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What We Know About Edibles

People’s concerns over cannabis’s impact on general health are growing as more states legalize the substance for recreational use. It’s one thing to smoke marijuana, but what about edibles? That is, taking the drug through foods like peanut butter, brownies, candies, muffins, and doughnuts? What you should know about the effects of eating food containing cannabis on your body is provided here.

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Edibles: What Are They?

According to Andrew Stolbach, M.D., M.P.H., an emergency physician and medical toxicologist at The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, the active component in edibles is tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. According to him, you start absorbing THC into your system shortly after consuming a dish that contains it. However, there’s a catch: Depending on how much of that item you ingested and how much other food is in your stomach, absorption may be delayed. According to Stolbach, this may be a serious issue as individuals might not know how much they’ve consumed until they start to experience the full consequences.

“Something that’s important to remember about edibles is that absorption is unpredictable,” Stolbach states. “People don’t experience peak effect for a while after eating, [which can be] minutes to hours—but usually hours.”

THC ingested through edibles is absorbed through the intestinal walls, just like food or prescription drugs. It will take longer for the THC to be absorbed if you have a lot of food in your system, such as if you had a large meal out and then had a brownie with cannabis for dessert. Here’s where edibles and joints diverge significantly: According to Stolbach, THC enters your system instantly when you smoke cannabis, but it may take hours for you to experience the full effects of THC use.

Although feeling more calm is one of the desired effects of THC, according to Stolbach, things may rapidly go worse if you overindulge. “Common overdose symptoms might be feelings of panic, a fast heart rate and anxiety,” according to him. “These reactions can become severe.”

How Much Time Do Edibles Keep?

Eating edibles can have varying effects; the biggest adverse effects generally appear three hours after intake, and the effects can continue up to six hours. Most edibles take two to three hours to fully take effect. For this reason, it’s crucial to wait at least two hours before consuming any additional edibles (see these suggestions to prevent overindulging). Let’s say you went back for seconds or thirds because the brownie tasted so good; at this point, more sugar and calories are the least of your worries. According to Stolbach, you can experience the effects of that brownie’s high THC content for up to 12 hours.

How your body responds to an edible might vary depending on what kind you eat. THC dissolves in lipids to be absorbed in your intestines since it is fat-soluble. Because they include fats infused with THC, brownies and cookies, among other dessert items, make up a large portion of edibles. “The thing that makes me nervous about [THC] dissolved in butter is that if the solution is unequally [mixed], some parts of your brownie or cookie will have a lot more THC than other parts,” Stolbach explains.

Some states mandate that edibles—like individually packaged packs of gummies—be labeled with the quantity of THC per serving. The amount of THC in each serving of edibles produced by several bakeries and facilities, however, could not be strictly monitored. In the absence of strong regulation, you can’t always trust the figures, even if they are labeled—just as with supplements. Customers should research any food they’re consuming to make sure its source is reliable and pay attention to its origins. According to the FDA, marijuana is generally prohibited to sell any food containing THC over state boundaries.

So, can edibles ever be deemed healthy as long as you don’t overindulge and obey the law? “Definitely,” responds Laura Lagano, M.S., RDN, CDN, an integrative and functional nutritionist and holistic cannabis practitioner located in New York City. “My recommendation is to stay away from inflammatory ingredients, such as artificial flavors, colors and sweeteners, sugar and gluten when selecting edibles,” she states. “Cannabis is a potent anti-inflammatory, so it does not make sense to combine [it] with inflammatory ingredients.”

Edibles may now be consumed while adhering to a healthy diet thanks to manufacturers producing everything from chocolate bars to protein powders to THC-infused granola bits. If you decide to try edibles, Stolbach advises starting small with modest dosages, ensuring the product comes from a box that clearly states the THC percentage, and consuming it when you won’t need to be driving for a few hours. “Give it some time to see how your body handles it,” he states. “Try to minimize your stimulus and relax.”

The potential benefits or drawbacks of cannabis usage for health are still being investigated, and Stolbach is quite concerned about edibles becoming out in the wrong hands. Edibles are sometimes packaged to resemble common candies or sweets, which appeals to kids. In children under 12, baked goods and sweets are the most often reported sources of cannabis exposure, according to the American College of Medical Toxicology. If you have kids and have edibles in your house, make sure they are stored out of reach and in child-resistant packaging.