What are cannabis edibles and how do you consume them?

Cannabis edibles are foods and beverages infused with cannabis. Though they've risen in popularity recently, edibles aren't exactly new. There's a long history of humans incorporating cannabis into their diets, ranging from traditional drinks in India to the humble pot brownie in the US. Now, thanks to advances in infusion methods, you can find a wide selection of cannabis-infused baked goods, gummies, seasoning packets, cooking oil, chocolates, breath strips, mints, sodas, and countless other items. 

weed edibles
Thanks to advances in infusion methods, you can find a wide selection of cannabis-infused baked goods, gummies, seasoning packets, cooking oil, chocolates, breath strips, mints, sodas, and countless other treats. 
Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

The benefit of consuming cannabis-infused edibles is the ability to feel the effects of cannabis without having to smoke flower or vaporize concentrates. Consuming is easy and intuitive — we all know how to eat and drink.

What's not easy or intuitive about edibles is the fact it can take anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours for the effects to kick in. Because the cannabis within the edibles has to go through your digestive system before entering your bloodstream, the effects may take hours to set in and the strength of effects gradually builds to a peak. The duration of your high can then last anywhere from a couple of hours to a full day depending on how much you consume. 

weed gummy edibles Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

If you're interested in trying edibles for the first time and want to know how to find the right product for your needs, this is the guide for you. 

How to try edibles for the first time

Trying edibles for the first time can be intimidating, but it's all about taking it low and slow, as we'll explain in a four-step process. Here are the key takeaways for an optimum edibles experience:

  • Try edibles with both THC and CBD
  • Start with 2 mg of THC or less
  • Shop for products that are easy to dose 
  • Wait at least two hours before consuming more, preferably 24 hours

Step one: pick your cannabinoid

Cannabinoids are chemical compounds found in both cannabis and the human body. 

Let that sink in for a moment. You can find cannabinoids in weed and your own body. Though we do have different names to distinguish the two: endocannabinoids and phytocannabinoids. Endocannabinoids are the cannabinoids we produce within our own bodies. Phytocannabinoids are produced by the cannabis plant. 

Often called cannabinoids for short, we can thank phytocannabinoids for the mental and physical effects we feel when we consume cannabis. While much more research is needed, they have the potential to affect a range of processes in our bodies from pain and inflammation to anxiety and sleep. We have a full list of cannabinoids you can read up on later, but for the sake of simplicity and to reflect what is most widely available on the market today, we'll focus on THC and CBD here. 

For a psychoactive high, pick THC. As the most plentiful cannabinoid in the cannabis plant and the one known for producing that classic weed high, THC tends to get a lot of attention. Depending on the person, this famous cannabinoid may produce feelings of euphoria, creativity, relaxation, or pain relief. Others may experience confusion, short-term memory loss, shifts in time perception, rapid heart-rate, lowered coordination, and anxiety. Starting with the lowest possible dose and combining it with other cannabinoids (which we'll get to in a minute) is the safest way to experiment and avoid some of these potentially unpleasant side effects. 

For a barely-there, calm feeling, pick CBD. Contrary to popular belief, CBD does have psychoactive effects — just not in the same way as THC. Anything that changes the brain's activity is considered psychoactive and CBD is an FDA-approved medication (Epidiolex) thanks to its psychoactivity. That said, taking a bunch of CBD with the hope it'll unleash the euphoric feelings associated with THC is like expecting to start your car with your house key. So, while CBD may be non-intoxicating, it's also been shown to be better at addressing anxiety. If you'd rather risk not feeling anything at all than feeling too much, start with CBD-only edibles. 

For a balanced high, pick a combination of THC and CBD. When THC and CBD work together, users tend to feel a more mellow, nuanced high than a THC-only high. When CBD is present, they also have a much lower chance of experiencing THC-induced paranoia. Cannabis newcomers are best off trying a combination of cannabinoids if the goal is to experience a noticeable, yet soothing high. 

Step two: get to know the milligram

To gauge how edibles will affect you and find your perfect dose, make the milligram (mg) your best friend. The strength of THC or CBD in all ingestible cannabis products — whether it be a drink or a gummy — is measured in milligrams. Go to any legal, licensed dispensary and you will see milligrams featured prominently on the labels of every ingestible product. Milligrams are key to figuring out the minimum dose you need to achieve the effects you want and the maximum amount of cannabinoids you can tolerate before experiencing side effects. 

Long story short: start with 2 mg of THC. THC affects everyone differently, so 2 mg could be considered a microdose, low dose, or perfect dose depending on the person. Consume more than 2 mg for your first time and you could risk feeling more intoxicated than you want for longer than you anticipated. With 2 milligrams, your worst-case scenario is not feeling anything at all, which is preferable to calling the cops on yourself and thinking you're dead. 

If you're looking to try CBD-only edibles, 10 mg of CBD is a great place to start. Just make sure to buy CBD edibles from a licensed dispensary to ensure the potency is accurate. 

The same advice goes for those looking to try both: start with 2 mg of THC and 2 mg or more of CBD. You could arrive at this combination by buying two separate products that contain THC or CBD and take them at the same time. Or you can choose from a variety of products that contain both. 

Step three: pick your product

Are you dead-set on weed gummies? Or are you simply looking to avoid inhalation while still feeling the effects as quickly as possible? These days, you can find a range of potencies for just about every product type on the legal market.  

weed edible gummies
For a classic edible experience, try weed chocolates or gummies.
Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

For a classic edible experience, try weed chocolates or gummies. These products are easy and fun to consume and the effects kick in anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours after consumption. Most legal markets feature plenty of low-dose chocolates and gummies these days, so have fun exploring the many options at your disposal.

For a relatively fast-acting edible experience, try a cannabis beverage. You'll have fewer options since most weed drinks are still designed for high-tolerance cannabis consumers, but the low-dose options on the legal market have improved considerably over the past few years. Effects tend to kick in faster with weed drinks — typically within 30 minutes of consumption and certainly within the hour. 

Whichever route you choose, shop for products that are easy to dose. Precision is key when you're just starting out. So, while it may be tempting to nibble the corner of your friend's 100-mg chocolate bar or measure out a teaspoon of the highly potent drink on sale at your dispensary, avert disaster by starting with products specifically designed for low-dose cannabis consumers.  

Step four: exercise patience

As we already covered, ingested cannabinoids are absorbed through the digestive system, which means you'll have to wait much longer to feel your high than you would with a joint or bong rip. It can take anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours to feel the effects of your edible kick in and once they do, you can expect them to last for several hours more. 

After taking your first dose, wait at least two hours before consuming another dose. Or better yet, wait a full 24 hours before experimenting with a larger dose. This way, you can better gauge how 2 mg affects you versus 4 mg, 5 mg, and so on. If 2 mg of THC doesn't register in your consciousness after two hours, for example, wait a full day and increase the dose by 1 to 2 mg, or 3 to 4 mg of THC total. Repeat the process until you find a range that works best for you.

Pro tip: read the label. Then read it again. A package of weed edibles will typically state both the milligrams of cannabinoids per serving and the total milligrams in the entire package. You can always eat or drink more but you can't un-ingest it, so make sure you're clear on the potency per serving before imbibing. 

A word on making weed edibles at home

You can easily make your own cannabutter at home by infusing butter or oil with dried cannabis flower. But the real question is, should you?

homemade weed cookies
You can make edibles at home, but should you?
Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

While it's relatively easy to cook with cannabis and make marijuana edibles from scratch, it can be very difficult to figure out precise dosing for homemade edibles. Calculating the potency per serving involves a bit of complicated math and a lot of faith that the cannabinoids are distributed evenly. 

We recommend starting with licensed, lab-tested weed edibles from legal, licensed marijuana dispensaries first to get a solid understanding of your tolerance for cannabis. Once you have that knowledge, you can experiment with homemade weed confections more safely and confidently.

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The information contained in this site is provided for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical or legal advice. This page was last updated on October 14, 2021.