Updated on October 21, 2020.
Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
Florida recently authorized the sale of edibles for medical marijuana patients. Edibles are in high demand for patients to use for a variety of reasons. They do not require inhalation to dose. Edibles are a simple and straightforward way to consume medical cannabis.
THC-infused edibles are affordable and easy to store. Edibles require no additional accessories, and (depending on the brand you choose), they taste good too. No wonder they are so popular among patients who are looking for an easier way to moderate symptoms. Edibles can be used to help with nausea, chronic pain, inflammation, and anxiety.
Are you thinking about trying THC infused or CBD edibles? Here are five questions that many patients ask before visiting a dispensary.
1. Do Edibles Smell Like Marijuana?
One of the reasons why so many patients prefer edible cannabis is because it is discreet. But if you have never bought edibles before at your local dispensary, you may be worried. What happens if you open the package of edibles, and it smells like marijuana?
If you have purchased candies like lozenges, lollypops, or THC infused gummies, there should be no odor. So, you can breathe a sigh of relief. Another reason that edible cannabis is so popular is that you don’t have to mask the smell.
In higher-quality edibles, you won’t even be able to taste the cannabis. But you will start to feel the effects after eating an edible within 15-30 minutes. Lower quality edibles may have a strong marijuana taste when you consume them. Some patients say that they can “smell it on their breath” after consuming economical brands of edibles. You may want to have some breath mints or gum ready to go if you try a new brand of THC-infused edibles.
2. How Long Do Medical Edibles Take Before You Feel Psychoactive Effects?
The first time you try edibles, you may feel like they are not working. When you are used to vaporizing medical cannabis, what you inhale enters into your bloodstream very quickly. Within 1-2 minutes, you will begin to feel the effects of a pipe, pre-roll, or vape.
But edibles are different in terms of how the effect feels and how long it takes for you to experience the digestible THC’s impact. The average onset is about 45 minutes before you begin to feel the results you are looking for.
Edible cannabis must be ingested and metabolized by the body. Many people think that consuming a THC infused edible on an empty stomach will increase the overall intensity of the effects. Experts suggest that you should consume a fatty snack about 5-10 minutes before you take an edible. It increases the bioavailability of your dose, which means you can experience better results. A piece of cheese is a quick and easy snack that can help improve THC absorption from edibles.
While your body is metabolizing the edible cannabis, it acts as a slow-release mechanism. Unlike smokable marijuana, edibles have a slower onset, but the effects last for a more extended period. That makes edibles popular for people taking medical cannabis for pain relief or reducing nausea or anxiety symptoms.
3. What are the Different Potencies of Edibles and How Will They Make You Feel?
Cannabis-infused edibles are available in THC potencies of 1 mg to a maximum of 100 mg. In many states, the maximum strength of edible medical cannabis is 30% THC. In states where recreational or adult-use cannabis is legalized, edibles can be found in potencies up to 45%. When you visit the medical dispensary, you will see the edibles organized by product category, brand, and then potency. Pay close attention to the potency on the label of the product.
Many first-time patients aren’t sure about their tolerance level. This is why medical cannabis dispensaries will suggest “starting low and going slow” to find the ideal potency and frequency for edible cannabis.
Use this guide to determine the right potency of cannabis-infused edibles for your wellness needs.
Medical cannabis edibles have different effects depending on a number of factors. Your tolerance level is one consideration. If you are new to using medical cannabis, you may have a low tolerance. In that situation, a lower potency is the best place to start.
4. Can You Eat Too Many Medical Cannabis Edibles?
The overdose potential of THC-infused edibles is higher for patients who are new to using them. When inexperienced patients consume a higher potency than they may need, the result is unpleasant. Worldwide, there are no reported incidents of fatal overdose from cannabis use alone. However, patients can feel nausea, experience vomiting, and paranoia symptoms if they consume too much.
Patients may not be familiar with the effects of edibles and the slow absorption rate or uptake. You may take one edible and not feel any of the effects, and then take another 1-2 edibles. When the THC edibles’ effect occurs, it may be more intense or stronger than you anticipated.
Other patients with a high tolerance may need to try a higher potency of THC infused edibles. Tolerance depends on physiological factors like height and body weight. Patients who have been prescribed opioids or NSAIDs for long-term durations may also have a higher tolerance level.
Talk to your medical marijuana dispensary for advice on potency levels. The general guideline is to start with a light potency edible cannabis. That way, you can observe the results. If you need a stronger potency, you can ‘level up’ on your next visit to the dispensary. Or try eating a fatty snack about 10 minutes before you consume your edible to help increase absorption.
5. Can You Get CBD Edibles Without THC?
Every CBD product has trace amounts of THC or Tetrahydrocannabinol. Many people use CBD edibles as a daily supplement. That type of edible does not have a psychoactive effect as marijuana does. And it is considered safe for daytime use because it has a maximum of 0.30% CBD. That is the required federal limit on CBD products.
What are the benefits of taking an edible CBD supplement daily? Patients who have inflammatory conditions can experience some wellness benefits. Some clinical studies suggest a long-term benefit for diabetes patients, as cannabinoids can help reduce neuropathy or nerve damage.
Other clinical studies suggested cannabinoids can help manage hyperglycemia (high blood sugar), lower cholesterol, and increase insulin production for people with diabetes. One of the findings of many clinical studies is that CBD can help transform white fat deposits into brown fat cells. Brown fat cells (adipose tissue) are more readily burned for energy by the body (reducing weight). Brown adipose tissue can also boost the body’s ability to use glucose efficiently, reducing hyperglycemia.
Patients who are currently receiving cancer treatment may be encouraged by their primary care provider to take CBD daily. Many new encouraging studies suggest cannabinoids can reduce the progression or spread of cancer for people with cancer. Oral CBD can also help reduce symptoms of nausea and appetite loss for cancer patients.
It is against the law for any dispensary to provide ‘free samples’ of an edible. When you are visiting your dispensary, and trying edibles for the first time, buy a small quantity. That will allow you to test how the particular potency affects you. Edible medical cannabis products can melt (particularly gummies). Store them in a safe, dry place at cool room temperature in an airtight container.