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Cannabis Edibles: Types, Risks & Usage Guide

Nicole Flanigan

Written by: Nicole Flanigan

Updated on December 29, 2023

Cannabis Edibles Types, Risks & Usage Guide

If you think that using marijuana always means rolling a joint or a blunt, we’ve got delicious news for you. Cannabis edibles offer you a different path. From cookies to brownies and everything in between, marijuana edibles are becoming more widely available and that’s a great thing. Not sure what weed edibles are, whether they’re legal in your state, or how they work? We’ve got all the information you need right here.

What Are Cannabis Edibles?

Let’s start with the basics: what are cannabis edibles? These are nothing more than food that’s been infused with THC. However, don’t assume that your only options are baked goods. Technically, marijuana edibles also include candy, beverages, lozenges, and other edible products.

Types of Cannabis Edibles

Chances are good you’ve heard about pot brownies, but did you know that there are so many other types of cannabis edibles on the market today? Whether you’ve got a sweet tooth or prefer your marijuana in a beverage, there’s something to fit your preferences. Here’s a quick breakdown of the most common types of marijuana edibles you’ll find at the average dispensary in the US:

Chocolates Gummies & Chews Sodas, Drink Mixes, & Other Beverages Brownies, Cookies, & Other Baked Goods
Mints Hard Candies Lozenges Infused Cooking & Baking Oils

Most edibles are meant to be eaten, but some work differently. Take hard candies for example. These are usually held in the mouth against the wall of the cheek. As the saliva breaks down the candy, THC infuses directly into the bloodstream, bypassing the digestive system and offering faster intake.

How Do Cannabis Edibles Affect Your Body?

How do edibles work? What do they do in the body? It’s pretty simple. Here’s what you need to know.

When you consume the edible, you’re ingesting either THC or CBD. Most edibles are made with a higher ratio of THC than CBD and other cannabinoids, so they create the high that most people are seeking. However, there are some on the market that are designed more for therapeutic effects than recreational enjoyment and they contain higher concentrations of CBD than THC.

Once you’ve eaten the edible, it moves down your throat and through the digestive system. The acid in your stomach softens the edible and then it moves into the intestines. That’s where the magic happens. The THC, other cannabinoids, and terpenes are absorbed through the walls of the intestines along with other nutrients. They then enter the bloodstream and you’ll begin to experience the psychoactive effects.

How Long Does It Take for Edibles to Kick in?

Edibles don’t work anywhere near as fast as smoking or other ways of ingesting THC. In fact, it can take 30 minutes to two hours to notice the effects on edibles. A lot of factors play roles in this process, including the type of edible, the concentration of THC, and even your personal tolerance level.

How Long Does an Edible High Last?

How long does the high from weed last when consumed as an edible? Again, it varies from edible to edible and even person to person. You may only feel the effects for several hours, but some people experience them for 12 hours and you may experience residual effects for up to 24 hours.

How Many Edibles Can You Consume?

Because of their unique nature, it’s harder to determine the right dosage with edibles. How many should you consume? There’s no short, simple answer to this question. It comes down to a couple of factors.

First, what effect are you looking for? Do you want to relax a little after a long day at work or are you planning a weekend in and don’t plan to go anywhere for the next 24 hours? Are you looking for the edible version of “waking and baking” or do you just need to take the edge off?

In addition to the desired effect, you also need to consider the type of edible and the concentration of THC and/or CBD in the edible. The higher the concentration, the more the edible will affect you and potentially the longer those effects will last. Check the label on the edible package. You’ll notice that the THC/CBD concentration is listed in milligrams. Usually, they’ll range from 2.5 to 10 mg from most dispensaries. Note that this is not the percentage for the entire edible. It’s the percentage per serving and some edibles contain multiple servings.

For instance, let’s say you have a chocolate bar with a listed concentration of 5 milligrams per serving. Each square of the bar would contain 5 milligrams of THC. If you consumed three squares, that would be the equivalent of a 15-milligram dose of THC.

You also need to consider your personal tolerance and level of experience. If you’ve never tried marijuana edibles before, our recommendation is to start slow and build up over time. You might begin with two 5-milligram doses of chocolate and then wait several hours to see how they affect you. Over time, you can experiment with different dosage levels to determine how cannabis edibles affect you.

Effects and Risks of Cannabis Edibles

For those new to the world of cannabis edibles, it can be a confusing time. It’s all too easy to assume that because edibles taste good and come in familiar forms (candy, brownies, cookies, etc.) they may not affect you much. Let’s talk about the effects and risks of consuming them.

First, understand that the effects can be very long-lasting. They will always last longer than if you were to smoke a joint or use a THC vape. Depending on the concentration and the number of servings consumed, the effects will last at least several hours.

Second, understand that despite the best efforts of manufacturers, determining the exact percentage of THC per serving in an edible is challenging. Many products contain more THC than listed on the label, so consume them with caution, because you may end up with a stronger high than you had wanted.

Third, there’s always a lag between the time you consume an edible and when you begin feeling the effects. This lag can be considerable in some cases. It’s tempting to think that the edible isn’t working and to eat another serving, but that can lead to what’s called “marijuana overdose” or acute intoxication (being too high).

Consuming marijuana edibles also comes with side effects and symptoms you don’t usually experience when smoking marijuana. These include drowsiness and confusion, vomiting, panic attacks, respiratory difficulty, impaired motor ability, and even heart problems (including heart attack).

And because the effects can be much more intense than if you were smoking marijuana, the side effects can be equally as strong. Some people have reported erratic behavior, hallucinations, and even the potential for self-harm or to harm others when they’ve taken too high a dosage (eaten too many edibles).

Finally, understand that storing your edibles itself is a risk. Because edibles often mimic sweet treats, it’s all too easy for children to discover them and overdose. Keep your edibles out of reach of any young children in the home and that they’re stored in child-safe containers.

How Long Do Edibles Stay in Your System?

Edibles usually deliver more THC to your system than what you’ll achieve by smoking. That means THC will be present in your system for longer. If drug testing is a concern, you’ll need to understand the different timelines.

  • Blood: THC from edibles is usually detectable in your blood for 24 to 48 hours.
  • Saliva: Depending on your metabolism, THC may be detectable in your saliva for up to 48 hours.
  • Urine: You can expect THC to be detectable in your urine for one to three days.
  • Hair: THC will be detectable in your hair for three months or longer.

5 Helpful Tips for Beginners Consuming Cannabis Edibles

Interested in trying cannabis edibles for the first time? We’ve got five helpful tips to make your experience more enjoyable.

  1. Start slow. Even if you’ve smoked cannabis many times, edibles are different. Give yourself time to get used to them.
  2. Have patience. It takes time for edibles to hit your system. Being patient ensures that you don’t accidentally overdose.
  3. Quality matters. Buy your edibles from a reputable dispensary to help avoid low-quality cannabis products.
  4. Remember that edibles aren’t just sweets. Eating too many will result in effects much worse than a stomachache.
  5. Have a sober companion with you just in case you experience strong effects from your edibles.

What Is the Legal Status of Edibles?

Are cannabis edibles legal in your state? Here’s what you need to know. Note that the age limit listed is for recreational use if the state allows it. If the state allows it for medical use only, the age listed is for medicinal use. Many states have different ages for medicinal and recreational usage.

State Legality Age Limit
Alaska Yes 21
Arizona Yes 21
Alabama Medical use only 19
Arkansas Medical use only 18
California Yes 21
Colorado Yes 21
Delaware Yes 21
D.C. Yes 21
Connecticut Yes 21
Florida Medical use only 21
Georgia Illegal N/A
Hawaii Medical use only None
Idaho Illegal N/A
Illinois Yes 21
Indiana Medical use only None
Iowa Medical use only None
Kansas Medical use only None
Kentucky Medical use only 18
Louisiana Medical use only 21
Maine Yes 21
Maryland Yes 21
Massachusetts Yes 21
Michigan Yes 21
Minnesota Medical use only 21
Mississippi Medical use only None
Missouri Yes 21
Montana Yes 21
Nebraska Illegal N/A
Nevada Yes 21
New Hampshire Medical use only None
New Jersey Yes 21
New Mexico Yes 21
New York Yes 21
North Carolina Medical use only None
North Dakota Medical use only 19
Ohio Yes 21
Oklahoma Medical use only None
Oregon Yes 21
Pennsylvania Medical use only None
Rhode Island Yes 21
South Carolina Medical use only None
South Dakota Medical use only 21
Tennessee Medical use only None
Texas Medical use only None
Utah Medical use only 18
Vermont Yes 21
Washington Yes 21
West Virginia Medical use only None
Wisconsin Medical use only None
Wyoming Medical use only None

The situation for most states is very nuanced and fluid. Always check your specific state’s laws.

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Nicole Flanigan
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