So, you’re thinking of partaking in a gathering, a weed party perhaps?

Well, it’s likely you’ll come across a plethora of different ways to consume cannabis.

But the question is – which one should you choose? Eating edibles or smoking dry flower? Vaping or dropping a tincture under the tongue?

Decisions. Decisions.

To ease the process, here’s a deep dive into the major differences between eating marijuana edibles and smoking cannabis.

Note: As for the differences between vaping and smoking cannabis, you can find that here.

 

5 Important Differences Between Edibles and Smoking Cannabis

1. Eating Edibles Creates 11-OH-THC

When it comes to the differences between edibles vs smoking, it’s important to understand the route cannabinoids take when transiting your body…especially THC.

Science-y types will tell you it’s all about the body and the drug’s pharmacokinetics, but what do they mean exactly?

In a nutshell, eating edibles means that THC has a much longer journey in ending up at your central nervous system where it unlocks key neurotransmitters that are responsible for your cannabis experience.

After you’ve taken a bite and THC passes your stomach and digestive track, it continues to your small intestines, eventually being shuttled along to your liver. There, THC receives some additional enzymes before moving into your bloodstream.

These enzymes take what was formally just THC (or Delta-9-THC) and transforms into 11-Hydroxy-Metabolite (or 11-OH-THC).

As for smoking or vaping, there’s no super-cool THC transformation that takes place, instead, just a direct entry into our bloodstream. The next section dives into this a little more.

 

2. Eating Edibles Means Longer-Lasting (More Intense) Effects!

When eating marijuana edibles, it’s important to ‘go slow and start low’, thanks to the crazy transformative process we discussed above called pharmacokinetics.

When THC enters your gastrointestinal tract and is processed by your liver, it’s transformed into 11-OH-THC before moving to your brain where you then begin to feel the effects.

All of these stops, however, take time with delays in euphoria ranging from 30 minutes to two hours, sometimes even longer.

Edibles vs Smoking Differences
(Photo by jayneandd on Flickr)

Compared with smoking, cannabis compounds will go through a different metabolic process bypassing the digestive system altogether and heading directly for the bloodstream via the capillaries in your lungs. There’s no sitting and waiting around because effects are immediate.

So, when it comes to edibles vs smoking cannabis, why would anyone want to wait for relief from symptoms like anxiety or PTSD?

Simple:  The duration of the high from edibles will stay for up to six hours, which is at least double that of smoking.

There are a lot of factors to consider when deciding whether to consume edibles vs smoking. 

For instance, you should think first about what you’ve eaten that day as that could slow or speed the delivery of 11-OH-THC to the brain, as well as whether you’re on other medications, how much fluids you have in your system, and if you’ve exercised that day.

Other considerations to think of if you’re weighing the edibles vs smoking debate are tolerance level, body mass index and past experiences.

Not so straightforward, is it?

 

3. Eating Edibles Means No Two Brownies are Alike!

When we talk dosing, what we really mean is how much cannabinoids like CBD and THC can be found in any marijuana-based product.

The truth is cannabinoid content is hard to determine in a precise way. This means that edible products could vary greatly based on the strain used during processing, along with how they’re being extracted and baked into ingestible-friendly forms.

Add to this that no two people are alike, along with the amount your body converts THC into 11-Hydroxy-Metabolite, dosing from nibble to nibble becomes even more of a varied unpredictable experience.

Complicated indeed.

Important to note also, is that chowing down on edibles means no loss in cannabinoid content as would be the case when smoking and vaping.

Here’s an idea of how much cannabinoid content you’re actually consuming when you eat edibles or smoke:

  • Smoking 0.3g of dry flower SHOULD deliver 32mg of THC, but once it’s combusted, it will only deliver 13mg.
  • Eating a cannabis gummy with 10mg of THC means you receive all the 10mg of THC.

Right, so how does one avoid going overboard or dosing in the wrong amount?

 

4. Eating Edibles Means Reading Labels (and Following the Law!)

If you’re interested in not going overboard and/or dosing the right amount, first, go to a reputable dispensary and speak with the budtender.

Second, read the labels and the packaging.

Third, do research and inform yourself with guides such as this. 😉

Edibles vs Smoking Major Differences
(Photo by Alex Person on Unsplash)

As an aside, and as the business of bud gets bigger, regulatory bodies are trying to protect consumers as well as manufacturers by setting THC limits in edibles.

Here’s a summary of different THC legal limits:

  • Oregon restricts THC per serving to 5mg in a maximum package content of 50mg
  • California is a little less stringent at 10mg per 100 mg serving.
    • NOTE:  some bars of chocolate boast 1000mg per serving!
  • Canada just proposed no more than 10mg of THC per edible or drink container
  • Colorado requires no more than 10mg per single serving.
    • NOTE:  the state also requires manufacturers to stamp products with the universal THC symbol.

And just like no two individuals are alike, and no two edibles products are the same, the same goes for the regulatory bodies governing THC limits per edible serving.

Consider that Oregon has the OLCC that conducts random sampling versus Colorado, which allows its Department of Revenue to perform audits.

Regardless, the laws are not there to stymie consumption, but to protect individuals from the worst sorts of outcomes while also protecting businesses.

All for a better cannabis industry and more safe experiences in other words!

 

5. Eating Edibles Means More Medical Benefits

A lot of people may enjoy edibles for medicinal reasons as they find smoking cannabis irritating for one or more conditions (think respiratory issues). Eating marijuana as mentioned has a much longer effect and can be done with discretion in and around the home.

Additional medical benefits include:

  • Greater plant synergy (you can combine dark chocolate, honey, tea, and strawberries with THC as the former all have their own healthy dose of antioxidants)
  • Fewer side effects when taken as prescribed
  • No harmful carcinogens being released into the air (or your lungs!).

 

To Eat Edibles or Smoke? You be the Judge

While these major differences are just a quick overview charting the disparities of edibles vs smoking cannabis, there are a whole host of other products that, when fully understood of course, can improve your quality of life.

Alternatively, when not well-researched, edibles can result in unpredictable outcomes. That said, we suggest you buy and try in a safe location while following our edible’s guideline for first-timers!

That’s it for now. Best of luck and follow us for all of the latest and greatest when it comes to responsible cannabis use!

Cheers!

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I'm a writer and editor for Herb Approach News, dedicated to providing insight about everything in the new, emerging cannabis space. How exciting it is! Before focusing on cannabis, I spent several years freelancing, and before that, I spent a handful of years finishing my Masters Degree in Publishing and Creative Writing.

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