We Canadians are all still eagerly awaiting commercially available infused edibles. But we don’t need to wait until October, as they are easy enough to make at home. Just as quickly as you can whip up a batch of your favorite chocolate chip cookies, a tangy infused greek salad, or bright green pesto, you can infuse them with your favorite therapeutic strain of cannabis.
Edibles deliver a much different experience than what you might find from smoked or vaped methods. In the words of one scientific review of cannabis edibles, “Regular cannabis users also find the effects of oral Δ9-THC to be qualitatively different from those of smoked cannabis.” With edibles, the intoxicating effects come on more slowly and, by many accounts, stronger than when smoked. Patients often report more profound effects on the body than they experience from smoking.
Because the effects of edibles can come on so strongly, it’s worth covering the fundamentals of dosing. Instead of hitting the bloodstream by absorption through our respiratory system, edibles enter through our digestive tract. This means their effects come on slowly and there are many additional biological influences which can impact the experience. It’s not just your metabolism either, differences in experience can come down to the last time you ate, and what it was on your plate.
At the molecular level, when we digest THC, our livers metabolize it into a brand new compound called THC-COOH. This slightly different chemical structure absorbs readily into the bloodstream – more efficiently than if smoked or vaped. Nobody knows exactly why an edible high ‘feels’ so much stronger than an inhaled one – but it’s likely got something to do with this chemical transformation from THC into THC-COOH.
If there is a golden rule for cannabis, it has got to be, “Start low, and go slow.” Especially if you are unfamiliar with the effects, don’t know your tolerance, or are uncertain of the strength of your product, you will want to take it easy the first few goes. Making edibles at home is a great way to control the ingredients and strain, but serving size and dosage can sometimes lead to user error.
The first step to calculating a correct dose is to figure out the potency of the entire dish. How much cannabis did you mix into the recipe, and what percentage of THC and CBD did it have?
For example, if you used 5 grams (500 mg) of cannabis which has 10 percent THC your batch of cookies has a total of 50 mg of THC. The basic equation is:
500 mg cannabis x 10% THC = 50 mg THC
Adjust these numbers based on your product and recipe.
The next step is to divide the dish into an appropriately sized serving. A good beginner serving size for edibles is 10 mg or less. If we take the example batch of cookies above, that’s 50 mg divided by 10 mg per serving for a total of five cookies. Of course, if this is your first time eating edibles, you’ll want to make those smaller – try starting with 10 cookies wih5 mg per cookie.
Finally, it’s time to test it out. If you usually smoke or vape, you may be used to the effects coming on within 5 minutes or instantly in most cases. The onset time of edibles can take up to two hours. This super-delayed onset is part of the reason why dose control is so crucial. Many of us have assumed our edible wasn’t working, only to be surprised when both the first and second serving kick in all at once. When in doubt, wait it out. That means, wait at least 90 minutes to 120 minutes before reaching for that second serving.
Remember, start low and go slow. When it comes to edibles: less is more. You can always eat more, but once you’ve consumed the edibles, it’s nearly impossible to reverse the effects.
The next time you dose, you’ll have a clear understanding of the effects. Was the dose low enough to remain enjoyable? Was it high enough to reduce your symptoms? Was the dose appropriate for the time of day or setting? If you need to adjust the dose, increase and decrease by 2.5 mg (max 5 mg) until you obtain the perfect balance between comfort and relief.
We’ve all heard the story…a Detroit police officer in 2007 used confiscated cannabis to bake potent infused brownies with his wife. They were inexperienced and did not understand dose control. After munching on one too many servings, they ended up calling 911 in what is now an infamous sound clip. Their case is a primary example of why dose control is important.
Cannabis is inherently safer than most, if not all, other recreational substances. There’s even research suggesting cannabis has a much better safety profile than certain pharmaceuticals. Despite the good ratings, it doesn’t mean cannabis comes without risk. You can overdo cannabis consumption, and acute cannabis intoxication is a profoundly uncomfortable experience.
The delayed onset of edibles can take you by surprise – and not in a good way. The experience is colloquially known as “greening out.” A few of the most common signs of acute intoxication include panic attacks, paranoia, heart palpitations, nausea, and vomiting. Speaking from experience – it’s not fun, but the unpleasant symptoms tend to wane after only a few hours.
Many are wondering why the Canadian government is delaying commercial edible sales. Why do we have to wait until October 2019 to eat our medicine, instead of smoke it? After a short period of public comment, the federal government is currently deliberating on the details. Their main concern is how to keep Canadians, and especially children, safe.
Although edibles are a valuable alternative method of delivery, they are often accidentally or inappropriately consumed. In the US, edibles are responsible for more than a few ER visits from accidental ingestion, and the federal government wants to ensure we learn from our Southern neighbors.
With Canadians soon expecting to see edibles on dispensary shelves, a quick refresher on how to dose safely is worth sharing with friends and family. Knowing an appropriate serving size – and one suited to your tolerance level – is crucial to keep the edible experience a positive one. With a little restraint, following the “low and slow” mantra, you can reap the medicinal benefit while keeping a smile on your face.