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Edibles vs Smoking: Which is Right for You?

When it comes to consuming cannabis, it typically comes down to a choice between edibles vs smoking. However, there are numerous forms to choose from. And all forms of consumption fall broadly into 4 different categories:

cannabis flower in the grinder with the jar and a joint on a table.
Smoking: by far the most popular consumption method.

Inhalation

This is the classic method of consuming marijuana. It delivers the fastest onset of effects and is the preferred method by most cannabis enthusiasts. There are two main ways to inhale cannabis. You can smoke it through the combustion of dried and cured flower, and you can inhale the vapor. In both methods, THC enters your lungs and is absorbed into the bloodstream.

 

A woman holding a bag of Revolution Cannabis edible gummies.
Edibles are growing in popularity.

Oral

This category includes any products that are taken by mouth and digested and metabolized by the liver before entering the bloodstream. Often referred to simply as “edibles,” these can be gummies/candy, chocolates, baked goods, tinctures, butter/oil, savory snacks, mints, and beverages.

Want to learn more about edibles? Check out Understanding the World of Cannabis Edibles: A Comprehensive Guide.

 

A container of Spectra Cannamist spray in the foreground with an older woman in the background.
Sublingual options are popular among medical patients.

Sublingually

This method includes any product that is held under the tongue and absorbed by mouth. This method differs from oral ingestion because it bypasses the liver and goes straight into the bloodstream. Typically, these come in the form of drops, sprays, strips, and mints.

 

A close up photo of a syringe of RSO (Rick Simpson Oil)
RSO is a powerful topical or oral concentrate known for its therapeutic benefits.

Topical

This involves any product that is absorbed through the skin. Topical products include salves, balms, lotions, and oils that are applied locally and absorbed into the bloodstream. This method of consumption has very low bioavailability and is non-psychoactive.

Among these categories, smoking and orally ingesting edibles are by far the two most common. Both offer a unique experience with benefits and drawbacks to consider. But understanding the differences between them can help you make an informed decision about which method of consumption is right for you.

 

A pair of hands passing a joint between them.
Smoking cannabis involves inhalation and absorption through the lungs.

Edibles vs Smoking: The Basics

Smoking

Whether through a joint, pipe, or bong, smoking involves inhaling the smoke produced from burning cannabis. When cannabis is burned, the non-psychoactive THCa (Tetrahydrocannabinolic Acid) is spontaneously converted to THC in a process called decarboxylation.

What Happens When You Smoke Marijuana?

When you inhale the smoke it carries THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids directly into your lungs. Once in the lungs, they’re quickly absorbed into the bloodstream where they interact with the endocannabinoid system.

 

a pair of hands holding Revolution Cannabis Fudgies and Caramels.
Edibles come in a wide variety of forms and flavors.

Edibles

Any food or beverage products infused with cannabis that are ingested orally and metabolized by the body. These can range from gummies and drinks to tinctures and oils.

What Happens When You Eat an Edible?

When you consume edible marijuana, the THCa is decarboxylated before being processed into an edible form. When you consume an edible, the THC and CBD must go through the complex and lengthy process of passing through your digestive system before entering your bloodstream.

The Effects

Onset

One of the biggest differences between consuming edibles and smoking flower is the time it takes to feel the desired effects. When smoking cannabis, the effects are typically felt very quickly, in anywhere from 2 to 10 minutes. On the other hand, because edibles need to be digested, their effects can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours to kick in.

It’s important to note that a recent innovation has emerged using nanoemulsified THC. This technique breaks down THC molecules into nanoparticles that allow them to bypass the liver, resulting in a very quick onset time –as little as 10 minutes. Edibles containing nanoemulsified THC are now appearing in markets all over the country.

Duration

The effects of smoked cannabis tend to peak within the first hour and start to wear off within 2-3 hours. However, depending on the individual, they can last as long as 8 hours.

The THC in marijuana edibles is metabolized by the liver into the more powerful 11-hydroxy-THC edibles delivering a much longer and more potent experience.

So, how long does an edible high last? The effects of edibles last around 4-6 hours, with the peak usually occurring 2-4 hours after consumption. In extreme cases, the effects can last as long as 24 hours.

Intensity

The edible high is often more intense and longer lasting compared to smoking. This is because of the conversion of THC to 11-hydroxy-THC in the liver, which is widely considered to be the more potent psychoactive compound.

 

A man lighting a joint.
Smoking may be convenient, but it’s not exactly discrete.

Edibles vs Smoking: Discretion and Convenience

Smoking

The less discreet method of consumption, smoking produces a very strong and distinct odor. It also requires paraphernalia.

Edibles

Eating edibles is generally more discreet than smoking. They don’t produce any smell that can be associated with cannabis use and can be easily consumed without drawing unwanted attention. They’re also very portable and don’t require any additional accessories.

 

A woman eating an edible gummy on the left and a woman smoking a joint on the right - separated by a black line.
When it comes to edibles vs smoking, the answer ultimately boils down to personal choice.

Edibles vs Smoking Pros and Cons

So, what are the pros and cons of edibles and smoking? Let’s take a look at each method:

Edibles 

Pro

  • More potent
  • Discrete
  • Convenient
  • Longer Duration of effects
  • Easy on the lungs
  • Huge variety of edibles to choose from

Con

  • Prolonged onset time
  • Long Duration of effects
  • Easy to over-consume
  • Negative Side effects (Over-consumption-related)

Smoking

Pro

  • Quick onset time
  • Huge variety of flower to choose from
  • Dosage is easy to manage

Con

  • Not discrete – strong smell
  • Harsh on the lungs
  • Shorter duration of effects
  • Negative Side effects (Overconsumption-related)

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, the choice of smoking vs edibles depends on personal preferences. It’s important to consider certain factors when making your choice.

When deciding on which method is best for you, think about the kind of experience you’re looking for and take into consideration the pros and cons of edibles and those of smoking. This will allow you to effectively choose the best method for you.

Sources:

How Marijuana is Consumed

An Introduction to the Endogenous Cannabinoid System

Decarboxylating Cannabis: From THCA to THC

How Long Does a Cannabis High Last?

General Cannabis FAQ

Cannabis, often referred to as marijuana, is a plant that has been used for thousands of years for various purposes, including medicine, textiles, and recreation. The plant contains compounds known as cannabinoids, with delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) being the most well-known. THC is primarily responsible for the plant’s psychoactive effects, while CBD is recognized for its potential therapeutic benefits without causing a “high.”

Many countries and U.S. states have decriminalized or legalized the use of marijuana for medical use, recreational, or both. The legal status changes frequently as legislation evolves.

In the U.S., states vote to regulate marijuana use on an individual basis. While it remains illegal at the federal level, numerous states have legalized it for medicinal and/or recreational use.

The following states have legalized medical, recreational, or both:

  • Alaska – Medical
  • Arizona – Legal
  • Arkansas – Medical
  • California – Legal
  • Colorado – Legal
  • Connecticut – Legal
  • Delaware – Legal
  • District of Columbia – Legal
  • Florida – Medical
  • Hawaii – Medical (Possession decriminalized for small amounts)
  • Illinois – Legal
  • Louisiana – Medical (Possession decriminalized for small amounts)
  • Maine – Legal
  • Maryland – Legal
  • Massachusetts – Legal
  • Michigan – Legal
  • Minnesota – Legal
  • Mississippi – Medical (Possession decriminalized for small amounts)
  • Missouri – Legal
  • Montana – Legal
  • Nevada – Legal
  • New Hampshire – Medical (Possession decriminalized for small amounts)
  • New Jersey – Legal
  • New Mexico – Legal
  • New York – Legal
  • North Dakota – Medical (Possession decriminalized for small amounts)
  • Ohio – Medical (Possession decriminalized)
  • Oklahoma – Medical
  • Oregon – Legal
  • Pennsylvania – Medical
  • Rhode Island – Legal
  • South Dakota – Medical
  • Utah – Medical
  • Vermont – Legal
  • Virginia – Legal
  • Washington – Legal
  • West Virginia – Medical

 

Outside of the U.S., countries like The Netherlands, Canada, and, more recently, Thailand have legalized cannabis on a national level.

Always check local laws and regulations in your specific location.

In states where marijuana has been legalized, you can purchase products at licensed dispensaries. Revolution products are available at Enlightened, Revolution, and partner dispensaries in Illinois, Arkansas, Missouri, and Maryland. Find a dispensary near you.

Keep in mind that dispensaries may cater to medical patients, recreational consumers, or both, depending on local laws.

Always ensure that you are buying from a reputable and licensed establishment to guarantee product quality and safety.

The effects of cannabis vary widely depending on the strain, dosage, method of consumption, an individual’s endocannabinoid system, and more.

Some commonly reported effects include:

Psychoactive Effects: Euphoria, mood elevation, cerebral stimulation, stress relief, calming effects, and relaxation.

Physical Effects: Pain relief, body buzz, anti-inflammation, anti-nausea, energy boost or sedation, and appetite stimulation

*Medical Benefits: Cannabis is believed to have a range of therapeutic effects and alleviation of symptoms related to conditions like epilepsy, PTSD, and more.

*Marijuana is not approved by the FDA to treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

The primary difference lies in their intended use:

Medical Cannabis: Used as a treatment and alleviation of symptoms for specific health conditions. Medical strains might be cultivated and processed to have higher CBD content or other therapeutic compounds. Medical cannabis requires a physician who usually prescribes or recommends it as a treatment option.

Recreational Cannabis: Used without a medical justification but for personal enjoyment and fulfillment.

The process varies from state to state but typically involves the following steps:

Doctor’s Recommendation: Schedule an appointment with a physician who is authorized to recommend medical marijuana. Discuss your health conditions and reasons for seeking cannabis as a treatment.

Application: Once you have a doctor’s recommendation, you’ll usually need to apply for a medical marijuana card through a designated state or country agency.

Proof & Identification: Provide necessary identification and proof of residency as required by your jurisdiction.

Fee Payment: Most jurisdictions require a fee for the application and issuance of a medical marijuana card.

Card Issuance: Once approved, you will receive your medical marijuana card, allowing you to purchase cannabis at designated medical dispensaries.

If you’d like more detailed information, please read our state-specific medical card guide here.