to partake in something that can offer a ton of benefits.

Explore California’s Best Edibles with Mankind!

If you are unsure of how much edible cannabis to take, then the smartest thing you can do is ask your budtender about how edibles work next time you see them. These are folks who live and often use cannabis daily. They immerse themselves in understanding how to safely consume it in any form so that you don’t end up sleeping for 14 hours or freaking out.

Come visit Mankind today, our expert budtenders are ready to help you find the right edibles with THC, walk you through the best starting dose, and ensure you can safely enjoy your edibles high. We’ve carefully built out the best cannabis menu in San Diego, featuring a selection of edibles that has something for everyone. We look forward to seeing you!

Mankind Dispensary Logo in White

Must be 21+ or 18+ with a valid medical card to enter