Cannabis Science - Cannabis Studies
July 18, 2019

Edibles - The Basics

Mel Perron
6 mins

A few Canadians might conjure up a particular image when cannabis edibles come up in discussion. A tray of chocolate brownies getting passed around a party in your 20's might bring back memories you wish would stay buried. Rest assured, edibles have evolved a long way. Edibles are a crucial aspect of the medical cannabis landscape. Today they provide a powerful resource to patients and an important alternative to smoking.

Discreet, easy to dose, and naturally avoiding the dilemmas of smoking, these days many patients actually prefer to ingest their medicine rather than inhale it.  Patients who have less experience with the recreational side of the plant, like the baby boomer generation and seniors, also tend towards non-inhalable format.  A medicinal edible can feel more familiar and inherently healthier. For some, edibles are the best option among many different methods of consumption. Still others love making their own edibles.

With the rules on cannabis edibles in Canada about to change, many patients like yourself are looking for a quick refresher. What are the benefits of edibles? Why are they different than inhaled options? Most importantly, what do you need to know about cannabis-infused foods to reap the most benefit and stay safe?

cannabis infused special cookies chocolate chip blue plate

The Basics of Medicinal Cannabis Edibles

If you've never tried an edible before, you'll want to understand a few key differences between the inhaled experience and the ingested one. When you choose to smoke or vape your medicine, the effects are immediate and relatively short-lived. You should feel the benefits within 15 minutes after inhalation. These effects last for up to four hours, with a peak of effects usually within the first 90 minutes.

Edibles work on a different timeline though. The onset of an edible is less predictable, depending on metabolism, body weight, gender, and other biological influences. Even your last meal can influence the period between eating an edible and the onset of effects. Typically, effects kick in around 60 minutes; however, in some cases, you can find they take two hours or more.  

This is why many people run into problems of consuming too much cannabis; after sometimes waiting hours for a serving to kick in, they go back for seconds. Then they find two servings kick in at the same time. While not life-threatening, it's not a comfortable experience.  

Patients often rely on edibles for extended relief as well. Depending on dose and potency, you might find an edible can last for six hours or more. Edibles are a scientifically proven more powerful experience.

cannabis infused butter and cream cheese on morning toast with sprouts on wooden table

The Science of an Edible

Why do they take their own time, last longer, and deliver more powerful results? Our bodies process the cannabinoids in edibles in a very different way than via smoking or vaping. Upon inhalation, THC, CBD, and the many other cannabinoids have a direct route through the respiratory system to our brains. It's a quick journey through the lungs, into the bloodstream and then onto the receptors of the brain.

An edible has a long and convoluted route to reach the receptors within our brain (or elsewhere). First, the cannabinoids travel through the digestive tract, surviving the harsh gastrointestinal environment. Our lower intestines pull the valuable compounds out (vitamins, minerals, and cannabinoids etc) and forward them onwards towards the liver.

Our liver works hard to metabolize the various compounds from our food into useful resources for our bodies. When it comes to THC, the liver transforms it into a compound called 11-hydroxytetrahydrocannabinol (11-OH-THC). From what we know so far, 11-OH-THC is thought to have a much more intoxicating effect than THC and most people who have chosen the edible route will attest to this.  

It can take two hours (sometimes more) for the cannabinoids in an edible to finally reach the brain. Depending on how fast your metabolism works, what meal you had for dinner, and many other factors - you can be waiting quite a long time for the relief to kick in. This is why patients exploring edible preparations should always start low, go slow, and never go back for seconds.

cannabis infused honey traditional wooden spoon and honey pot

The Benefits of Cannabis Edibles


Edibles come with a host of benefits to medical cannabis patients. According to some research, medical cannabis patients may prefer alternative methods of consumption to smoking and vaping. Perhaps surprisingly, oral preparations are one of the most studied methods of consumption for the plant.  

Ingesting cannabis tends to provide longer-lasting relief than smoking or vaping. For patients with chronic conditions, this can make life easier than continually having to re-dose to extend the relief. Edibles are also a more discreet option, and restrictive public smoking regulations never get in the way. Nobody can deny that pre-portioned servings of cannabis are a highly convenient way to take your medicine.

The early research looking at oral cannabis preparations explores the plant for the treatment of:

  • Multiple Sclerosis  
  • Chronic Pain
  • Epilepsy
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Anxiety
  • Depression.  

Of course, the research into cannabis still hasn't caught up to the myriad of applications patients use it for today. Patients find relief through cannabis for dozens of medical conditions, despite the lack of research.

cannabis gummies in a wine glass red gummies candies

Edibles and the Law

In only a few short months, Canadians will have access to edible cannabis through updates to the Cannabis Act. The legislation comes into effect October 2019, with the sale of adult-use edibles beginning 60 days afterward (why stay a medical cannabis patient in a recreational world?) This means patients will have access to commercially produced cannabis edible products just before Christmas.  

But there is nothing to stop you from heading into the kitchen and making your own at-home infusions. Many patients across Canada already use their medical cannabis flower to whip up baked goods, delicious chocolates, and olive oil infusions. While it's temporarily illegal to buy and sell edibles in Canada, it is entirely legal for Canadians to make infusions at home. As long as you understand dosing, making your own edibles is a great option.

cannabis infused gummy bears red pink orange andpurpleu

Once legislation comes into effect, edibles will be one of the most highly regulated cannabis products on the market. This is to keep patients safe and the products away from children. All edible packaging will have clear labeling, including THC and CBD content, complete ingredient list, intended use, and a warning label.  The packages must also be child-resistant, and there will be no cute colorful shapes to avoid appealing to children.  

Helpful for many medical consumers, and those unfamiliar with edibles, the edibles will come in predetermined dose sizes of 10 mg THC or less. Each package must indicate the equivalent potency to dried cannabis. These rules are designed to keep patients and consumers safe.

While edibles might be a newly approved cannabis product in Canada, many patients already prefer them. With the stronger, longer-lasting benefits, edibles may even be more appropriate for the treatment of certain conditions. An infused cannabis product is naturally more convenient, accurate, and discreet. Not to mention that many patients prefer edibles because they can make them from the comfort of their own home. If you are just about to embark on your first dose of an infused medical edible, remember to take it slow and start with a low dose.  

As always, please feel free to join in on our discussions about cannabis on our social media channels or sign up for our newsletters. We work hard to provide you with content that is useable and helpful, this includes different recipes for the beginner with cannabis edibles and the experienced users alike!

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