What Exactly Happens When Weed is Eaten

Posted on November 1st 2018

Legalization has us using weed in ways the Baby Boomers couldn't even dream of, and eating it might be the breakaway success of the decade. Haphazardly baked brownies are giving way to medicated candies, savoury snacks, beverages, and micro-dosed mints making their way into the purses and pockets of those who once eschewed the act of smoking weed.

Limited understanding about the mechanics of edibles in the general public may limit potential benefits to individual consumers. Especially when bombastic headlines about edibles “overdoses” pop up in our newsfeeds daily.

Curious about what happens to THC and other cannabinoids when they enter your mouth? Let's see.

The 3 Mysteries Behind Eating Marijuana

  1. THC gains certain superpowers when eaten. Our peak blood THC level is lower after eating cannabis than after smoking or vaping, but 11-OH-THC is much higher. The hyper-potent THC molecule lights up neurons in a big way that scientists haven't wholly decoded yet. What is known is that edibles are an economical way of medicating and an excellent method if you want the effects to linger.
  2. Eating fresh cannabis won't get you high. The bud your dog found and hoovered will give him a bellyache before it ever gets him high. Raw marijuana contains the cannabinoid Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA), which must be activated with heat. The process is called decarboxylation and turns THCA into THC, rendering the cannabis "activated" or "psychoactive", and ready to use in an edible. Decarboxylation is the cannot-skip step in just about every edibles recipe.
  3. “Bad” trips can be avoided, and great experiences can be created. There's a psychological aspect behind edibles because large doses can turn psychedelic. The idea of using different circumstances to create the ideal experience is taken from experiments with other hallucinogens, like LSD and psilocybin mushrooms. Your experience from consuming edibles varies with your state of mind and mood, your surroundings, the people around you and the time of day. A positive mind and comfortable surroundings can lead to the best possible experiences.

The Mechanics of Marijuana Moving Through You

Cannabinoids go on a different journey from the moment they're swallowed. Instead of taking the larynx route via smoking, an edible heads to the stomach, where it is broken down into cannabinoids, minerals, nutrients and other parts.

Cannabinoids are absorbed by the intestinal lining, called the lumen, and are taken to the liver for metabolic processing. This step is like a security check for the THC before it gets admitted to the bloodstream. The liver turns THC into its more powerful 11-OH-THC molecular form.

It can take between 45 minutes and two hours for all of these steps to take place and for edibles to kick in but when they do, it's usually worth your patience. The most prominent mistake made by rookies, says Abi Roach of Toronto's Hot Box cafe, is to get anxious, eat more and suffer the consequences of an overblown high. She refers to the "start low, go slow" rule, which for the uninitiated means merely that you should eat minimal doses (try 5-15mg) to start and let the first dose hit before going for seconds.

Getting High on Edibles, as Described by Some "Experts"

Some people learn lessons the hard way. We urge you to learn from these marijuana martyrs.

  1. Seth Rogen feels the "start low, go slow rule" is better learned experientially. "I've done a lot of drugs," Rogen told Howard Stern. "The most negative drug experiences I've ever had in my life are from weed edibles. No amount of MDMA I've done makes me feel as fucked up as having one bite too much of a weed brownie."
  2. Snoop knows better than most about how to illustrate the longevity of the edibles high. "I don't fuck with edibles because they ain't got no off button."
  3. Alex Trebek could teach a masterclass on the theory of "set and setting." "I love brownies—I’m a chocoholic—and I didn’t realize that they were hash brownies. And…whoa. That threw me for a loop. I took down about a half-dozen. The dinner party was on a Friday, and I was not able to leave that house until Sunday afternoon. I spent the next day and a half in bed. It was not a good trip, and I have not done any of that stuff since!”

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