Expected to make up more than half the entire cannabis industry in Canada, there’s a good chance edibles will make their way into your home, your friend’s homes, and even your parents’ (or grandparents’) cupboard.
While this opens up a fun, new chapter for the cannabis-curious and those who want to reduce smoking, eating too much weed can be a really, really, really uncomfortable experience.
“You can always take more, but you can’t reverse what you’ve ingested,” explains Dr. Jenna Valleriani, post-doctoral fellow at the BC Centre on Substance Use, and strategic advisor for Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy (CSSDP).
While she says it’s virtually impossible to overdose (i.e. die) on cannabis, side effects from eating too much can include anxiousness, paranoia, increased heart rate, drowsiness, and in some cases, nausea and vomiting.
These symptoms will wear off after three to six hours, but she cautions in some people they can last up to eight (gulp). The best way to avoid all this? Follow the old adage—low and slow—along with these helpful tips from Valleriani:
Ignore serving size: Start with 2.5 mg THC
Health Canada determined 10 mg THC as the maximum amount for a single serving, but Valleriani says this is being confused as a recommended single serving.
“Even in places like Colorado, which actually uses the language of single serving at 10 mg, have now come back to say they think this is too high to be considered a single dose.” Indeed: a recent Colorado study observed more adults than expected in the emergency department for “psychiatric visits” (read: wayyyy too high) from edibles.
She recommends between 2.5 mg to 5 mg THC as a single standard dose; the lower the better if you’re new to edibles, know you’re sensitive to THC or are over the age of 60—“You might experience cannabis differently now than when you were younger and tried a space cake.”
Even at 5 mg THC, this will mean a single brownie or cookie will be two servings. It’s also important, she says, to use a low dose more than once before levelling up: sometimes new users report not feeling anything for the first few times.
Other external factors can make you more sensitive to THC on a particular day, which is another reason to aim low. Check in with yourself, and consider whether you’re:
- Already anxious
- Experiencing PMS
- Dealing with another medical condition
“Even your weight, gender, and past experiences with cannabis can all impact the felt effects,” she says. What’s more, if you’ve eaten a lot of fatty foods that day, this alone can speed THC into your bloodstream.
Wait it out—up to 2 hours
You might be eyeing up the other half of that brownie after 10 minutes, but your body needs more time to metabolize the ingested cannabis (compared to inhaling or smoking, which is felt almost immediately).
Expect it to take 30 minutes to two hours to feel anything, although the type of edible will also determine how fast you’ll feel it. Valleriani says THC in hard candies, for example, will be absorbed sublingually—under the tongue—entering the bloodstream much faster than THC that gets absorbed by the stomach.
And what will you feel? It’s a little different for everyone, but she says generally it’s a “body high” that can be very relaxing, with more intensity than smoking.
Feeling too intense? You’ve had too much. “Generally, I’d advise a person to hang out with someone they trust, drink water, try to relax, eat something, and take a nap if possible,” she offers, adding she’s heard anecdotally of taking CBD to mitigate a bad high, or even chewing a peppercorn.
Not feeling anything? Wait a day, then try again at the same lower dose once or twice more before increasing the amount. Then, if you feel ready, she recommends increasing by 5 mg THC “until you find that sweet spot.”
She says some people need between 25 mg and 50 mg THC to feel anything, but by increasing the dose gradually, you’ll enjoy the experience, find your ideal dose, and not overwhelm your system in the process.
Homemade can be high-dose
Prepare to do a little math to be on the safe side: at a friend’s house or a dinner party, ask how many grams of cannabis a food or drink was made with, then divide that by the number of servings. Next, consider that in an average strain of 10% THC, 1 g of cannabis contains 100 g of THC.
With this example, if someone uses 7 g of cannabis to make 12 cookies, each cookie has a ton of THC—58 g per serving—which is way too much for most people.
She says the other thing to consider is an uneven distribution of cannabis. “This could mean one cookie could have low THC while the next could be a high-dosed bomb.” Remember the rule to start low and go slow, even if this means eating just a crumb. The point is to have an enjoyable experience.
Be mindful about mixing with booze
If it’s canna-snack-and-cocktail hour, pay close attention to how you’re feeling.
“Anticipate that cannabis will elevate the effects of alcohol,” she says, reiterating the need to be mindful of how your body is feeling, or simply choosing to avoid mixing substances altogether. Even CBD products have psychoactive compounds, and while they don’t have intoxicating effects, combining CBD with booze is still a mix of substances in your system.
Overall, edibles are about having fun, and taking small steps is the way to do it right. “Starting low and really giving it time to feel the full effects will ensure you have an enjoyable and relaxing experience!”