Key takeaways.

  • What do edibles feel like?

    Edibles take around 1 hour to kick in and can last for around 5-6 hours. You can still feel the effects of an edible up to 12 hours later.

  • What does smoking feel like?

    Smoking takes effect instantly and lasts for about 3 hours. The effects can be felt after a joint for up to 5 hours.

  • Why do they feel so different?

    It’s likely because of the way they are metabolised. While cannabinoids that enter the lungs enter the blood stream before they have a chance to be metabolised by the liver, edibles have to first pass through metabolic organs before finding their way into the bloodstream.

Experiencing cannabis in the 21st century is exciting. There’s a smorgasbord of different kinds of products to try, each with their own purposes and effects. Lots of people choose to ditch smoking because, well, inhaling combusted plant material into your lungs isn’t all that healthy. Eating cannabis a healthier way to consume, and as you’re going to discover, can have a different set of effects and medical uses. 

Understanding the difference between smoking and edibles is easier when we break down the different ways that these two ingestion methods are processed by the body. Inhaled cannabis essentially sends cannabinoids directly to the brain and bloodstream, whereas edibles first have to pass through the digestive tract, first and second pass metabolism before they enter the bloodstream. 

Naturally, the different metabolic processes change the way that the user perceives the effect of cannabis. Let’s have a look at the edibles experience at a glance.

Edibles vs smoking at a glance.

It’s already pretty clear that edibles take longer to take effect, last much longer, and can have a stronger “stone over” effect. 

Avg. time of onsetRecommended waiting timePeak highCome down
Edibles30 mins – 1 hr2 hours2-5 hours7-12 hours
SmokingImmediately-10 minutes10 minutes1-3 hours2-5 hours

It’s also worth mentioning that inhaling cannabis has a greater bioavailability than edibles. That means less cannabis is actually absorbed into target tissues when you eat it. 

But that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

For certain medical consumers, it might be more pertinent to get cannabinoids to the right places (like the intestines, for example), rather than just loading up on more cannabinoids. In which case, the method of ingesting cannabis is just as important as the cannabis itself. Let’s check out how edible weed is digested compared to smoking.

Absorption of edible cannabinoids vs smoked cannabinoids

An illustration of the human digestive tract, decorated with flowers.

When we talk about the absorption, digestion, and elimination of a drug or substance, we’re talking about that substance’s pharmacokinetics. The pharmacology and pharmacokinetics of cannabis is extremely interesting for one very important reason: cannabinoids are lipophilic.

When it comes to liver metabolism of drugs, the primary objective of the liver is to break down substances and make them more water soluble. Water soluble things can easily be excreted in sweat or urine, but fat-soluble things will often find a “home” in fatty tissues. 

Side note: That storage of cannabinoids in fatty tissues is exactly why cannabis lingers so long in the human body. Alcohol, heroin, and cocaine are all excreted faster by the human body than cannabinoids.

When you consume a THC edible or CBD edible, it first travels through your digestive tract and into your stomach. In your stomach, some digestive acids like HCl start the breakdown process of the edible. It then travels to the small intestine where the rest of digestion takes place and the absorption process begins.

Another side note: Edibles are almost always made with fatty substances like butter or coconut oil. This is because the liver/gallbladder release bile salts which help fatty substances pass through the epithelial layer of the intestine and into the liver for metabolism. In the process of absorbing/digesting fatty substances, the cannabinoids can be facilitated across the basolateral layer.

Yes, this is a bit of human biology 101.

After absorption in the intestine, cannabinoids make their way to the liver where they undergo first and second pass metabolism. It’s during this process that the liver breaks down cannabinoids like CBD and THC into their metabolites. For example, THC is broken down into THC-COOH.

From here, cannabinoids and their metabolites can start moving through your blood into their target tissues. The brain is a major target tissue of cannabinoids, and cannabinoids can pass through the blood-brain-barrier. This is what gives you the sensation of being “stoned”. 

How is smoking different?

With smoking, the lungs are the first site of contact and that is where most absorption takes place (rather than through the intestines). Given that the lungs oxygenate the blood, it’s clearer why inhalation takes effect faster. As the lungs receive cannabinoids and go on to oxygenate blood, cannabinoids are delivered directly to blood and pass through the blood-brain-barrier. 

The benefits of eating cannabis

Aside from the fact that eating cannabis means you don’t do any damage to your lungs, there are other health advantages of using edible cannabis.

For those who suffer from digestive problems like IBS or Crohn’s disease, it’s better to send cannabinoids directly to the digestive tract – which can only occur through eating cannabis. The same goes for conditions that affect the liver or stomach.

The longer-lasting edible high also means that doses can be taken less frequently. Whereas a cannabis smoker who needs constant relief might have to smoke several times in one day, an edible may solve the problem for the better part of the day!

What does it feel like to use edibles?

A piece of cannabutter and a cannabis leaf on a plate.
@butter_lifestyle

Any seasoned edible user will tell you that the edible high is considerably different from the smoke high. It’s the same cannabinoids, but something about this ingestion method makes it somehow… different.

For starters, the edibles high lasts much, much longer. Now knowing how cannabis edibles are absorbed and processed by the body, it makes sense that it just takes the body a whole lot longer to move through it all.

Aside from lasting much longer, the edibles high is also typically more psychoactive than the smoking high. There’s no real logical explanation for this. It’s just stronger in general, making it more obvious to the body and mind. 

If you eat a cannabis edible at night, it’s often felt well into the morning. For those who need cannabis for a good night’s sleep, this is fantastic – it means that cannabis keeps working on you all throughout the night. For those who use cannabis for pain relief, it might be better to use a tincture at night time to minimise stone over.

The difference between cannabis edibles and tinctures.

At My Supply Co., we consider cannabis tinctures to be cannabis edible, too. That’s because they go in your mouth. However, the absorption of cannabis tinctures is a little bit different.

Cannabis tinctures are absorbed sublingually. That is, they go under the tongue and are absorbed through the mucous membranes of the tongue into the blood vessels directly under the tongue. In this way, cannabis tinctures don’t necessarily have to make their way through your digestive tract. They can be absorbed faster and their effects are also faster than traditional cannabis edibles.

The finest cannabis edibles from the My Supply Co. pantry.

A collage art of an angel holding up a piece of weed to the heavens.
@cannagazine

You should be well and truly convinced that for regular cannabis use, edibles are a fine option. But they’re also a fine option for every-now-and-then-cannabis-use if you like cannabis edibles at social events. Here are our finest edible products!

180mg THC Vegan Sour Bears

The THC Vegan Sour Bears fby Faded Cannabis Co. are delicious vegan treats that each contain 30mg THC. It’s a strong dose for those who like a strong high or those who have more potent medical issues to work with. Great to use to reduce stress and anxiety or do deal with pain.

120mg 1:5 CBD:THC Sativa Wigglers

Lovers of both THC and CBD, these 1:5 Sativa Wigglers are for you. Mota keeps things balanced with these gummies, with 2mg CBD and 10mg THC in each delicious candy. These are perfect for daytime use as they’re made with sativa cannabis. For anything that calls for a cannabis remedy, this is the perfect daytime symptom management.

80mg THC Indica Cara-Melts

Ahh, for the delicious and indulgent way to get THC into you. These THC Indica Cara-Melts are THC edibles and can be dropped into your tea to melt in or can be enjoyed as it is for its pure deliciousness. With 10mg per candy, this is a nice light dose for those who need an extra night-cap before bed or for those who like chilling out on the weekend and doing creative, relaxing things. 

Have you tried edible cannabis products before? What were the effects like for you? Share your experiences with us in the comments!

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