Budtender Tracy Bowman talks to a customer about marijuana edibles at LivWell Broadway in Denver on January 29, 2015. (Craig F. Walker, The Denver Post)

Ask The Cannabist: Smoking or vaping weed vs. eating edibles — why is the high so different?

Hey, Cannabist! Do cannabis edibles differentiate themselves as “sativa” or “indica”?   Is there a single, unique “high” from edibles?  How different is that high from smoking/vaping?  Do you think that edibles will evolve to differentiate themselves through different strains of cannabis? –Swallowing Sativas

Hey, Sativa!
Yes, labels on cannabis edibles occasionally differentiate marijuana content by sativa, indica or hybrid. The energetic and sedating effects commonly associated with smoking sativa and indica strains, respectively, may not be as pronounced in edibles. I spoke with colleagues at two licensed manufacturing companies that make marijuana-infused products for their expert opinions.

Shellene Suemori, director of science and R&D at Dixie Elixirs & Edibles suggests production methods may actually alter the sativa, indica and strain attributes.  Suemori says, “Due to many processing techniques, most of the terpenes that people associate with strain-specific attributes are largely lost before the oil is incorporated into an edible. If not lost in processing, many will be lost during the making of the edible (especially if exposed to heat).”

It is also possible the effects are noticeably different for edibles that are infused with canna-oils or cannabutter compared with edibles made with extracted hash oil like CO2.  Suemori says: “Butter is not processed under the parameters that are necessary in a C02 extraction, and therefore more terpenes are likely to be preserved, which would alter the high. It is difficult to make any broad statement on butter vs. CO2 because people develop different methods to prepare their oils; but in general the high will be different.”

No, there isn’t a singular, unique high from edibles and generally, edibles have longer-lasting effects than smoking or vaping. According to Julie Dooley, owner of Julie’s Natural Edibles (formerly Julie’s Baked Goods), “Consuming cannabis, especially when paired with fats and proteins, will differ from smoking/vaping in intensity and duration.”  Suemori describes smoking and vaping effects as having a quick onset, and the overall effects are not as long-lasting as an edible.

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In the marijuana marketplace, there are many edible options. Suemori discusses further, “The edible market is full of variety and the uptake of edibles will depend on the type (drink, tincture, cookie, etc.). There is no one unique high because the THC in a cookie will go through the effect of first-pass metabolism, while some other edibles may have some sub-lingual absorption which will change the experience. That is why we encourage people to try something with a low dose, and be aware that different types of edibles may affect you differently.”

Yes, some companies make strain-specific products and label them accordingly.  Julie’s Natural Edibles is one company that makes strain-specific edibles. Dooley says, “We feel that there is a unique high for each strain of cannabis. This is due to the fact that each strain has unique characteristics, flavors and intensity. This allows the consumer to use the edible to target specific ailments. Our products are strain-specific so we can clearly utilize the benefits of a particular strain.”

Dooley explains the strains utilized in making her products and the purported medical benefits they target. “Currently we have two organic trim sources and our favorite strains are no higher than 75 percent indica and 75 percent sativa (for example, we currently have DJ Short Flo and Afghani). We choose those types of sativas or indicas as they tend to work well for anti-anxiety, one of our favorite ailments to target.”  XO

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Ask The Cannabist: Clearly you have questions about marijuana, be it a legal concern, a health curiosity or something more far-reaching. Email your queries to askthecannabist@gmail.com.