By Lauren Williamson
Every man/woman/non-binary soul and their pet of choice has a friend-of-a-friend who has, well, f*cked up when it comes to consuming edibles. Namely, miscalculating when an edible will kick in and inevitably taking too much in the lead-up. Some of these stories are funny, like the gal on my Contiki tour stop in Amsterdam who ate an extra mooncake because she couldn’t feel the first, which resulted in her riding a bike into a canal under the influence, 24 hours later. For others, greening out after consuming too much cannabis is no joke and can involve some seriously stressful side effects like nausea, dizziness, anxiety, and paranoia. Although edibles aren’t legal for recreational purposes in Australia, you may be partaking in parts of the world where they are. It’s important to understand how long it takes for edibles to kick in so you can enjoy the ride safely.
“Onset time is dependent on a lot of factors including the strength of the treat, your metabolism, your diet, your sex assigned at birth, your weight and your tolerance.”
Firstly, what are edibles?
Edibles are food products that have been infused with cannabis extract, containing one (or both) of marijuana’s active ingredients – intoxicating THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) or more chill CBD (cannabidiol). There are different types of edibles including cakes, brownies, biscuits, gummies, chocolates, teas, and lollipops, to name only a few of the burgeoning options. In locations where they’re legal you can pick up commercially manufactured treats from dispensaries, but homemade edibles have also been cooked up in kitchens since ancient times for both medicinal and recreational reasons.
How do edibles work?
To understand how long it takes for edibles to kick it helps to understand how they work. Edibles elicit a different high to the effects of smoking cannabis as they are broken down by the body in different ways. When THC is inhaled, it immediately enters your bloodstream through your lungs, heading to the brain where it acts on your endocannabinoid system (more on that here). This results in a fairly instantaneous high. When THC is ingested, it’s broken down by the liver to become a more potent compound 11-hydroxytetrahydrocannabinol (11-OH-THC), which crosses the blood-brain barrier to exert its intoxicating effects. This process is slower, more variable from person-to-person, and anecdotally, produces a stronger, longer, high. These factors increase the potential risk of overdoing it by edible-naive individuals.
How long it takes for edibles to kick in
Research has found that it takes an average of 30 to 60 minutes for edibles to kick in, with the full effects of felt at around the three-hour mark.
This onset time is dependent on a lot of factors including the strength of the treat, your metabolism, your diet, your sex assigned at birth, your weight and your tolerance. As edibles make their way through your digestive system, timing can also be influenced by whether you’ve eaten recently. If you’re consuming an edible on an empty stomach, it’s likely to be absorbed faster than doing so while full which can add hours onto the edibles onset time.
Why aren’t I feeling anything from my edibles?
If you’re not feeling anything from your edibles, it’s likely you haven’t given it enough time. For some people, it can take up a few hours and patience is key here. You might be tempted to go back for seconds if you don’t feel anything yet (especially if your mates are blissing out before you). By the time it all hits you, you will have taken too much making for one incredibly uncomfortable (if not distressing) experience. If you’re a first time user, always start with half. You’ve gotta whole lotta days on this planet to work your way up.
It could also be the case that your edible has a low dose of THC. Even commercially manufactured edibles vary significantly in their dosage. Again, it’s not worth testing the theory in one 24 hour window.
Weirdly, and unfortunately, some people just don’t feel the effects of edibles full stop. This is an often-discussed phenomenon on forums and one interesting hypothesis is that it’s down to your body’s particular brand of enzymes. Enzymes are proteins that accelerate chemical reactions in the body and they’re essential for digestion. The CYP2C9 enzyme breaks down substances like cannabinoids (the active ingredient in marijuana) however, their worth ethic can vary from person-to-person. If you have a particular variant of this enzyme, it could mean that THC is broken down too efficiently before it hits your bloodstream resulting in one rather expensive, but ineffective brownie.