Smoking Cannabis vs. Cannabis Edibles: What are the Differences?

The use of edibles has moved on drastically from the times of the homemade brownies we see in films, made illicitly in the kitchen at home, to a massive and thriving industry in many countries around the world. Pretty much any food can be turned into a cannabis edible nowadays, such as candies, cakes, cookies, potato chips and even full meals. These options are popular due to the fact that they mask the smell and taste associated with smoking cannabis – not to mention how easy it is to buy edibles online in Canada from high quality sources.

However, it’s important to know the inherent differences between smoking and ingesting cannabis, even if you are someone who smokes marijuana regularly. Although both have similar effects from the THC in them, there are several key differences between the two methods.

What makes an edible feel different?

Where marijuana that is smoked or vaped will enter your lungs and become absorbed into your bloodstream, edibles are processed differently, in the stomach and liver. This means that it takes longer for edibles’ THC content to reach the bloodstream, and that the effects will last longer. 

In fact, the time it takes for edible cannabis to not only be digested but also to be metabolized means that it can take several hours for the high you experience to peak, and then last around 3 hours after that too. Smoking cannabis, however, usually peaks in around ten minutes and can last a little over an hour.

Interestingly, although edibles may feel stronger, they actually have been proven to only deliver around 10 to 20% of THC to the bloodstream, compared to inhaled cannabis which delivers somewhere around 50 to 60%.

The health effects of smoking compared to ingesting cannabis

Inhaling cannabis, either through vapours or smoke, means that the THC goes to your lungs, then your bloodstream and then your brain. It works similarly to cigarette smoke and can have negative health effects on your lungs and reduce breathing, cause a cough and increase the likelihood of lung infections.

It can be argued that ingesting edibles is a good alternative to smoking as it avoids the risks associated with smoking as the THC travels to your stomach, then liver, then your bloodstream and brain. However, since the effects of edibles take longer to be felt, it is common for people to accidentally ingest too high of a dosage. The dosage in edibles can be difficult to measure at times, which can lead to a cannabis overdose. This can be identified by a sudden spike in anxiety, the onset of panic attacks, paranoia, shaking, sudden high blood pressure and hallucinations.

If you are new to edibles, experts say you should start slow, and remember that the effects can vary depending on a lot of factors. Your tolerance, your experience with edibles, your metabolism and your body weight can all influence how you feel the effects of an edible, so approach with caution. As always, make sure you do your research and only use cannabis if it is legal in your location in the way that you intend to use it, and only buy from a trusted provider.



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Editor-In-Chief at Toronto Guardian. Photographer and Writer for Toronto Guardian and Joel Levy Photography