When it comes to the world of cannabis, there is plenty of misinformation out there that makes understanding this plant somewhat difficult. One popular idea, which actually holds true, regards the strength and effectiveness of edibles. While people usually have the wrong ideas when it comes to cannabis’ effects; the popular reports of edibles taking hours to work, and their highs being extremely strong – actually hold true. But why? In this article, we will discuss why exactly this is, and the processes behind this form of consumption.
What Is An Edible?
Generally speaking, an edible is a cannabis product which was produced with the intention of being ingested. Simple right?
Cookie = Food.
Cookie + Cannabis = Edible.
So, we know what a basic edible is now. What makes the high so different compared to smoking weed? Well, that is NOT the simple part. There’s a bunch of complex biochemical processes involving one’s endocannabinoid system, as well as the prevalence of terpenes, which all work dynamically to affect any persons high. I’ll attempt to explain below.
What Makes The High So Different?
The easiest way to put this is to consider you’re taking a different type of drug – as that is essentially what you are doing. While there is a similarity between edibles and flower in that they are both derived from the cannabis plant, there is a major difference in the metabolic pathways taken between orally inhaled THC, and THC that has been ingested. Let’s take a look at the specific compounds we are dealing with here.
Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid [THCA]
Pictured above is Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid. This is the chemical that is most prevalently found in the Cannabis plant. As it is now [in it’s acid form], the chemical is inert and cannot be used to produce any type of psychoactive effect. You may wonder, if this is the chemical mostly in cannabis, how do we get high from smoking it? This is something I’ve written on before, the secret is a process called decarboxylation – aka combustion. When you smoke the flower, you are actually producing a chemical reaction when igniting the flower to inhale, you decarboxylate the THCA into our good buddy, Delta-9-THC, yay!
Right up there? That’s the guy that gets you high – when you smoke. This is the chemical that produces that fun high that we all associate with cannabis. You smoke weed, you immediately feel high and good – it’s all Delta-9-THC, that good stuff. But as we know, we’re essentially dealing with a different drug when we ingest cannabis – so, what would this new compound be? Let’s take a look below:
Look at all that hydrogen! With a chemical like this, it’s no wonder why we get so high off edibles! I am joking, but this is the legit the reason why the high feels so different. Whereas we decarboxylate THCA while smoking, the compound goes through a completely different metabolic route when ingested – which is why we end up with a compound different from Delta-9-THC. One reason why edibles can feel so potent to those who smoke flower is because they simply don’t have any tolerance for the compound – additionally, when compared to Delta-9-THC, 11-Hydroxy-Δ⁹-Tetrahydrocannabinol has been reported to have stronger psychoactive and physical effects.
Because we are ingesting the edible, there is a noticeable delay between consumption and actually feeling the effect. This can usually take between 1-2 hours depending on the person and their specific biochemistry. Additionally, there is a portion of the population who CANNOT get high from edibles. There’s a recessive gene which causes people to lack the enzyme needed for THCA metabolization in their livers – Cytochrome P450. So – it is entirely possible that if you’ve eaten edibles and not felt a thing, that you lack enough Cytochrome P450 to metabolize the THCA.
So as we have seen – the reason why edibles feel so different is because they are literally getting you high off a different chemical. With that, some people completely lack the enzyme needed to metabolize THCA, meaning that they literally can never get high off eating edibles – those poor souls.
Smoking cannabis = Delta-9-THC
Eating cannabis = 11-Hydroxy-Δ⁹-Tetrahydrocannabinol
Legalizing cannabis = Legal Leaf