Consuming Cannabis: Edibles 101

Remember that time in college when you ate a pot brownie and got really high? Maybe it was fun, maybe you felt a little nauseous, you giggled, or you were a bit paranoid, you were so relaxed, or a little out of control. That was then.

This is now. You’re all grown up, and if you didn’t continue to use cannabis once you left school, you probably can’t imagine getting that high at this point in your life with everything you’ve got going on. But maybe recently you’ve heard that cannabis could be helpful and provide relief from stress, anxiety, insomnia, even physical pain. Or maybe you’re seeking a way to simply unwind at the end of the day.

You may be curious about infused edibles as a way of trying cannabis for the first time or to reintroduce yourself to cannabis. Edibles are often perceived as a more discreet way to consume cannabis. Exploring edibles begins with education. Here’s are some things you should know about edibles.

How Edibles Are Made

In order for food to be infused with THC, the psychoactive compound of the cannabis plant, the flowers from the female plant need to be processed in a way to activate the THC. This process is known as decarboxylation. When you smoke or vaporize (vape) cannabis, the heat rapidly transforms a more inert material into what gets you high.

In terms of foods, cannabis must first be heated slowly over time (220 to 235 degrees F for 30 to 45 minutes) to produce the psychoactive reaction. Raw cannabis buds can be ground and spread on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper.

The most popular edibles on the market today – and the ones you can easily make in your own kitchen – are baked goods. Another way to decarboxylate cannabis for baking is to slowly heat cannabis buds in butter or oil and to use the THC-infused carrier in recipes.

Effects of Edibles

The effects of THC consumed through edibles come on more slowly than THC derived through smoking, vaping, or dabbing (smoking concentrated cannabis extractions). Digesting edibles can take 30 to 45 minutes or longer before you feel the effects because your body has to digest and metabolize. Experts recommend that you “start low and go slow” when consuming edibles for the first time. A low dose of THC is considered to be around 5 to 10 milligrams.

Much of the literature on edibles says that people describe the high as more throughout the body than a straight “head high” that is more common to smoking. The effects of edibles can last a few hours to up to twelve depending on the dose and other factors such as what else you consumed.

If you’re just starting out, it is best to consume edibles without alcohol and to understand that food acts as a carrier to THC unlike how it acts as somewhat of a barrier to alcohol absorption. Even so, experts recommend eating a meal then trying your first edible rather than eating one on an empty stomach.

If you are looking for a different kind of effect – such as anti-nausea – edibles higher in the cannabinoid CBD could provide more of the medicinal effects you’re seeking. Keep in mind that some edibles are “oral” like a mint, lollipop or tincture versus “digestible” such as brownies, cookies, chocolates, and other foods.  The effects of THC-infused oral edibles can come on much more quickly when absorbed through your mouth.

ATTENTION: Keeping your edibles/medibles away from children can be a challenge, especially those of the sugary variety like cookies, brownies, gummies and lollipops. Do not treat them like ordinary food or candy, but instead, keep them in a locked box or stashbag. Also consider purchasing and adding warning decals on the packaging, then teach your children the meaning of the symbols – that the contents are medicine for adults only. Use the same instructions you use for medicine in your medicine cabinet. 

Dosages or Dosing

Edibles affect everyone differently, especially when you first consume them. A challenge of making edibles is the difficulty controlling the dosage. Most “home” methods for decarboxylation do not produce exact dosages of THC. Even professional cooking methods require consistent production and frequent testing. Different brands, as well as different foods, can produce varying effects.

Look for products with clear labeling. States that have legalized cannabis for medicinal or recreational purposes enforce testing and labeling to protect consumers. Even with products from trusted brands and specific information about doses, there are many other variables that can change your experiences with edibles.

A good time to try an edible is after dinner and hours before bedtime. You can feel the effects in time and will probably  have a relaxing evening and a good night’s sleep. Consider keeping a journal to document the types of edibles you try, their dosages and their effects to find the right edibles for you.

As with any substance you consume that affects your brain and body, don’t get behind the wheel. Enjoy the effects and benefits of cannabis in a safe and responsible manner.

Infographic by MassRoots & MedicalJane

Elements of Cannabis: Terpenes 101

Some of the elements in cannabis include Cannabinoids as well as Terpenes. Terpenes are naturally occurring elements found in not only cannabis but a variety of plants including conifers. Terpenes are also produced by some insects like the swallowtail butterfly.

In cannabis, terpenes can contribute to the effects you feel and overall sensory experiences – including smell and taste – when consumed. As you sample different strains of cannabis, you’ll begin to detect distinct aroma and flavor profiles -similar to what you might find in wines.

Some common terpenes found in cannabis – and other plants – include

ALPHA- and BETA-PINENE – also found in rosemary, pine needles, dill and basil.

SMELLS LIKE: pine
PROMOTES: alertness and memory retention. TOPICALLY: antisceptic.
INTERNALLY: relieves symptoms of asthma

LIMONENE – Also found in juniper, peppermint, rosemary and the rinds of citrus fruits

SMELLS LIKE: citrus
PROMOTES: stress relief and mood elevation TOPICALLY: antifungal and anti-bacterial
INTERNALLY: treats gastrointestinal issues, heartburn, and depression.

LINALOOL –found in lavender.

SMELL: floral or citrus
PROMOTES: anxiety relief with a sedative quality.
INTERNALLY: anti-convulsant and anti-depressant

Cannabis contains over 100 different Terpenes and each cannabis strain contains different percentages of particular terpenes. When purchasing legal cannabis, ask for the testing results of the product you are considering, particularly the breakdown and percentages of terpenes.

Here’s a handy graphic from Leafly that shows terpenes contained in cannabis and their potential benefits.

Elements of Cannabis: Cannabinoids 101

Cannabis, like any medicinal plant, consists of various compounds that can interact with the human body when consumed or applied topically.

The main compounds of the Cannabis plant are phytocannabinoids, more commonly referred to as cannabinoids. Phytocannabinoids also occur in non-psychoactive plants such as echinacea purpura, a common alternative medicine, used as an immune booster, that is sold in health food stores across the country.

Each of the more than 113 cannabinoids within the cannabis genus has unique properties that cause different effects on your body and mind.

Within our bodies, we have a number of systems that handle different functions. Our digestive system processes what we consume to extract nutrients and energy to feed our bodies. Our endocrine system is made up of glands that produce hormones to regulate metabolism, growth and development, sexual function, reproduction, sleep, and mood.

We also have an endogenous cannabinoid or endocannabinoid system that works to establish and maintain our health. This system was first discovered in 1992 and is considered by a growing number of scientists to be the most important system in our bodies.

Our internal system contains endocannabinoids that in turn have receptors. These receptors are embedded in our cells and are present in our brain, organs, glands, connective tissues, and immune cells. Our cannabinoid system performs different tasks depending on where it is functioning, but essentially endocannabinoids work to bring our internal systems into balance. The technical term for this is “homeostasis.”

So far, researchers have identified two cannabinoid receptors: CB1 that is mostly in our nervous system, connective tissues, glands, and organs; and CB2 that is in our immune system. Many tissues within our bodies contain both CB1 and CB2 receptors. Researchers also think there may be a third cannabinoid receptor yet to be discovered.

So how does cannabis affect our bodies through our endocannabinoid system?

You’ve probably heard of THC (Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol). THC is the cannabinoid with psychoactive effects, meaning that it interacts with the your brain to produce a variety of reactions ranging from relaxation to euphoria.

Other cannabinoids in cannabis include CBD (cannabidiol) and CBN (cannabinol). CBD is currently available legally in a variety of products (e.g. topicals and tinctures) derived from industrial hemp, the sister and non-intoxicating plant related to cannabis. CBN is the compound in cannabis that causes drowsiness.

Familiarizing yourself with the primary cannabinoids and their effects can help you find the right strains. With the right ratio of THC to other cannabinoids, cannabis may help reduce inflammation, relieve pain, ease insomnia and provide other health and wellness benefits.

Additional Reading

Introduction to the Endocannabinoid System [Ethan Russo, MD Medical Director, PHYTECS]

Introduction to the Endocannabinoid System [NORML]

Here’s a helpful illustration from Leafly of cannabinoids contained in cannabis and their potential benefits.

Cannabis Strains: Sativa versus Indica

Cannabis is a genus of flowering plant in the family Cannabaceae.

The two species most commonly referenced are Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica and each contains numerous strains including hybrids that blend both species.

Cannabis has been referred to as weed, pot, smoke, grass, and many other names over the years, although it was coined ‘marijuana’ by members of the U.S. government in the 1930s during campaigns to vilify and ban the medicinal plant.

Sativa

Sativa is the taller plant – up to 20 feet tall – with thinner leaves. Sativa plants take from 10 to 16 weeks to harvest.

For most people, Sativa acts as a stimulant producing an energizing “head high.”

Indica

Indica is the shorter plant – 3 to 4 feet tall – with broader leaves. Indica plants have a shorter growing time than sativa, usually 8 to 12 weeks.

Indica-dominant strains are more likely to produce what is referred to as a “full body high,” relaxing and sedating. A common description of the effects of Indica cannabis strains is “couch-lock,” or being so relaxed you’re stuck on the couch.

Different strains of cannabis are bred to contain different potencies that, in turn, lead to different effects. Knowing the strain that you’re consuming can help you anticipate the effects, or more ideally, you can seek out specific strains and potencies for desired results.

Additional Resources

A helpful resource that lets you know the attributes and effects of cannabis strains is:

Consuming Cannabis: Vaping 101

Don’t worry – we didn’t know what vaping was either!

Vaping means inhaling the vapor of cannabis flower or oil heated at a low, more controlled temperature to avoid combustion (burning) using special vape pens. This is different from e-cigarettes where you vaporize synthetic oils instead of the more natural, pure cannabis plant matter or extract.

Here are some popular vape pens on the market today.

Shop with Our Affiliate Partners

Ario Vape

Visit our affiliate partner Ario Vape for their sleek, temperature controllable vape pen.

Pax 2

Visit our affiliate partner Healthy Headie for the Pax 2 and other vaping accessories.

Firefly 2

Visit our affiliate partner Healthy Headie for the Firefly 2 and other vaping accessories.

Cannabis Cheat Sheet: Forms and Consumption

The days of sucking in hot, burning smoke to experience the effects of cannabis are over.

Sure, you can still take a hit off a joint, pipe or bong (water pipe) but those often come with a pungent odor, an intake of butane or other potentially harmful substances, and they are harder to be exact about dosing.

Cannabis can be consumed in a variety of other ways. Each alternative mode of consumption has its benefits along with some drawbacks,  and each can influence the effects you feel including intensity and duration. Some forms of cannabis and types of consumption may not produce a high but instead provide other health and healing benefits.

Here is a basic guide to the different ways you can consume cannabis.

Forms of Cannabis

Flower – Cannabis flowers are the hairy, sticky parts of the plant that are harvested and dried for consumption. Also known as dried herb, bud, leaf (it isn’t really the leaf you smoke but the flower). Flower can be smoked or vaped. Effects can occur relatively quickly and last a couple of hours. Intensity depends on the compound makeup of the flower, particularly the low or high level of THC.

Edibles – Foods infused with cannabis extracts are called edibles or “medibles.” Can be sweets like gummies, lollipops and chocolates; baked goods such as cookies, brownies and granola; beverages like coffee or tea; and cooking oils and butters. Eating cannabis infused foods delays the time you’ll feel the effects because it has to move through your digestive system. Often, the effects of edibles can last longer than other forms of consumption.

Topicals – Substances such as oils, creams and salves crafted for use on the skin and infused with extractions from cannabis with specific properties such as CBD, the non-intoxicating compound found in the cannabis plant. Used commonly for inflammation reduction, pain relief, and relief from skin irritations.

Tinctures – A liquid form of concentrated cannabis extractions, usually in an alcohol or glycerol base and dosed using a dropper. Cannabis tinctures are similar to other plant- and herb-based tinctures such as echinacea, astragalus and goldenseal. Drops placed under the tongue can result in strong effects within minutes. Drops placed in beverages can slow the absorption process.

Concentrates – The marijuana flower is dissolved under pressure and heat to produce a solvent. Usually formed using plants with high levels of THC, the intoxicating compound of cannabis. Commonly comes in three different forms: oil (BHO), wax, and shatter. Concentrates are burned at high temperatures and consumed through smoking or vaping. Effects come on strong and inhaling can be harsh depending on what tool you use to consume.

Main Forms of Consumption

Smoking – The inhaling of the smoke through your mouth and into your lungs by burning dry cannabis flower or other combustible forms using a pipe, joint (cannabis cigarette), or bong (water pipe).

Vaping – Inhaling the vapor of cannabis flower or oil heated at a low, more controlled temperature to avoid combustion (burning) using special vape pens. This is different from e-cigarettes where you vaporize synthetic oils instead of the more natural, pure cannabis plant matter or extract.

Eating – Consuming cannabis through the mouth in the form of an edible product infused with cannabis extract. Eating the plant or flower itself does not cause intoxication. Eating or juicing cannabis leaves is said to have health benefits without intoxication.

Dabbing – Inhaling a dose of combusted BHO/oil concentrate through a high-temperature, butane combustion process. Requires special equipment such as a butane torch. This is an extremely potent way of consuming cannabis with fast, intense effects.

 

[PHOTO FROM Stock Pot Images]

Where is Cannabis Legal?

Remember the 80s? That decade brought us Flashdance, Scrunchies and big hair, and the War on Drugs with the slogan “Just Say No.”

Fast-forward to 2017, and state governments are revisiting their marijuana laws and realizing that the ancient healing plant not only possess medicinal value but could also be an economic boon for struggling economies.

Today, more than fifty percent of U.S. states have made exemptions for cannabis use, passing legislation (often after ballot measures where citizens voted in favor of cannabis) to either decriminalize it, allow it for medical use or legalize it within an individual state’s borders.

Eight states have legalized the sale and possession of cannabis for both medical and recreational use: Alaska, California, Colorado, Oregon, Massachusetts, Maine, Nevada and Washington. Additionally, Washington DC has legalized personal use but not commercial sale.

 

However, legalization and transportation are not the same; this is where the legal issue becomes muddy. While you can buy and/or use cannabis in the 8 states where it is legal, you cannot transport it outside that state’s boundaries. Moreover, Transporting cannabis within a legal state still requires a knowledge of the exact details of the law and to do so in a responsible manner, such in an odor resistant, locked container.

Read more about traveling with marijuana on the United Patients Group website.

Cannabis has not caused deaths from consumption like heroin or even alcohol.

What is a Schedule I Controlled Substance?

Cannabis is considered a Schedule I controlled substance under the Controlled Substances Act. The Department of Justice states that Schedule I substances “have no currently accepted medical use in the United States, a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision, and a high potential for abuse.” Other substances in this schedule include heroin, LSD, peyote, methaqualone, and Ecstasy.

Cannabis supporters point out several reasons why classifying cannabis as a Schedule I substance is inappropriate including:

  1. It has not caused deaths from consumption like heroin or even alcohol.
  2. It has growing evidence of medical use, particularly in states that have legalized it in some form.
  3. It is less addictive than alcohol or tobacco and less damaging to the body and brain.

Although botanical cannabis has not been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the organization has stated that it “recognizes the potential benefits and has approved two drugs that contain components from marijuana…” namely dronabinol, a synthetic form of delta-9- tetrahydrocannabinol (THC, the psychoactive component of marijuana) for therapeutic uses in the United States.

The two synthetic marijuana drugs approved by the FDA are: Marinol®) (approved to treat nausea and vomiting caused by cancer chemotherap and in HIV/AIDS, Syndros (approved to treat anorexia associated with weight loss in AIDS patients). Additionally, Nabilone (Cesamet®, a related agent that possesses a chemical structure similar to THC), is approved for use when these other agents have not worked..

Despite the complexity of federal and state laws regarding cannabis, people’s sentiments around the plant are shifting with 57% of U.S. adults saying the use of marijuana should be made legal (Pew Research Center). Add that to the fact that 95% of people in the United States are already living in a state with some form of legal marijuana on its books (New Frontier Data), and you can see clearly that the times they are a changin’.

Sources:
https://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/schedules/
https://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/PublicHealthFocus/ucm421163.htm
https://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatments-and-side-effects/complementary-and-alternative-medicine/marijuana-and-cancer.html
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cannabis_in_the_United_States
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legality_of_cannabis_by_U.S._jurisdiction