Marijuana edibles make up a sizable chunk of Colorado pot shop business, anywhere from 20-40 percent of overall sales, according to industry estimates — and for good reason, say industry leaders.
“They’re discreet, and it’s an easy way to dose the medication,” said Bob Eschino, a partner at Colorado-based Medically Correct, which makes the popular Incredibles infused chocolate bars. “Especially here in Colorado, where you can’t smoke in public, you can still medicate with edibles.”
With the arrival of marijuana legalization in the U.S. comes medicated cookies, gummies, brownies, caramels, hard candies, chocolates, Rice Krispies treats and more — available for purchase in states that allow infused foods within their pot laws.
As any seasoned marijuana user can attest, edibles provide a mysterious high — one that is infinitely different than the buzz obtained from smoking or vaping. When you combine that with the varying ways edibles affect different people, it can be an unpredictable experience on your first foray.
“It doesn’t matter who you are or what size you are,” said Dan Meinerz, partnership manager with tourism company My 420 Tours. “Edibles are going to affect everybody differently.”
So how can consumers find the right dose of edibles, and understand how long it will take for edibles to kick in? Here are a few steps consumers can take as they attempt to dose properly:
1. Are you experienced: “We always ask people if they have they tried cannabis before,” said Ean Seeb of central Denver dispensary Denver Relief. “Have they eaten or smoked before? If not, we’ll start them out slower.” It’s worth noting that tolerance doesn’t often translate from smoking pot to eating it. Read on and you’ll see that a high smoking tolerance doesn’t equal a high tolerance for edibles.
2. Listen to your body: “Know that body mass, age, metabolism, gender and body chemistry at that point in time all vary in the effectiveness of the medicine,” said Jayson Emo, better known in the Colorado weed community as Giddy Up and a production head at Gaia’s Garden, a 5-year-old infused foods company. Ask your budtender a couple questions about your body type, gender and age; THC’s fickle relationship with fatty cells, regardless of how much pot you smoke, might throw you for an unexpected loop.
3. Never on an empty stomach: “We always recommend that people treat (edibles) like they would a painkiller — like Vicodin or Percocet,” said My 420 Tours’ Meinerz, who regularly advises tourists on the dos and don’ts of Colorado cannabis. “You never wanna have it on an empty stomach, so maybe start with a little bit, and have it with some food.” Just envision the sticker on your prescription bottle of antibiotics: TAKE WITH FOOD.
4. Measuring by milligrams: “We consider 10 milligrams to be a unit or dose of THC,” said Christie Lunsford, director of operations at 3D Cannabis Center. When you’re dosing out an edible, drink or tincture, you’ll calculate the amount of activated THC in each piece or square. If the 100-milligram chocolate bar splits into 10 pieces, each one is roughly 10 milligrams apiece. Dose accordingly — but only after reading No. 7 on this list.
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5. Different brands, different consistency: “Some people have a different reaction or experience with infused chocolates or infused gummies, and one will often work better than the other for somebody,” said Giddy Up. “It ties into the comparison with the (marijuana) flower. If people find a strain they like, they go with that strain — or they might find a dispensary they prefer because of the growers there. It’s the same with edibles: If somebody finds an edible they really enjoy, and it’s a 10-milligram gummy and it’s consistent with the dosage and they know how their body will react and how they’ll react psychologically, it becomes their go-to brand.” So experiment with different brands. Again, ask your budtender and friends. Do your research.
6. The waiting game: How long does it take for edibles to kick in? “For casual users, people who don’t have high tolerances, 10-20 milligrams should be more than enough,” said Incredibles’ Eschino. “10 milligrams is the recommended serving size from the (Marijuana Enforcement Division). It’s a good place to start, especially with edibles, because you don’t wanna take too much. So start slow, and wait 45 minutes after you take it to see how you feel. You can always take more — but you can’t go back and take less.” And some foods take longer than 45 minutes to kick in. Colorado edible brand Dixie Elixirs includes an Activation Time on each of its products — a smart graphic on the packaging that tells consumers how long they should wait before taking more. “Marijuana infused products can take 30 minutes to 2 hours to take effect,” says Dixie’s clever Marijuana 101 promotional pamphlet. “So take your time, because overindulging is not fun.”
7. Expect a different high: “I only eat edibles when I know I’m Ubering,” said Giddy Up, referencing the high-end taxi alternative. Giddy Up calls himself “an intense, heavy smoker who smokes on average a gram and a half to two grams of concentrate per day.” That’s a gargantuan amount of concentrate, and yet “a heavy smoker like myself is still an edible weakling,” he continued. “A lot of the reason why the ride is so intense in edibles is because of the minimal amount of membranes it passes through in the stomach. It doesn’t absorb the same way as smoking through the lungs.” So if you think your pot-smoking tolerance has prepped you for higher-milligram usage in edibles, think again.
8. What happens if I get too high? An edibles high will last longer than almost every other high, and that stands true for bad experiences, too. HuffPo pot writer Matt Ferner offers these three important tips to folks who have overindulged: “1. You’re not actually dying. Just try to breathe normally. 2. This might last a while, but you will make it through. 3. You will return to normal.” The Marijuana Policy Project’s Consume Responsibly page offers this tip: “If you consume too much marijuana, try to stay calm and remember that the feeling is only temporary. Lay or sit down, close your eyes, and try to relax. If you are with other people, let them know that you have overdone it and want them to keep an eye on you. If your discomfort becomes so intense that you think you need medical attention, ask someone to take you to the emergency room or call 9-1-1. Do NOT try to drive anywhere!”