What You Should Know Before Taking Marijuana Edibles

March 20th 2016

In places where recreational and medical marijuana are legal, the edible business is booming — in 2014, Colorado sold almost 5 million edibles, according to Time. Marijuana edibles attract veteran stoners and 420 newbies alike. They provide a tasty, cough-free alternative to bongs and joints, and offer a novel high that can feel much different than smoking or vaping marijuana.

In today's dispensaries, there are medical marijuana treats that cater to virtually every palate, from foodie takes on brownies and cookies, to medicated chocolate covered coffee beans, sodas, gummies, gelato, and even pizza.

But don't unwrap anything too quickly. When it comes to medicated treats, it's easy to bite off more than you can chew.

Here are six things to keep in mind before you bite into — or sip — a medical marijuana edible.

1. Dosage matters

Most medical edibles list the amount of THC, the psychoactive substance in marijuana, contained in the edible on the wrapper, as well as the recommended dose. In Colorado, this is 10 milligrams. It's always better to err on the side of caution — if you aren't a seasoned stoner, you may even want to start with 5 mg.

Research also has revealed that these treats aren't always marked accurately. A recent study conducted by the Journal of the American Medical Association found that only 17 percent of edibles tested contained the amount of THC printed on the packaging, according to Medical Daily.

No matter how much weed you smoke, it's best to leave your stoner hubris at the door when you venture into the edible realm.

2. Edibles are metabolized differently than cannabis smoke or vapor

When you smoke or vaporize cannabis, you can sense how high you've gotten shortly after you imbibe. This isn't the case with edibles, which need to be digested and metabolized before you can feel their effects. Your metabolism also affects how quickly the high will kick in, Leafly noted, so don't be too quick to assume that you haven't taken enough.

"Different delivery systems are absorbed into the body at different rates," Lindsay, a representative from the edible company Dixie Elixers, whose last name was not identified in the piece, told Leafly. "Dixie Med-a-Mints, for example, are absorbed in the mouth and get into the blood much quicker than edibles you digest.”

"Something like a truffle needs to be processed by the liver before they affect the consumer," she explained. "That means slower absorption time and more of the THC will be filtered out of your system.”

3. Don't drink while you eat edibles

As ATTN: has previously reported, alcohol can heighten the effects of marijuana.

Since edible highs often sneak up on you, taking between 30 minutes and two hours to kick in, according to the Cannabist, it's a good idea to skip the booze, at least until you have a good idea of your tolerance and how edibles affect you.

4. Don't snack on an empty stomach

Edibles are stronger when you take them on an empty stomach, High Times pointed out.

“We always recommend that people treat (edibles) like they would a painkiller — like Vicodin or Percocet,” Dan Meinerz, the partnership manager at My 420 Tours, a company that directs Colorado tourists on marijuana safety, told The Cannabist. “You never wanna have it on an empty stomach, so maybe start with a little bit, and have it with some food.”

5. Take edibles in a safe space

While edibles can seem like a convenient option for getting stoned on the go, as those who have gobbled down an ill-fated brownie are well aware, an edible high can be powerful and overwhelming. If you're an edible virgin, it's wise to try out these treats in your own home before stocking up to hit a movie theater, concert, or party.

If you absolutely can't resist hitting the town, take an Uber, Lyft, or get a ride from a sober driver.

6. Don't panic. Don't Google Maureen Dowd

We've all heard horror stories about people left hysterical in airport bars or passed out in art museums after eating unmarked marijuana brownies. New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd chronicled a particularly unfortunate foray into the world of edibles after eating a medicated candy bar, but her experience is not typical of taking a reasonable dose of an edible.

The Huffington Post reported:

"THC, the psychoactive compound in marijuana, can’t kill you, even if you’ve ingested so much that you’re convinced it might. According to studies, you’d need to ingest thousands of times the amount of THC in a single joint to be at risk of death. To put that in perspective, just 10 times the recommended serving of alcohol can be fatal."

The high will likely last between six and ten hours, during which people usually fall asleep. Hang in there, drink water, and enjoy the nap. According to High Times, it may also help to take CBD capsules, which can soothe feelings of paranoia and are available at most dispensaries.

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