Curious about edibles vs. smoking when it comes to marijuana consumption? That’s no surprise. Smoking is pretty well known, but edibles are still a mystery to a lot of people.
That’s why the experts at Honest Marijuana have created this definitive guide for edibles vs. smoking. We’ll talk about things like:
- The chemistry of THC (we’ll keep it simple, we promise).
- The importance of decarboxylation.
- Dosing differences between edibles and smoking.
- The best approach to edibles.
We’ll also show you the benefits of edibles vs. smoking and help you decide which one is right for you. Let’s get started.
The Chemistry Of THC
At one point during your education—be it high school or college—you probably asked yourself this question: “When am I ever going to use this information in my daily life?”
Well, today’s the day, my friend. We’re going to dust off that part of your brain where all the chemistry (and a bit of biology) information is stored. Don’t worry if you forgot it all long ago; we’ll keep it simple.
Let’s start with one fact that should be fairly familiar to even someone who’s completely new to the cannabis scene: marijuana contains THC. THC—full name delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol—is a cannabinoid that interacts with neurotransmitters in the brain to, among other things, get you high.
The interesting thing about THC is that your body processes it differently when it’s consumed as edibles vs. smoking. Here’s how.
When you smoke marijuana, the THC travels through your lungs, into your bloodstream, and then to your brain. For the purposes of this article, we’ll refer to the THC as delta9-THC (you’ll see why in the next section).
The delta9-THC is filtered by your lungs to some extent, but still, 50 to 60 percent of the cannabinoid crosses the blood-brain barrier to make you high. That whole process, from start to finish, can be felt almost immediately.
With an average joint, peak concentrations of delta9-THC (the highest you’re going to get) come anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes after your first inhalation. After that, the effects start to trail off over the next one to two hours.
Got all that? Good. Just in case you’re still scratching your head, here are the important points to remember:
- Smoking introduces delta9-THC into your body.
- The effects of the delta9-THC can be felt almost immediately (at the most, within a few minutes).
- The peak of the high usually occurs around 15 minutes after inhalation and can be gone an hour later.
When you ingest marijuana in an edible, the delta9-THC travels through your stomach and then to your liver (yes, this is an overly-simplistic explanation, but do you really need to know every single stage of digestion?).
In your liver, the delta9-THC is metabolized (chemistry speak for “transformed”) into 11-hydroxy-THC. It’s this chemical that’s the key to understanding the difference between edibles vs. smoking.
11-hydroxy-THC has a much more psychedelic effect than delta9-THC. That difference in effect explains why there’s such a contrast between the way you feel after smoking marijuana and the way you feel after ingesting marijuana.
And if you’ve only ever smoked marijuana or only ever ingested marijuana, trust us, there’s a big difference between the two highs.
Another variable that separates edibles from smoking is timing. Remember that you’ll feel the effects of smoking almost immediately and that those effects will dissipate shortly thereafter.
With edibles, the timing is stretched out because the THC has to travel through your digestive system and then through your circulatory system to your brain.
That means that you may have to wait anywhere from 60 to 120 minutes to feel the effects. But once they hit, the effects can last from 6 to 10 hours.
Edibles sound great, don’t they? More intense high, long-lasting effects. Makes you want to run out and bake some brownies right now.
But before you go dumping a bag of weed into your brownie mix, there’s another bit of chemistry that you need to understand.
The Importance Of Decarboxylation
Raw weed, like you buy at your local dispensary, is non-psychoactive because the human digestive system can’t process the marijuana plant-matter in a way that delivers the THC to your bloodstream.
That plant-matter needs to be decarboxylated (chemistry speak for “baked”) before it can do any good.
When you smoke marijuana, decarboxylation occurs when the plant-matter is burned. But to incorporate that same marijuana into your favorite recipe, you need to apply heat without destroying the cannabis.
That’s where your oven comes in. Here’s a simple process for decarboxylating your weed.
- Preheat oven to 240 degrees Fahrenheit or 115 degrees Celsius. Keep in mind that the boiling point for THC is 314 degrees Fahrenheit and that using temperatures that high can ruin your bud. Oven temperatures can vary quite a bit, so if you have access to an oven thermometer, use it to find the true inside temperature.
- Break, tear, or grind the weed into small pieces, making sure not to overlap on the pan.
- Cook for 30-40 minutes or until golden brown.
- Remove pan from oven and allow to cool.
- Place toasted weed in a food processor and grind until coarse.
After that, you’re free to add a dash of cannabis to your favorite recipes.
Edibles vs. Smoking: Dosing Differences
As you learned above (or have experienced for yourself), when you smoke cannabis, the effects are almost instantaneous and can reach their peak in a matter of minutes. This immediate feedback gives you more control over the dosage, the high, and the overall experience.
If you don’t feel enough, you can take another hit or two. If you feel too much, you can stop and let the effects pass. That makes figuring out the right dosage a much easier task.
Edibles, on the other hand, can be almost impossible to figure out. It all goes back to how the THC gets into your system. Metabolism and digestion are unique to each individual—some are fast, some are slow, and some are in between.
There’s nothing wrong with any of those, it just means that you may process the THC at a different rate than your friend. She may feel the effects after an hour, while it may take you two hours to experience the high.
It’s this delay between individuals, and the relatively long onset of effects, that causes the problem.
When the high does finally occur, it can be overwhelming and can turn people off from edibles forever. And that’s a shame because edibles done right can be an effective way to get the THC or CBD that you need.
The Best Approach To Edibles
The best approach to edibles is to start small and take it slow.
If you need a number, we recommend 0.001 grams (or 1 milligram) as the starting point for your experiments. If you don’t feel any effects at 0.001 grams on Wednesday, try again on Thursday at 0.002 grams.
Don’t increase your dosage amount too quickly or you could go from feeling nothing (or little) to feeling too much. Remember: it’s the trip, not the destination. Enjoy the ride (the process of experimentation) instead of rushing headlong into an unenjoyable high.
The Benefits Of Edibles vs. Smoking
Both edibles and smoking have their own unique benefits. We can’t list them all, but here are a few of each.
- Discreet—No one has to know that the oil you drizzle on your salad at lunch is going to have you high as a kite a few hours later.
- Healthy—Consuming your cannabis in edible form is healthier than inhaling smoke into your lungs.
- Long-lasting—The effects of an edible cannabis snack can last you all day.
- No equipment necessary—Once you’ve whipped up your favorite cannabis treat, there’s no need for other equipment, like bongs, dab rigs, or lighters.
- Fun—Smoking marijuana can be an event in itself, even without the associated high.
- Social—There’s nothing quite like gathering a bunch of friends and passing around a doobie.
- Fast—If you’ve only got a couple of hours and then it’s back to work, smoking is the go-to choice. The effects wear off completely in just a few hours.
Edibles Vs. Smoking: Methods Of Consumption
One of the many nice things about marijuana going mainstream is the availability of new products. No longer are you restricted to the pot brownies and hand-rolled joints of yore — although, those are still very effective options.
Now, you can get pretty much anything with cannabis in it if you look hard enough or are willing to do a little DIY.
In the next two sections, we’ve put together a short list of a few of our favorite unique edibles vs. smoking options.
Cannabutter is one of the most useful edibles you can make in your very own kitchen because butter is a basic ingredient in so many other recipes.
Want a little THC or CBD in your instant mac and cheese? Add cannabutter instead of regular butter.
Want to start your day right? Spread a bit of cannabutter on your morning toast.
Get creative and we’re sure you’ll find an endless list of ways to use cannabutter in your cooking.
Here’s our favorite set-it-and-forget-it recipe for making cannabutter at home.
Ingredients And Supplies
- Instant Pot
- ½ ounce of your favorite herb
- 1 cup of butter (usually a single stick)
- 1-pint (16 ounce) canning jar
- 2 canning jar lids (the flat discs)
- 1 or 2 canning jar rings (the things that screw on over top the lids)
- Canning rack or several rings
- Oven mitts
- Strainer or cheesecloth
- Mixing bowls
- Stove or microwave
- Half-pint (8 ounce) canning jar for storage
- Lid for storage jar
- Grind up ½ ounce of your favorite weed.
- Place ground weed in the canning jar.
- Place a canning lid and ring on the jar and close to finger tight.
- Place a canning rack or canning ring in the bottom of the Instant Pot to elevate the jar off the bottom.
- Pour water into the Instant Pot until it reaches the middle of the jar.
- Close the lid of the Instant Pot.
- Set to Pressure Cook on high for 40 minutes.
- When the cycle is complete, manually release the pressure. (Careful! The steam will be hot.)
- Don your oven mitts and remove the jar from the Instant Pot.
- Place the hot jar on a towel, cutting board, or other heat-resistant surface to cool.
- When the canning jar is cool enough to handle with your bare hands, remove the ring and lid.
- Melt 1 cup of butter in the microwave or on the stove.
- Pour melted butter into the canning jar (don’t fill the jar much more than halfway).
- Stir to distribute the cannabis throughout the butter.
- Place a new lid on the jar, cover with a canning ring (the same one you used to decarb your weed is fine), and close to finger tight.
- Set the canning jar on a rack or ring in the bottom of the Instant Pot.
- Pour water into the Instant Pot until it reaches the middle of the jar.
- Close the lid of the Instant Pot.
- Make sure the Keep Warm setting is on.
- Set to Pressure Cook on high for 20 minutes.
- When the cycle is done, allow the Instant Pot to release the pressure naturally for 40 minutes while the Keep Warm setting is on.
- Don your oven mitts again and remove the jar to cool.
- When the jar and ring are cool enough to handle with bare hands, remove the ring and lid.
- NOTE: Because the jar and its contents were under pressure, the butter may “spray” a bit when you crack the lid.
- Pour the cannabutter through a strainer or cheesecloth into a mixing bowl or directly into the half-pint canning jar (you may need a funnel for that) to remove plant matter.
- Feel free to squeeze the cheesecloth or press on the strainer to get all the butter, but you may inadvertently push some of the bad-tasting plant matter through.
- Put the lid on the storage jar and place it in the refrigerator to cool.
That’s it! You’ve made your own Instant Pot cannabutter. Now it’s time to enjoy the fruits of your labor.
Don’t have an Instant Pot? No problem.
Check out this article from the HMJ blog for instructions on making cannabutter on the stovetop: How To Make Cannabis Butter: The Ultimate Guide.
Thai Sticks were all the rage in the late 1960s and early 1970s but soon disappeared after the U.S. fled Southeast Asia at the end of the Vietnam War.
Why were they so popular? Because they were super potent!
Here’s a step-by-step guide to building your own Thai Stick and reliving what was all the rage a half-a-century ago.
Ingredients And Supplies
- Nugs of your favorite bud.
- Small bamboo stick or plant stem (chopsticks work great too).
- Hemp string
- Hash oil
- Washed leaves from a growing MJ plant (picked after step 2)
- Parchment paper
- Separate the fluffiest buds from the rest of your stash.
- Coat the stick of your choice with hash oil to make it slightly sticky.
- Bind the buds to the stick with hemp string.
- Place the Thai Stick in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours or until the nugs solidify into one piece.
- Unwrap the hemp string from the stick (save the string for later).
- Coat the bud stick with a light layer of hash oil.
- Wrap the whole thing in washed leaves from a growing marijuana plant.
- Add another layer of hash oil.
- Wrap in a second layer of leaves.
- Add a final layer of hash oil.
- Wrap in a third layer of leaves.
- Rewrap the Thai Stick with the hemp string.
- Place in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours.
At this point, many Thai Stick purists suggest you place your creation in a plastic bag and bury it three feet underground for a month to cure it.
If you don’t want to wait a month, you can try vacuum sealing and letting it sit for a week. Or, if you don’t want to wait, just go ahead and smoke it!
We actually suggest you do all three.
Instead of making one Thai Stick all the way to completion (i.e., ready to smoke) which can take a week to a month depending on the method you choose, start three or more sticks and try each of the different options for curing at the same time.
Take one and bury it in the ground according to the first method above. Then, vacuum seal the second stick according to the second method above.
After you’re finished with the first two sticks, smoke that third stick as a reward for all your hard work. A week later, you can unseal the second Thai Stick, smoke it, and compare it to the one you smoked previously.
Which do you prefer? Is one smoke smoother than the other? Is one more potent than the other? Feel free to make notes.
Then, when the first Thai Stick has been in the ground for a month, dig it up, smoke it, and compare it to the other two.
Can you taste a difference? Can you feel a difference in the high? Which of the three do you like better?
Answering those questions can help you decide which method to focus on going forward.
Whichever method you choose, be sure to unwrap the hemp string and remove the stick before you smoke.
For more information about all things Thai Stick, check out this article from the HMJ blog: Thai Sticks: The Ultimate Cannabis Blunt.
Edibles vs. Smoking: Which One Is Right For You?
The debate about edibles vs. smoking is a very personal one. Each individual is going to have their own opinion. The bottom line is that there’s no way to know which one you prefer without trying them both.
If you’ve done nothing but smoke marijuana, it’s probably time to give edibles a try. Similarly, if you’ve only experienced an edible high, why not try smoking, or dabbing, or vaping to see if you like it? If you don’t, you can always go back to edibles.
Edibles Vs. Smoking: Quality Is The Key
Regardless of whether you choose edibles vs. smoking, always opt for the highest-quality bud you can afford.
Low-quality bud, such as mids and regs, will produce a low-quality final product.
Sure, it was cheap and tasted ok or smoked well, but the low-quality bud will diminish any psychoactive or medicinal effects you experience.
When you whip up a batch of your favorite edibles or roll something to smoke, always use the best bud you can get your hands on — the strain doesn’t matter — so that the end result doesn’t leave you dissatisfied and downhearted.
That’s the secret to an out-of-this-world marijuana experience — regardless of how you consume it!
Plus, with a high-quality, organic strain like those grown at Honest Marijuana, you’ll need less to experience the effects you’re after.
A few bites of brownie or a few tokes from a joint made with high-quality bud goes a long way.
And unless this is your first time consuming a cannabis product, you know that different strains produce different effects.
It’s for that reason that we encourage you to experiment with the strain you use in your edibles vs. smoking choices. Try a sativa, an indica, a hybrid, or even a landrace strain if you can get your hands on one.
Talk to the budtenders at your local dispensary to find out what strains they recommend for your needs.
If you live in Colorado, find some Honest Marijuana and discover what the purest marijuana experience on the plant feels like (hint: it’s like nothing you’ve ever felt before).
For more information on all things cannabis and to check out our 100% all-natural marijuana products, visit HonestMarijuana.com today.