Ganja newbies frequently bite off more than they can chew — pun intended. The most common rookie mistake is ingesting too large of a dose, then freaking out about the unpleasant side-effects for what seems like an eternity. This does leave many people asking just how long do edibles last?
This is why we’ve prepared a general cannabis-infused edible guide that delves into the science about the differences between smoking and ingesting weed, and how you can safely consume edibles and increase your dosage.
Edible Basics – Cannabinoids
Cannabidiol (CBD) is just one of several hundred cannabinoids found in cannabis, and unlike THC — CBD won’t make you high or intoxicate you. This is great because it makes it impossible to overdose on, however, it’s important to be aware of the fact that there are reported side effects like headaches and diarrhea with excessive CBD use.
THC, on the other hand, is a whole different ball of wax. THC is the cannabinoid that has a psychoactive effect on us; meaning it causes our mental state to be altered and makes us feel “stoned.” This can be problematic because a small dose can be therapeutic and make you feel carefree, while a larger dose can uproot your entire day with debilitating paranoia and anxiety.
Today, you can easily find CBD, THC, or a mix of CBD and THC edibles — but considering THC is the key cannabinoid of interest, we’ll be focusing the content of this article around THC edibles and how long they last.
Why is Eating Cannabis Different To Smoking?
If you’ve smoked weed and eaten edibles, you’ll have noticed they provide completely different highs. The reason this happens is that when you smoke marijuana, it’s absorbed by the lungs; when you ingest marijuana, it’s absorbed via the digestive tract. When it’s smoked — THC is delivered directly into the bloodstream, which is why you instantaneously feel high.
Eating it, on the other hand, can take hours because it has to travel through the stomach, into the intestines, then broken down and processed by the liver. When the liver metabolizes drugs that enter into the bloodstream, it chemically changes the composition — turning Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) into 1-hydroxy-Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (11-OH-THC). This is known as “first-pass metabolism among the scientific community
It’s also important to note that first-pass metabolism also occurs when you smoke cannabis, but the key difference is the ratio of 11-OH-THC to THC circulating through the body. When we smoke, THC is quickly absorbed by fatty tissue and other organs before it ever reaches the liver. With edibles, a lot more THC is absorbed by the liver, which leads to a better balance of THC to 11-OH-THC.
But what is it about 11-OH-THC that makes it so influential on our high? According to research, it’s three to seven times as potent as THC, and it passes the blood-brain-barrier more easily. This means it is more easily and readily absorbed by the brain — which makes us feel intoxicated.
This is why figuring out a safe starting dose when trying to determine how long edibles last is imperative. Experts suggest a large dose of inhaled weed is equivalent to a small dose of edible to a ratio of 1:4-6, so a joint that contains a half gram of 15% THC marijuana is roughly 75mg.
If you normally get intoxicated when smoking one of these with a few friends, a good starting estimate for your dosage would be about 20 mg of THC, which is about 4 mg of THC in edible form. If you’re used to smoking an entire joint to yourself with ease, then starting with a 6 mg dose of edibles should be fine.
As you can see from this simple formula, starting low and going slow is not only advised but highly cautioned. You can always eat more to intensify your high, but once it’s in your system, you have to ride out the side effects (good or bad) for hours.
How Long Until Edibles Kick In?
Now that we’ve determined why smoking marijuana and eating it produces a different experience, we are going to quickly discuss how long it takes for edibles to kick in.
As we discussed earlier, the side effects of smoking are felt in a matter of minutes. With edibles, it can take anywhere between 30 minutes to two hours to fully set in. The reason for this massive variability in absorption times is influenced by so many factors including individual body chemistry, daily stressors, how much sleep you’ve had, your tolerance levels, how much food you ate and when, and how hydrated you are. This is why it’s so difficult to provide a one-size-fits-all guideline for the perfect edible dosage, and why it’s always encouraged to safely experiment and find the dose that works best for you.
How Long Does The High Last?
The high from THC consumed through smoking or vaping can last up to six hours, whereas an edible high can last for twice as long, or up to 12 hours. This is just the initial or intense high feelings and is not to be confused for how long it stays in your system. In fact, some users have reported feeling a bit stoned for up to 24 hours after eating a weed edible — especially among newbies or low tolerance consumers.
If you’re looking for more kick, you can slightly increase the dose, but before you do, wait a couple of hours first to let the first dose kick in. Unless you’re experienced with edibles, having multiple doses can be problematic because the THC in the edibles do accumulate, which can cause negative side-effects and ruin your entire experience.
One study found a low-dose, 10 mg brownie was well tolerated by the participants without producing negative side-effects. In contrast, a 25 mg or 50 mg edible did cause unwanted side-effects in some of the study’s participants. But high-tolerance and experienced users were able to tolerate well over 50mg-100mg — but don’t gauge your dose off of this as these users clearly have a tolerance that can handle these high numbers.
Hopefully, we did our job in answering the commonly sought questions about how long edibles last, how to safely dose them, the differences between smoking and eating THC products. While there is not an exact science to how long do edibles last, the factors we outlined here today should help you determine the right potency and how long you’ll be riding that wave.
With that being said, if you’re inexperienced with edibles or trying a new brand/product of edibles for the first time, it’s best to start with a low dosage and work your way up form there. You can always eat more for a stronger effect, but it’s more difficult to come down from a high than it is to get there.
Now that we have you feeling confident in your safety and understanding about consuming edibles — the only thing left to do is to experiment and enjoy!