Smoking vs. Snacking: Potency, Dosing, and Effects of Inhaling vs. Ingesting Cannabis

Whether infused into candy, tea, bacon (yes, bacon), or the more stereotypical brownie, most people are aware that cannabis is healthier when it’s eaten – and the recipes just keep getting more ingenious. But are edibles more effective than smoking cannabis? The answer is slightly more complex.

Inhaled forms of cannabis are often thought of as unhealthier alternatives. Some people simply don’t enjoy smoking, while others are concerned about long-term respiratory symptoms, such as chronic coughing (although studies haven’t found significant abnormalities). While ingesting cannabis-infused foods can keep such lung-related health issues at bay, the way your body responds to this method is significantly different than dosing by inhalation.

The precise effects of edible cannabis vary from patient to patient but here are a few rudimentary factors to consider.

Edibles Are Stronger

Edible cannabis is widely known to produce a more powerful high, but the reasons why remain up-for-debate. One myth is that the body can absorb more THC through ingestion, while smoking cannabinoids burns many of them off.

The fact is, according to the National Institute of Health (NIH), much less THC enters the bloodstream through ingestion than commonly thought: around 6-10 percent, as opposed to 50 or 60 percent from smoking. The discrepancy in numbers mostly hinges on the metabolic process. When cannabis passes through the stomach, the liver converts about half of its THC to 11-hydroxy-THC – an extra-potent version of THC that cannot form through inhalation. Smoking, on the other hand, drives THC directly to the brain for faster, but more fleeting results.

Effects Last Longer

The secret to using edibles is patience. The effects of smoked cannabis typically begin within five to 10 minutes, while the effects from edibles might not kick in for 30 minutes to two hours. Many edibles consumers agree that the long-lasting effects are worth the wait, as they have been known to linger for up to a full day.

Edibles are thus a popular choice for medical patients, as they can provide lasting relief from physical conditions such as chronic pain. Starting small is recommended, as the outcome can vary widely between foods, their potency, and the individual.

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