It’s legal to produce, sell and purchase edible cannabis products in Ontario, but what exactly are edibles? Here’s a rundown of what they are and how they work in the body, and the ways they differ from other forms of cannabis. We’ll also look at the pros and cons of consuming edibles and what to consider when shopping for these products.
What are edibles?
Edible cannabis products are foods, such as gummies, brownies, cookies and chocolates, that have been infused with cannabis extracts and concentrates, all of which contain active ingredients such as the cannabinoids tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). Infused beverages, such as sodas and teas, are not categorized as edibles on OCS.ca, but they’re also considered edibles and are consumed and processed in the body in the same way as infused foods.
How do edibles work?
Edibles are consumed through ingestion. When you eat a gummy or sip an infused beverage, cannabinoids such as THC and CBD, and other active ingredients travel into your digestive system. They are then metabolized by your liver and absorbed into your bloodstream, entering your brain and the rest of your central nervous system, potentially producing effects.
For a more scientific understanding of how edibles produce effects, see how cannabinoids interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system.
What are the effects of edibles?
The effects of edibles can vary greatly depending on the individual, the dosage, the potency of the product and other factors. Effects are most often temporary, but some can be uncomfortable, overwhelming or even dangerous, depending on the situation. Some of the many short-term effects of edibles include:
- Intoxication: Edibles may produce more intense effects than smoking or vaping cannabis. Cannabinoids such as THC are processed by the digestive system and liver, so effects are usually slower to appear, leading you to potentially consume more than you initially planned.
- Changes in perception: The THC in cannabis products such as edibles can distort how you perceive time and space, heighten your senses and affect your ability to pay attention.
- Increased appetite: Edibles can cause you to feel hungry (often referred to as “the munchies”).
- Impaired cognitive function: Consuming cannabis can cause concentration and short-term memory issues and affect your decision-making abilities and reaction time.
- Anxiety and paranoia: Some people, most commonly those who are new to cannabis, may experience feelings of anxiety or panic after consuming edibles. High doses of THC can induce paranoia and delusions.
- Euphoria and relaxation: Some individuals may experience feelings of joy and calm.
- Sleepiness: Depending on individual factors, as well as the potency, THC and CBD can cause fatigue and sleepiness.
Understand how cannabis affects your ability to drive.
Edibles vs. smoking: How are edibles different from other types of cannabis?
The main difference between ingesting cannabis edibles and smoking or vaping other forms of cannabis is how quickly the body processes the active ingredients in each format.
When cannabis is inhaled, the cannabinoids are absorbed into the bloodstream through the lungs, which then move them quickly to the brain. Inhalation produces almost immediate effects, which are usually felt within minutes. Effects generally peak after about 30 minutes and can last up to six hours.
On the other hand, when cannabis is ingested, the effects will likely be delayed but will also last longer.
How long does it take to feel an effect from edibles?
The effects of ingesting edibles can be felt anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours, with full effects peaking around four hours. The intensity and longevity of the effects depend on many factors, such as your weight and sex, how much food you’ve eaten that day, your overall health and previous cannabis experience.
When you consume an edible, it travels to your stomach and is metabolized by your liver, which converts THC into a more potent form that can produce stronger and longer-lasting effects. It’s important to start with a low dose and wait at least two hours to gauge the full effects before consuming more.
While most edibles have a longer onset, some are designed to be faster. Watch for terms like “fast-acting” or “quick-onset” on the label. These products are formulated by creating a nanoemulsion that allows your body to absorb the active ingredients more quickly and produce effects at a more rapid rate, potentially within 10 minutes.
How long do the effects of edibles last?
Once effects have peaked, they can last six to eight hours. Some people may experience residual effects, such as drowsiness, for up to 24 hours after consuming the edible.
What are the pros and cons of consuming edibles?
Informed consent is extremely important when consuming any substance, not just cannabis. Understanding the full effects of edibles and the risks of consuming them will help you make the right decision for you.
- Edibles offer a smoke-free alternative to inhaling dried cannabis.
- They come in a variety of discreet, portable formats, with multiple flavours to choose from.
- Legal edibles are highly regulated. Licensed Producers must have all their products tested for banned pesticides and harmful substances, as required under the Cannabis Regulations. Edibles that are available through the unregulated market do not adhere to the same guidelines.
- Because the onset of effects can be delayed, there is the potential for overconsumption when ingesting edibles. To minimize the risk of consuming too much, start with a very small amount (2.5 mg of THC or less), especially if you are new to cannabis or trying a new product, and wait at least two hours to see how it affects your body.
- The effects may be stronger and last longer when cannabis is consumed (eight hours or more) rather than inhaled (six hours).
- There is a risk of accidental ingestion by children or pets if edibles are not stored properly.
Yes, it is legal to cook with cannabis to make your own infused edibles.
Types of cannabis edibles
Cannabis edibles are available in a variety of potencies and forms. Potency refers to the amount of THC, CBD and other active ingredients in each package. The current limit of THC potency per package is 10 mg, but other cannabinoids, such as CBD, CBG and CBN, do not have a limit. You will also see different ratios, like 1:1 THC to CBD, and more.
Cannabis edibles and infused beverages come in many different forms, ranging from sweet to sour to savoury. Some of the options include:
- Soft chews, also called gummies
- Hard candies
- Cookies, biscuits and other baked goods
- Iced teas and lemonades
- Sodas and other carbonated beverages
- Beverage mixes and powders
Some edibles might have one serving per package, others multiple. Make sure you read the entire package label to find the best product for you.
What to consider when shopping for edibles
Before you purchase an edible product, it’s important to know your experience level with cannabis. New consumers should choose a low level of THC, or a ratio of cannabinoids that includes higher amounts of CBD. It’s important to read the label so you know the potency.
Knowing the type of infusion process will also play factor. Keep an eye out for edibles that use techniques such as nanoemulsification to produce a faster onset of effects than other edibles.
Finally, setting is just as important as the edible itself. Make sure the environment you plan to enjoy it in is comfortable and safe for you.