What Are Marijuana Edibles? A Booming New Industry

avatar WeedWeek / Apr 28, 2020

Marijuana can be consumed in a variety of different ways. And as the legal industry continues to grow, companies are racing to offer more consumption methods to consumers. One of the most popular is marijuana edibles.

The most common form of consumption is inhalation. This is accomplished  by smoking a joint, hitting a bong, vaping, or any other variety of heating cannabis flowers and inhaling the smoke or vapor. While this is probably the most common way to consume, other delivery methods are becoming more popular, especially as companies work out innovative ideas  to process the plant into a variety of products.

These different products range from tinctures and creams to pills and edibles. The global marijuana edibles industry is booming and is predicted to grow from a $1 billion industry in 2014 to a $4.1 billion market by 2022. With more states legalizing recreational use, and more countries following suit, the edibles sector is likely to grow dramatically.

What Are Marijuana Edibles? 

Marijuana edibles are food and drink that are infused with cannabis. Products infused with THC provide euphoria, among other effects,while products infused with CBD are often taken primarily for wellness purposes.

Marijuana edibles are generally perceived as a healthier choice than smoking, as the user doesn’t have to worry about inhaling carbon into their lungs. Additionally, many users prefer edibles just because it is easier to consume them than is anything else. 

Consuming edibles is a much different experience than smoking a joint, however. It takes significantly longer than a joint for the effect to kick in and can provide a much more intense experience. Understanding one’s limits and dosing accordingly, is extremely important, whether a novice or a regular user.

How to Make Marijuana Edibles

The options are endless when it comes to creating marijuana edibles at home. But there is a certain science to it;  don’t just go stuffing your buds into tonight’s tacos and start eating.

What is Decarboxylation?

Marijuana needs to be heated in order for its chemical properties to provide the effect users seek, known as decarboxylation. Decarboxylation is the process of activating the naturally occurring cannabinoids in cannabis. 

The process is done with heat. That is why the typical form of marijuana consumption is either through smoking or vaporizing the flowers. Certain temperatures  activate different cannabinoids and terpenes, the chemicals in the plant. If you were to simply eat buds without decarboxylating them in the first place, you’ll have wasted time, money, and marijuana. 

One of the best ways to decarboxylate your buds is to  cook the buds at 220 degrees (Farenheit) until they are golden brown. This takes about 35 minutes. You want to break the buds up into tiny pieces and spread them across a cooking sheet, making sure they aren’t covering each other or overlapping in any way.

Preparing Marijuana Edibles

Once you have your golden brown buds, you’ll want to chop them up in a blender. It’s recommended that you grind up the buds before doing this in order to get tiny, consistent pieces of flower that can then be infused into butters or oils. 

Our friends over at Bon Appetit have provided an easy way to make cannabis butter or oil which  can then be used in a wide variety of different foods. It’s also the most practical when it comes to storing and preserving your creation to add it to future recipes. Simply substitute the butter or oil ingredient in  whatever recipe you are making, with your stored cannabis oil/butter and you’re all set. 

How Marijuana Edibles Affect You Differently

Regular cannabis consumers can tell you that edibles deliver a very different experience than smoking buds.

When smoking a joint, you will typically feel the high kick in within minutes and it may last up to a few hours. Generally speaking, marijuana edibles can take up to two hours to kick in and the experience can also last significantly longer, occasionally as long as 12 hours.

According to Nick Jikomes, who has a PhD in neuroscience from Harvard and is the principle research scientist at Leafly, “The issue isn’t that [weed is] metabolized differently, it’s that it’s gonna get metabolized to different degrees in different parts of the body, depending on the route of administration.” So while you do absorb more cannabinoids like THC when smoking than when consuming edibles, the method of delivery will create a larger impact with edibles as the digestion process slows down and distributes the cannabinoids to different parts of the body and different rates. 

Another reason  edibles give such a long-lasting and potent high is that it is harder to control the quantity of cannabis you are actually consuming. Today legal edibles purchased at dispensaries are typically accurately dosed. But for people making pot brownies at home, it can be extremely challenging to understand how much you are consuming with each bite. When smoking, the consumer has a better idea of how much they have had, especially since they can feel the impact far sooner than with edibles. 

Is Eating Marijuana More Dangerous Than Smoking Marijuana?

Since it can take up to two hours to first start feeling the effects of a cannabis edible, there’s a risk users may consume extra doses after getting frustrated that they don’t feel anything. The commonly heard mantra “Start Low, Go Slow” is especially important when dealing with edibles.

If a user consumes too much, it can be quite the surprise an hour or two later when they are much higher than expected, planned, or desired. A study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine

looked at emergency room visits in the state of Colorado between the years 2012 (when cannabis became legal for recreational purposes) and 2016. What they found was not surprising: While marijuana edibles during that period represented just 0.32% of cannabis sales, 9.3% of marijuana-related emergency room visits were caused by people consuming edibles. 

However, while ER visits did go up, virtually all visitors ended up going home with no lasting damage. Unlike many drugs out there, taking too much cannabis is never fatal. 

One major benefit of consuming marijuana edibles, compared to smoking cannabis is that it doesn’t negatively affect the lungs. Part of the reason vaping has become so popular is that people believe that vaping is safer than smoking. Edibles remove all doubt about direct lung damage.

How Are Marijuana Edibles Different From CBD Edibles?

Marijuana edibles typically refer to products containing THC, which is intoxicating, though they may also be made with the non-intoxicating cannabinoid CBD. As is the case for other methods of cannabis consumption,  consumers believe it helps with a wide array of ailments from muscle pain and insomnia to anxiety. 

Eating a CBD edible won’t result in euphoria (getting high), but it should transmit the benefits of CBD. Like any user of cannabis, consuming edibles is just a tastier way of delivering the cannabinoid to the body.

Safety Tips And Advice For Taking Marijuana Edibles

For people consuming edibles for the first time, the best advice is to be patient and wait. Don’t expect to feel anything early for at least 40 mins and definitely don’t eat more, thinking it will help you feel it faster. It won’t, it will just make you more high when it finally does hit. Remember, “Start Low, Go Slow!”

Start with a small dose and wait. This is especially true if you are consuming homemade edibles since it’s not clear how strong they are. The last thing you want is to eat too much and have a bad experience. Remember, if you are eating edibles to get high, you may experience a different kind of high than you would if you were smoking a joint. It will be stronger and last longer, so be smart about how much you consume.

What Are The Negative Effects Of Marijuana Edibles?

The negative effects of edibles are similar to the negative effects of cannabis in general. They can vary from person to person and even each time of use. Just as everyone may react differently to smoking the same e variety of cannabis each day, so too can the edible experience differ from occasion to occasion.

Individual factors matter; the quantity consumed, edible potency, and personal body composition each play an important role.. That’s why it is best to consume edibles in moderation.

While some people claim that they feel a marijuana hangover after eating edibles, the jury on ‘weed hangovers’ is still out.. Sometimes  people consume edibles too late in the evening and may not sleep as well as they normally would. This can leave them feeling groggy or tired in the morning.

Conclusion

Marijuana edibles are a way for people to get a THC high without smoking, and for people looking for an easier and more practical way to consume CBD. 

Edibles are widely available in dispensaries in states where cannabis consumption is legal for recreational and/or medical purposes. Making your own edibles can be a fun activity– just be careful with the dosing. There will be a learning curve, like with any new recipe. 

The marijuana edible industry appears poised to expand as cannabis stigma decreases.. This will be especially true once it is legalized on a federal level. 

As much fun as consuming edibles can be, take it slow if it’s your first time and know that the effect will be different than what you’re used to from smoking. 

When it comes to edibles, slow and steady wins the race.

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