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Understanding the World of Cannabis Edibles: A Comprehensive Guide

What are Edibles?

To put it broadly, edibles are food and drink products infused with cannabinoids and ingested orally; the active compounds found in the cannabis plant. There’s a whole world of different types of cannabis edibles, each providing different experiences due to the variety of cannabinoids and terpenes they contain and how individuals metabolize cannabis.

How do Edibles Work?

The effects of edibles depend entirely on how they are processed in the body. Unlike smoking or vaping, where THC enters the bloodstream through the lungs, edibles are processed through the digestive system. Inside the body, cannabinoids go through a transformation in the liver that leads to potent, long-lasting effects.

Understanding how edibles work begins with understanding the process of decarboxylation and how THC is processed once it’s in the body.

What is Decarboxylation?

Decarboxylation (aka decarbing) is the chemical process that activates THC and CBD in the cannabis plant that makes edibles possible. In its raw form, these cannabinoids exist as THCa and CBDa, the acidic versions of THC and CBD, respectively.

These acidic forms of the compound are non-psychoactive, meaning they won’t produce the ‘high’ commonly associated with cannabis. That’s why consuming raw cannabis flower doesn’t produce any psychoactive effects.

The process of decarboxylation involves heating the cannabis plant material to specific temperatures for a specific duration of time. The application of heat prompts a chemical reaction that removes the carboxyl group from THCa, converting it into THC which is then able to bind to the receptors in your endocannabinoid system.

Metabolization of THC in the Body

The journey of THC in the body is much different from inhaling cannabis through combustion or vaporization. Edibles are processed by the digestive system, and the THC is eventually absorbed into the bloodstream through the stomach and intestines.

This digestion process takes longer compared to inhalation, hence the delayed onset of effects when consuming edibles. Digestion times are also affected by other factors, such as the contents and the amount of food in the stomach.

Once consumed, the THC travels to your liver, where it goes through an essential metabolic process. Your liver actually eliminates most of the compound but the remaining THC – somewhere between 4-12% – is converted into a usable form called 11-hydroxy-THC. This metabolite is more potent and has a longer duration than THC that’s absorbed through the lungs, but the bioavailability (i.e., how easy it is for your body to use) is much lower.

The 11-hydroxy-THC is then released back into the bloodstream and travels to the brain, where it interacts with the CB1 and CB2 receptors of the endocannabinoid system, resulting in psychoactive effects and other potential therapeutic benefits.

This complicated process explains why the effects of edibles are typically more potent and longer lasting compared to other methods of consumption. It’s also why effective dosing can be more of a challenge to control, particularly for individuals new to cannabis edibles. The length of time it takes to feel the effects can differ depending on several factors, including the individual’s metabolism, body weight, and even what else they’ve eaten that day.

5 Revolution Cannapillars on on a white background
Edibles come in all shapes and sizes.

Different Types of Cannabis Edibles

Cannabis edibles come in many forms, from gummies and chocolates to beverages and even savory snacks with even more varieties released all the time. Here are some of the most common types of cannabis edibles you’ll find on the shelves of your local dispensary:

It’s easy to see that the world of cannabis edibles is a diverse one, with products to suit nearly every taste and preference. And exciting new edible cannabis products are hitting the market all the time. As always, no matter which type of edible you choose to try, be sure to start small and wait for the effects to kick in before consuming more to avoid an uncomfortable experience.

Revolution Fudgies being made in the facility.
Making your own edibles at home can be fun and rewarding.

Making Cannabis-Infused Edibles at Home

If you’re curious about how to make edibles at home, you might be surprised to find that it’s easier than you might think. Some of the best cannabis edible recipes for beginners involve making infused cannabis butter or oil with cannabis, which can then be added to your regular cooking or baking recipes. Making edibles at home with cannabis butter is a simple process.

To put it succinctly, you’ll need to decarb your cannabis, then add it to your butter or oil mixture on low heat to fully infuse. However, there are some common mistakes to avoid when cooking with marijuana, like using too much heat or not properly decarboxylating your cannabis.

If you’d like to try it for yourself you can use this handy recipe and dosage calculator to walk you through the process.

 

A hand holding a single cannabis gummy.
Understanding dosages is the first step to choosing your perfect dose.

Choosing the Right Dosage for Edibles

One of the most crucial aspects of consuming cannabis edibles is understanding the dosages involved. Since the effects of edibles take longer to set in and are often more potent, we always advise that you start with a low dose and gradually increase it until you find your personal sweet spot. A good way to do this is to take an individual serving size (typically 10mg) and cut it in half. Consume the edible and wait for the effects to kick in (45 minutes to 2 hours). Then, check in with your mind and body to determine whether you need the other half of the serving. Remember that the effects of edibles can last a long time – in some cases up to 6 hours so it’s important to go slow with the dosage.

In most recreational and medical states, you’ll find that edibles are typically limited to 50-100mg total per package with individual edible serving sizes limited to 5-10mg per piece. However, this can vary from state to state. Other common serving sizes you may find in your state are 2mg, 5mg, and 12.5mg.

Want to learn more? Check out our guide to getting your dosage right!

A joint being passed between two people.
The choice between smoking/vaping and edibles is a personal one.

Cannabis Edibles vs. Smoking/Vaping

While both methods provide the benefits of cannabis, the choice between smoking and consuming edibles hinges entirely on personal preference, health considerations, and the desired effects.

In short, when smoking and vaping cannabis it’s absorbed through the lungs and into the bloodstream resulting in more immediate effects with a shorter duration. Edibles are first digested and metabolized by the liver producing a longer, more potent experience.

Benefits of Edibles

Cannabis edibles are often celebrated for their medicinal and therapeutic benefits. Edibles are a great way for recreational and medical patients to use marijuana medicinally without needing to inhale cannabis smoke. They are often used as natural ways to manage a variety of conditions such as:

  • Chronic pain

  • Anxiety relief

  • Insomnia/Sleep disorders

  • Relaxation

Health Considerations When Consuming Cannabis Edibles

While cannabis edibles offer various health benefits, consuming them responsibly is incredibly important. Overconsumption can lead to some seriously undesirable effects, such as nausea or even hallucinations.

And because edibles have a much longer duration of effects, you can be in an uncomfortable state for a long time. Therefore, understanding how your body reacts to edibles and how to effectively dose edibles is equally important.

Legality of Marijuana Edibles

The legality of cannabis edibles varies from state to state. In states that have legalized recreational and/or medical cannabis, edibles are legal for consumption with specific regulations that differ based on local laws.

Generally speaking, it’s not legal to consume or be in possession of edible cannabis products near schools or school property. It’s also illegal to consume edible cannabis products and drive or operate any kind of motor vehicle.

Edibles containing THC are fully illegal to possess or purchase federally and in the following states:

  • Georgia

  • Idaho

  • Indiana

  • Iowa

  • Kansas

  • Kentucky

  • Mississippi

  • Nebraska

  • North Carolina

  • South Carolina

  • South Dakota

  • Tennessee

  • Texas

  • Virginia

  • Wisconsin

  • Wyoming

Always follow the local regulations in your area and be sure to stay updated on the latest laws because they can change quickly.

 

A large pile of Revolution Cannabis Fudgies.
Premium quality edibles start with premium quality cannabis.

Tips for Buying High-Quality Cannabis Edibles

Selecting high-quality cannabis edibles can be a bit of a minefield due to the sheer volume of products available on the market. However, there are a few important considerations that can help you navigate these choices:

 

Understand the Types of Cannabinoids Used In Edibes

In the world of cannabis edibles, understanding the difference between THC and CBD is fundamental. THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is the psychoactive compound that provides the “high”, while CBD (cannabidiol) is non-intoxicating and is often associated with potential therapeutic benefits. Many edibles contain a ratio of THC and CBD, like those from Spectra, for example.

Even further, the source of these cannabinoids matters. They can be made from different extraction methods, like live resin or live rosin, each bringing some unique characteristics to the table:

Cannabis Oil

Distillate cannabis oil, known for its high concentration of THC or CBD, is a purified and refined form of cannabis extract. When incorporated into edibles, it provides precision dosing and consistent potency, ensuring a reliable and controlled experience.

Live Resin

This extraction method involves the use of hydrocarbon solvents to extract the cannabinoids from flash-frozen cannabis plants immediately after harvest. This method preserves more of the desirable terpenes and cannabinoids, offering a more complete representation of the living plant’s properties in the final product.

Live Rosin

Live rosin is a solventless extraction method. The process involves applying heat and pressure to cannabis flower that’s been flash frozen. This process produces a resinous sap free from solvents and impurities that maintains a high terpene profile, providing a more authentic cannabis flavor.

Learn more about live resin and live rosin edibles.

Nanoemulsified THC

A more recent innovation, nano-emulsified THC is broken down into tiny nanoparticles. This allows the THC to bypass the liver for quicker and more efficient absorption by the body. Edibles that contain nanoemulsification technology provide faster onset of effects compared to traditional edibles.

Learn more about nanoemulsification in edibles.

Choosing Edibles for Effect

Different edibles will have varying levels and ratios of THC and CBD or even CBN, which will impact the type and duration of your experience. If you’re looking for a psychoactive effect, look for edibles with a higher THC content. Conversely, if you’re more interested in potential health benefits without the high, look for edibles with high CBD, CBN, and lower THC levels.

Check the Testing and Labeling

Quality matters when it comes to cannabis edibles. Always ensure that the edibles you buy have been third-party lab tested. This will provide a guarantee about the safety, potency, and ingredients of the product. Edibles in licensed dispensaries will have labels that clearly indicate the amount of THC, CBD, or CBN per serving, the number of servings per package, and a list of ingredients.

Final Thoughts

Make sure to choose products from companies that have a good reputation and positive reviews and always avoid buying and consuming edibles from unlicensed individuals. Not only do their products not meet safety and quality standards but dosing can vary wildly in batches of edibles.

Sources:

Mechanisms of Action and Pharmacokinetics of Cannabis

Decarboxylation Study of Acidic Cannabinoids

Decarboxylation of Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) to active THC

Edibles Regulations Vary Widely from State to State

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.