Lots of folks are ecstatic about weed edibles! Edibles are perfect for medical users who are green to cannabis and who want to experience the plant’s therapeutic relief without having to deal with the harshness of inhaling smoke. Edibles can also provide an intense, recreational euphoric high, even for seasoned stoners who smoke daily and who are looking for a more potent THC treat. So it’s understandable why cannaseurs bought 5.8 million infused weed edibles and concentrate products in 2014.
Cannabis and food consumption have always complimented one another like peanut butter and jelly because the endogenous cannabinoid receptors in our brains, which are stimulated by the consumption of marijuana, are responsible for regulating our ability to taste various foods by stimulating our sense of smell. Smoking as well as eating weed edibles simply enhances this natural mechanism in the brain which of course is why people get the munchies when they get high. The fact that cannabis stimulates the appetites of individuals suffering from an array of afflictions as diverse as AIDS, chemo treatments for cancers, epilepsy, MS, ALS, Alzheimer’s, anxiety disorders and inflammation is believed by many to have originally inspired medical doctors to reconsider the science underlying drug prohibition, in turn creating a new demand for the edible marijuana market.
Craving some THC treats? Be mindful of your dosage!
Patients unfortunately face the somewhat dangerous personal responsibility of having to determine the right dosage for themselves while professional weed edible makers face difficulties in terms of measuring accurate edible dosage sizes. All the while, our Federal Government still won’t fund, let alone allow, proper medical research on edible dosing because our Drug Enforcement Agency still refuses to recognize the undeniable medical benefits of marijuana.
New York Times Columnist Maureen Dowd wrote about her experience overdosing on edible cannabis by accidentally ingesting too much edible after she couldn’t feel the effects kick in until she found herself feeling sick from a really scary body high.
Maureen Dowd confessed that she was “more focused on the fun than on the risks”. She also admitted that she needed more guidance, was unaware of how long it takes for THC-infused edibles to kick in and what is considered an appropriate serving size. It’s little surprise that Willie Nelson wasn’t able to give her much useful advice when it comes to estimating the right dosage for edibles since ingesting cannabis is a completely unique experience compared to smoking it.
In this article, we’ll break down the differences between smoking and eating cannabis in order to help you understand the very real, yet completely avoidable, risks of overdosing on edibles. We’ll provide you with the information you need to help determine the right dosage for the level of intensity for your personal edible experience, along with the best pro-tips we could gather to help you mellow out in case you do accidentally go overboard on the edibles train.
What Are Edibles?
People often assume that weed edibles are just stereotypical pot brownies or cookies. But in fact, any and every food or beverage can be infused with cannabinoids, the effective chemical compounds of Cannabis, specifically THC and CBD. Breakfast, smoothies, coffee, lunch, dinner, desserts, appetizers, sides, garnishes, soups, entrees, beer and wine can all be infused with cannabinoids! Leafly suggests trying ganja granola and cannabis quinoa for example.
We don’t want to throw too many mouth watering examples of cannabis edibles at you until we’ve broken down the chemistry behind cannabis and food.
“Food is drugs” according to Gary L Wenk Ph.D. in his TED Talk. Wenk encourages us to view food as drugs since food is just a bunch of chemical carbon bonds that affect how you think, feel and age, which are every bit as addicting as so-called hard drugs. People are also not used to viewing Marijuana as a food, which it is absolutely is according to Wenk.
You can even eat raw cannabis, even though virtually no one recommends it since it won’t get you very high unless you waste a lot of good weed. Juicing raw cannabis however is proving to be an excellent way to benefit from THCA and CBDA, the non-psychoactive cannabinoids that become THC and CBD when they get activated by heat through smoking, vaping or cooking heat.
Try blending some washed cannabis leaves up with an apple and a carrot for an awesome hit of uplifting, non-psychoactive energy…especially if you have asthma related problems.
How’s the High?
You simply cannot get the same kind of high that edibles give you by smoking or vaping cannabis. Activating or decarboxylating non-psychoactive THCA and CBDA cannabinoids, which naturally grow in the raw cannabis plant into active THC and CBD compounds, with combustion or vaporization is a completely different chemical process from ingesting cooked cannabis.
The THC goes on a fast, express trip in and out of your brain, as the specific chemical compound delta-9-THC, when you burn raw THCA and inhale it into your lungs. This is why you feel the effects of smoking pot within 10 minutes often lasting for 90 minutes to 4 hours at best…which, let’s face it, is never long enough.
Metabolizing edible cannabinoids in your liver creates a totally unique chemical compound called 11-hydroxy-THC, which is twice as strong and lasts twice as long compared to the delta-9-THC that old school stoners are accustomed too. The chemical differences between delta-9-THC and 11-hydroxy-THC are why ol’ Willie couldn’t give poor Maureen any advice about overdosing on edibles.
One other important thing to remember is that you won’t quite feel the different euphoric and sobering qualities that you would with sativa vs indica or THC vs CBD rich strains. The terpenes, which are known for their aroma producing qualities, tend to get lost before the oil makes it into the edibles, especially if the oil was extracted using CO2 according to Shellene Suemori, director of Science and R&D at Dixie Elixirs and Edibles.
Many patients consistently report more of a relaxing body effect than a cerebral head high which makes sense given the chemistry of smoking vs eating cannabis.
Many new Marijuana users like Maureen Dowd mistakenly assume that it is safer to eat edibles because they assume, like The American Lung Association does, that inhaling smoke of any sort, including pot smoke, is bad for the lungs. This is despite new studies confirming that long-term cannabis use is not associated with significant negative effects on lung functions.
The major advantage of smoking and vaping marijuana is that you have much more instant awareness and therefore control over how the THC and CBD affect you because the delta-9-THC goes directly to your brain.
This is why the tried and true saying “you can never smoke too much weed” is common among seasoned stoners in the cannabis community. However, the same common wisdom does not apply when it comes to edibles. Over consumption of edibles is no laughing matter.
The Pitfalls of Putting Pot in the Pit of Your Stomach
Extreme drowsiness, dizziness, rapid heartbeat, blood pressure changes, lack of focus and concentration are a few of the mild symptoms of eating too much cannabis. It can even result in the need for hospitalization.
Emergency room visits for marijuana-related hallucinations, hyperventilation and violent illnesses have climbed in Colorado.
“Edibles are driving hospital admissions for youth, for animals, for adults,” according to Ben Cort, director of professional relations for the Center for Dependency, Addiction and Rehabilitation at University of Colorado Health.
810 marijuana related hospitalizations were reported in 2006 and the figure grew to over 2,000 from January to June 2014, largely due to the availability of edibles.
Almost all of the patients that go to the ER for marijuana intoxication are recreational users and children who ate some edibles without realizing it was infused with cannabis, according to Dr. Andrew Monte of the Department of Emergency Medicine and Medical Toxicology at the University of Colorado. This is why edibles must always be kept completely out of the access of any unsuspecting children and pets.
You must of course never plan on driving a car or operating heavy machinery if you are an inexperienced edible user. “They get in the car, and they start driving and then bang,” says Marc Vasquez, chief of police in Erie, Colorado. Chief Vasquez also warns that “edibles are a greater hazard for us than smoking marijuana because smoking marijuana gets in your system really quickly, and you know your level of impairment generally.”
A rare few inexperienced, uneducated, unfortunate edible eaters, such as 19-year-old Levy Thamba Pongi, a Wyoming exchange student from the Republic of Congo who was visiting Colorado in March of 2014, have also tragically committed suicide after eating THC-infused edibles.
How to Deal With Edible Overdoses
The first thing to do if you ever find yourself suffering from an edible overdose is to focus on relaxing by sitting or lying down.
Focus on breathing slowly, deeply and rhythmically. Start meditating if you know how and then remind yourself of the incontrovertible fact that not a single person has ever died from an overdose of cannabinoids themselves.
Try breathing through a paper bag, a thick item of clothing or even your hands if you feel like you just can’t get enough air and keep doing so until your breathing returns to normal.
In the event of consuming too much edible, the Marijuana Policy Project reminds us to let anyone you’re with know that you’ve overdone it and that you need your friends to keep an eye on you.
And of course, do your very best to get some water and stay hydrated.
Caffeine also seems to help people as long as they aren’t already too anxious. Cannachef Julie Dooley suggests drinking orange juice to get your blood sugar levels up.
You will likely also start craving all kinds of sugary sweet munchies if and when any nausea you may have subsidies. Dooley also reminds us that foods rich in fat and protein will prolong the effects of cannabis in your body.
High Times magazine wisely recommends keeping CBD capsules on hand which will help counter the effects of an edible overdose. This is why some seasoned stoners will tell you, if you can believe it, to simply smoke more cannabis if you find yourself feeling dizzy and nauseous from an edible overdose.
These are precisely the kind of symptoms that CBD-rich strains like Charlotte’s Web are grown for. Just make sure that you smoke or vape it so that the Delta-9-THC and CBD cannabinoids soothe the panicking cannabinoid receptors in your brain into homeostasis.
A head high will help calm your mind down enough to relax into your body high from the edible and sleep it off. “I never put edibles, or any alcohol in my stomach for that matter without having a lot of pot to smoke on the side as my constant variable to keep my mind sharp and fresh no matter how good or how badly the body medicine may make me feel” says Harrison Tesoura Schultz, Co-Founder of Occupy Weed Street, a recreational cannabis legalization coalition in New York City. “I’ve watched people who smoke as much as I do every day hold off on smoking pot while eating edibles in order to feel more of the edible’s effects…only to throw up from the body high, but you can never smoke too much pot.”
How to Determine Dosage
Properly determining your dosage is the most effective way to prevent an edible overdose. Eating edibles of unknown potency has been called psychoactive Russian roulette. Eating a homemade edible made by someone with a high tolerance for THC is a typical cause of edible overdose. Make sure you have some sense of how strong the dose is before you take it. You also need to know what kind of strain is in your edible in order to know the percentage of THC you’re about to ingest.
Lisa’s Incredible Edible’s uses these general rules of 11-Hydroxy-THC thumb.
“2 mg: threshold of psychoactivity for infrequent users. Very little to no impairment.
2.5 mg: most report psychoactivity equal to a glass of wine or a beer. Doses in this range are popular for social anxiety, encouraging the munchies, and focus.
5 mg: nearly all occasional users will note significant psychoactivity. Significant appetite stimulation. Mild psychoactivity, akin to two to three glasses of wine.
10 mg: Strong psychoactivity for most occasional users. Significant distraction from pain. This dose is often recommended by physicians to stem nausea from chemotherapy.
15 mg: Most occasional users report uncomfortable levels of psychoactivity at this dose. Regular users of cannabis do not.
1000 mg: the most potent edible available in California dispensaries.”
In general, you should not consume more than a quarter of your whole dose per hour until you feel it kick in. This means that you have to exercise self-control and not scarf down the entire, seemingly innocent mouthwatering THC treat because ‘you can always take more, but you can never go back and take less.’
Remember that everyone has their own unique individual genetics and that onset times of the edible will always vary. The onset will always happen faster if you eat an edible on an empty stomach, so envision the sticker on your prescription bottle of antibiotics: TAKE WITH FOOD!