Ingestible cannabis products are ever-evolving, but generally speaking, this method of consuming cannabis affects your body differently from other methods. Before you try the latest beverage or soft chew, learn about how cannabinoids are absorbed into your bloodstream, the timing of effects and ways to minimize your risks.
When you ingest cannabis, the cannabinoids travel into your digestive system, where they are metabolized by your liver before being absorbed into your bloodstream. Edible cannabis products come in many forms, with new ones entering the legal market all the time, including hard candies (which may also be considered a form of oral absorption if the candies are dissolved in the mouth, rather than chewed), soft chews, chocolates, baked goods, beverages and sauces. Cannabis sprays, oils or infusions may also be ingested directly or added to food.
Ingesting cannabis may affect you differently than smoking or vaping — so start low and go slow. Health Canada suggests beginning with an edible cannabis product containing approximately 2.5 mg of THC. Consider recording your reactions and monitoring them to fully understand how much of a cannabis edible to take to achieve the desired effect.
You may feel the full effects of ingesting cannabis within 30 minutes to two hours of consumption. Full effects generally peak around four hours after ingestion.
Some products may be designed for faster onset. Watch for terms like “fast-acting” or “quick-onset” when you’re purchasing beverages and edibles. These products are sometimes formulated by creating a nanoemulsion to produce effects sooner than traditional edibles, potentially within 10 minutes.
Keep in mind that different products will affect everyone differently — factors such as age, sex, overall health and previous cannabis experience all play a role — and these are only guidelines.
WHAT IS A NANOEMULSION?
A nanoemulsion refers to cannabinoids that are broken down into microscopic molecules that are suspended in a lipid, or fat, allowing them to travel to their desired destination in the body more quickly and in greater quantities (scientifically, this is called having “higher bioavailability”). Instead of being gradually metabolized in the liver and stomach, these tiny cannabinoids move directly into the bloodstream, producing a faster onset of effects. It’s important to note that research into the nanoemulsification of cannabinoids and the potential effects is ongoing.
Ingesting cannabis is not without risk. One of the most common errors people make when trying edibles is taking more while waiting to feel the effects of the first dose. This can result in overconsumption and an unwanted intensity of effects. Start with a small portion and wait several hours to gauge the full effects before considering an additional dose.
Because cannabis-infused edibles look a lot like candies and treats without cannabis in them, they could be appealing to children. This is of particular concern with unregulated edibles in packages that resemble popular candy brands. If you have edible cannabis at home, including edibles you made yourself, be sure they are properly labelled, kept in child-resistant containers that are resealed after use, and stored out of the sight and reach of children and pets.
Avoid combining cannabis with other substances, such as alcohol and tobacco. Doing so could lead to unwanted effects, and mixing alcohol and cannabis can compound the risk of impairment.
When the effects of cannabis take time to be felt — as in the case of cannabis that’s ingested or consumed orally — it is recommended to avoid driving for six to eight hours, as residual effects such as drowsiness may be felt for up to 24 hours after consumption.