Cannabis newcomers may not know the high from consuming edibles, and the high from smoking vary significantly. Consumption method plays a large part in the cannabis experience — and edibles, like gummies and pot cookies, will give you an entirely different high than smoking.
How Smoking Works
While edibles are increasing in popularity — especially among new consumers — smoking continues to be the most popular consumption method among cannabis enthusiasts.
When you inhale cannabis smoke into your lungs, the effect of the active compounds, including THC, are quickly absorbed into your system, making their way into the brain (1). Meaning you feel the effects of smoking very quickly.
How Edibles Work
When you eat an edible, it first passes through the digestive tract and liver before being absorbed into the bloodstream. The liver metabolizes the active cannabis compounds and converts THC into 11-hydroxy-THC, which is more potent and lasts longer than THC. This is why it is suggested that people take just a bite or two of an edible first and wait a bit before having any more because it can take longer for the THC to hit your brain, and, once it does, the high can last longer, too.
With edibles, you will feel just as ‘high’, though the high can last longer than smoking, and it can also be more intense — so keep this in mind when you’re trying out an edible for the first time!
Duration of the High
Edibles can take anywhere between 30 to 60 minutes to start kicking in (2). The effects typically last hours. When it comes to smoking, the high begins within minutes (3). The high also typically last a couple of hours depending on the quality, dosage, and potency of the cannabis.
Quantity of Consumption
An important consideration is the quantity that you’re consuming. Edibles can be a lot more convenient (and tasty) to consume, so it is a lot easier to overconsume. This is why it’s important to exercise extra caution when eating an edible versus when smoking. Not only is the high delayed when eating an edible, but it is easier to overconsume because of delayed effects.
Cannabinoids in the Bloodstream
While edibles may be more potent, they deliver smaller concentrations of cannabinoids to the bloodstream. They introduce only 10 to 20 percent of THC and other cannabinoids to the bloodstream, while inhaled cannabis delivers about 50 to 60 percent of THC and other cannabinoids to the bloodstream (4). This is why the effects of smoke can be felt earlier than ingestion.
Body High versus Head High
Another thing to consider is that the type of high you get from edibles and smoking may differ. Many consumers say they feel a more intense body high with edibles. Alternatively, when you smoke, you may get a head high. But, this also depends on the strain you smoke: sativa will give you more of a head high, while indica will give you more of a body high, similar to edibles.
Finding the consumption method for you
There is no right way to consume cannabis. Everyone has different consumption methods. It’s just a matter of finding what is right for you. If you opt for edibles, there are so many different products to pick from—you can also make edibles at home, giving you more control over your dosage and ingredients. But keep in mind: if you’re making edibles for the first time, there is a possibility of overestimating the dose. This rule goes for purchased edibles, too. If you buy edibles, keep in mind that the market is unregulated, so the potency might not quite match the label. Batches can vary between potency—and sometimes it’s completely beyond the control of the distributor. On the other hand, some consumers may opt for edibles as they feel smoking is harsher on the system.
When in doubt: start small, wait it out, and increase the dosage if needed.
The best consumption method is the one that works for you. If you want a more intense, longer high, and you want to avoid smoking, edibles might be the right for you. If you want a fast-acting consumption method, you may want to opt for smoking. Of course, you will also want to consider the strains and properties of the cannabis plant you choose to smoke.
There’s so much room for experimentation, do your research, and have fun experimenting!
Which consumption method do you prefer? Let us know in the comments.