Marijuana Edibles vs. Inhaling: The Pros and Cons
The general consensus in the cannabis industry is that edibles are healthier than smoking – and that the recipes for marijuana edibles are only getting more ingenious. Gone are the days when brownies and cookies were the only source of edible. Today, there is such psychoactive snack delicacies as pizza, hummus, guacamole, and veggie medley. You can even ingest your cannabis in bacon! But the question remains, what is the real difference between eating and smoking cannabis?
It is a complex answer.
While it’s true that inhaled forms of marijuana are considered the less-healthy alternative, with concerns of respiratory health and excessive coughing, eating cannabis-infused foods can keep these lung-related issues at bay, but yet the body will respond in other ways. These effects vary from person to person, but consider these few constant factors.
Edibles Have Stronger Doses of THC
Ingesting cannabis is thought to produce a more powerful response, or “high”, most likely due to the fact that the body absorbs more THC through ingestion, as opposed to smoking or vaping cannabinoids, which burns much of the THC off. However, according to the National Institute of Health (NIH), only 6- 10% of the THC actually enters the bloodstream from ingestion, versus 50-60% from smoking. This is due primarily to our bodies’ metabolic process. As cannabis passes through the stomach, the liver converts half the THC to 11-hydroxy-THC, which is a very potent version of THC that crosses the blood-brain barrier, and results in a more intense high that cannot be achieved through inhalation. The key different here is that smoking it drives the THC directly to the brain, producing faster, albeit more fleeting results that diminish relatively quickly.
The Effects of Edibles Last Longer
The key here is patience. Partaking in cannabis edibles means a slower metabolic process, and so the effects may not be felt for 30 minutes to 2 hours. In contrast, inhaling cannabis will give you a high within a mere 5-10 minutes, with a return to “normal” happening within a couple of hours. With edibles however, the effects have been known to linger anywhere from a few hours to a full day, depending on the edible. For some, it is a full-body effect in addition to a psychedelic head high when taken in larger doses. Thus, edibles are a popular choice for those with chronic medical issues, since they provide more lasting relief. It is important to start small with edibles, as the outcome varies widely among the type of food and the individual.
Having said this, edibles actually deliver a smaller number of cannabinoids to the bloodstream than inhaled cannabis, as first explained above. Additionally, the THC content in edibles is harder to dose, and even professional distributors have trouble accurately capturing the advertised dose in products they sell, due to the delay from ingestion to the onset of effects. That’s why it’s important to start small and determine what works for you. In contrast, it is easier to determine acceptable dosing from inhalation, as the effects are more immediate. Legally, the standard “dose” of THC is considered to be 10 milligrams. Therefore, an edible advertised as having 100mg should be split into several doses over a period of time.
Edibles are a Healthier Alternative than Smoking
For those who are not used to the intense experience of smoking, or are concerned about the long-term risks, edibles can be a good alternative. Since edibles produce a longer-lasting effect, it can be great for those who suffer from chronic symptoms such as pain. Today, one can enjoy many different cannabis-infused recipes. The important thing here is to be careful and experiment with the dose of edible that you are most comfortable with.