Cannabis Edibles: Understand the Differences

It’s hilarious when it happens in the movies: Junior liberally laces the appetizers with pot, and in minutes everyone at Mom’s and Dad’s dinner party is laughing and gurgling in their salad. But would the scene play out this way in real life?

Edible marijuana is too little understood by most people. Considering that it may become the largest cash cow to emerge from legalization and that edibles may, in the very near future, be thrust in our faces with the same advertising enthusiasm as Twinkies and tacos, it behooves you to get the facts on the possible pros and cons.

Eating weed saves wear and tear on your respiratory system. When you smoke, you’re breathing in hot, ashy plant materials, which can inflame sensitive lung tissue. Over time, smoking anything will cause emphysema, a debilitating condition that reduces the ability of the lungs to process oxygen. To sidestep that issue altogether, don’t light the bowl – use it as tableware.

Unfortunately, it’s a lot easier to overdo it on edibles. Ingested marijuana has a completely different timeline than it does when smoked and if you are eating cannabis, you need to know that curve. With smoking, the initial rush is nearly instantaneous, moving to peak blood levels of THC within 3-10 minutes. With edibles, you can wait 1-3 hours for a buzz. Most uneducated users who aren’t feeling the effect don’t have the patience to wait minutes, let alone hours, so they just eat another cookie. An impatient nibbler can eat a lot of cookies before the buzzer goes off, and when it does the effects can come in an overwhelming surge that may last up to seven hours, really messing with your head, not to mention your driving.

Edibles travel well. Most places are smoke-free zones and eating eliminates the need to sneak around, covering up your smoke and scratching over your trail like a hunted animal. Easily disguised oils can simplify transportation issues. Edibles can look as innocent as muffins or as innocuous as breath mints. Even properly sealed and disguised edibles won’t fool a drug dog, but they are not nearly as obvious to those X-ray machines as an ounce of weed.

Edible marijuana is deceptive. They can mimic cheerful childhood treats such as gummy bears, candy bars, cookies, and cake, coming in mouthwatering flavors and rainbow colors that appear to be no more unusual than cream soda. Even a church lady at tea could giggle, take a bite of a lemon-butter scone, and chide herself, “I know I shouldn’t, but it’s sooo good,” and not feel at all as if she were sinking into the depths of street drugs, but offer that same woman a joint and she’d recoil as if from a snake. The tea ladies are the least of the problem: A three year-old toddler can also find a package of snickerdoodles in Dad’s drawer and mistake them for a simple snack, so it is critical that edibles be kept away from children. Although the risk is relatively small – only 2.3 of every 1,000 telephone calls or visits to poison control facilities for children under age 10 in Colorado are cannabis-related – the number doubled after legalization in the state: Colorado in 2013 had 7 visits and 25 calls; in 2015 it jumped to 16 visits and 47 calls. Put in perspective, poison control facilities get more visits and calls due to accidental exposure of kids to common household products: diaper cream, toothpaste and energy drinks account for far more cases than pot.

Eating marijuana gives you a different kind of high. If you want more of a medical effect and don’t want the quick rush of smoking, this is for you. When ingested, the inactive form of THC in marijuana is converted to delta-11 THC, a compound that is more potent and long lasting than the smoke-catalyzed version, delta-9 THC. Edibles produce more evenly distributed, body-centered effects than smoked marijuana, ideal for long-lasting relief from pain and muscle spasms.

The other chemicals in your system matter more with edibles. Such factors as an empty or full stomach, along with other meds in your body, can drastically change the effects of THC, either increasing or decreasing the effects. And although there have been attempts at standardization, lab tests have found that the actual amount of THC in products can vary widely, with some containing far more or far less than indicated. Even an experienced user can be surprised.

In conclusion, there’s an upside and a downside to edibles, just as with anything else. Forewarned is forearmed. Although it is impossible to ingest a chemically lethal dose of THC from marijuana, people can experience adverse psychological effects, especially if they have pre-existing mental issues or other vulnerabilities. Since the delayed response from edibles makes over-consumption more likely, this does increase the chances of an unexpected reaction. If you understand the risks, you are far more likely to enjoy the ride.

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