Does Cannabis Affect You Differently When You Eat It?

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You can enjoy cannabis in so many ways, from smoking and vaping to eating or drinking it. But how you take your cannabis can alter how it affects you. This shift can take people by surprise, especially when it comes to cannabis-infused foods and gel capsules.

While each method of using cannabis provides a slightly different effect, cannabis edibles can feel extremely different from methods like smoking or vaping. From increased psychoactivity to a feeling of heavy sedation, marijuana edibles can hit people hard.

But what’s the reason for these differing effects?

My Big Cannabis Edible Mistake

Edibles can be a fantastic way to enjoy cannabis. From tasty homemade foods like infused cookies and salad dressings to capsules, edibles are easy to take. And unlike smoking, cannabis edibles are very discreet as there’s no odor filling the air. This means most people will have no idea what you’re snacking on.

The high from edibles takes longer to hit (one to two hours as opposed to 10–20 minutes) but also lasts longer than smoking or vaping (four to eight hours versus two to three hours), and provides a strong level of pain relief. This can make them an excellent choice for those who need long-lasting respite throughout the day.

On the other hand, edibles can be very psychoactive and sedative. With edibles, it’s also easy to take a higher dose than you need. Unlike opiates or alcohol, no one has ever died from taking too much cannabis. But taking too much cannabis can lead to some uncomfortable and overwhelming effects.

I remember my first bad edible experience like it was yesterday. I was headed into a movie theatre with some friends when my boyfriend handed me a cannabis-infused chocolate. This was early on in my cannabis journey, and I didn’t know much about edibles.

Someone asked him a question, and he turned away to answer. By the time he turned back, I had popped the small chocolate into my mouth and eaten it. Big mistake.

My boyfriend cringed and asked, “Did you just eat the whole thing? Ah … I should have warned you. That was a 25-dose chocolate. It has 250 mg of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol).”

I laughed nervously, and we went into the theatre. By the time the movie was halfway over, I was in a full psychedelic trip, and it was no fun at all. The room was spinning, and I could barely speak or walk.

My head was full of a thousand strange thoughts and perceptions. My friends helped me home, where I lay on the couch trying to sleep it off. It took three days before the high finally wore off.

The Science Behind Marijuana Edibles

So, what happens when people eat cannabis edibles that makes it so different? There are a few factors involved that can make this experience a completely different beast:

  • It’s easy to take too high a dose: As I found out, one difference is that it’s much, much easier to take too much THC when you’re consuming edibles. I took 25 times the recommended dose without even knowing it, and I’m far from the only person with this story. Homemade edibles, for example, are notorious for leaving people feeling too high. Without accurate dosing, it can be easy to accidentally have too much. If it’s an especially tasty edible, it can be tempting to eat even more.
  • Cannabis edibles take a while to start working: Another issue is that edibles take a longer time to kick in. Often, people will start with a small edible and won’t feel anything for a while. So, they take some more. Then shortly after they take their second dose, the first one kicks in, and they find themselves already quite high. At this point, they realize the second dose is going to hit them way too hard, but they’ve already eaten it, and there’s no going back.
  • Your body converts THC into delta-11 THC: While the factors already mentioned play a big role in the differences between edibles and inhaled cannabis, the biggest factor happens at the chemical level. With inhaled cannabis, delta-9 THC (which we all just call THC) is the most common cannabinoid influencing a person’s high. THC is known for its psychoactivity, pain-relieving properties and many medical uses. But when you eat delta-9 THC, and it’s processed through the liver, it converts into delta-11 THC.

Delta-11 THC is similar to delta-9 THC in that both provide psychoactive effects and pain relief. But research subjects report that the high from delta-11 THC is more powerful than that of delta-9, both in terms of psychoactivity and pain relief.

Part of this increased potency has to do with how it’s absorbed by the bloodstream. Delta-9 THC isn’t particularly water-soluble and so needs fats to be able to be absorbed fully. Delta-11, on the other hand, is much more soluble in water.

Once it’s been metabolized by the liver, delta-11 THC can easily pass the blood-brain barrier and spread quickly through your entire system. This quick- acting effect may cause a big impact as the delta-11 THC hits your system all at once. In large amounts, this can result in a disorienting feeling.

Top Tips for Eating Cannabis Edibles

While the unique features of edibles can make them tricky to use, they also offer huge potential. Edibles are powerfully potent and are considered an extremely efficient way to medicate. They’re also long lasting, discreet and easy to take. Plus, you don’t have to worry about smoke or vapor creating odor or causing irritation in your respiratory system.

Still, there are some guidelines to follow if you want to keep your marijuana edible experiences positive:

  • Start your dose low and increase slowly: It’s important to always start at a low dose. A standard dose is considered to be 10 mg, but when starting out, your tolerance will likely be low. Start low with a 2.5–5 mg dose and see how it goes. If you feel like you need more, slowly increase in 2.5 mg intervals each time you try the edible. If you don’t know the dose—because your dosage calculations for your recipe were more art than science, proceed with even more caution, trying just a tiny portion of the edible at first.


  • Always wait two hours before consuming more: It’s tempting to eat more edibles if your first dose doesn’t seem to be affecting you. But this is the worst edible mistake you can make. Never take more edibles until you are at least two hours from your last dose.
  • Find edibles that work best for you: Edibles aren’t all the same, and as with smoked cannabis, marijuana strain and chemical composition matters. Some edibles may be better than others for your particular biochemistry, so try out some options and find ones that work well with your system.

This may mean:

  • Choosing a cannabis strain that gives you the effects you want when consumed in an edible
  • Finding a good ratio of cannabidiol (CBD) to THC
  • Sticking with a consistent edible product you can use reliably

Once you find what works, avoid random edibles. If you try a new edible, start back at a lower dose, in case the blend isn’t right for you.

I’ve followed these rules ever since my bad edible experience, and I’ve never had a problem since. Instead, I’ve found edibles to be incredibly medically effective for my chronic pain. Marijuana edibles do affect people differently, and this can lead to big problems or incredible results. It’s all in how you work with them.

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