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Cannabis-Infused Edibles 101: What to Know About Dosing, Potency, and Labeling

December 5, 2013

Many of us new to cannabis-infused foods (also known as “edibles”) fall victim to the same mistake: we eat too much. Edibles are a great choice when consumed responsibly; they’re potent and body-focused, meaning they’re perfect for people who suffer from pain, nausea, or lack of appetite.

Unfortunately, they can easily lead to disaster if you’re not careful. You eat a whole brownie and feel normal for an hour, then all of a sudden you startle at a police siren and think everyone in the room is secretly laughing at you. In order to better understand what to expect from cannabis-infused foods, we reached out to Lindsay from Dixie Elixirs. Dixie is a Denver-based infused beverage and edible company that has become one of Colorado’s premier makers of edible products since they began in 2009. They were gracious enough to help weigh in on some handy tips on how to consume edibles responsibly.

How Long Do Cannabis Edibles Take to Kick In?

When you smoke or vaporize cannabis, you feel the effects of the herb almost instantly. You’re also able to tell how much cannabis you have consumed and can easily decide when you’ve had too much. When you eat (or drink) activated cannabis, these signals go away. As Lindsay explains, “Different delivery systems are absorbed into the body at different rates. Dixie Med-a-Mints, for example, are absorbed in the mouth and get into the blood much quicker than edibles you digest.”

After eating an edible, your body needs to digest and metabolize the food before you feel the effects. Something like a truffle needs to be processed by the liver before it affects the consumer,” says Lindsay. “That means slower absorption time and more of the THC will be filtered out of your system.”

The amount of time it takes for the effects to kick in also depends on your metabolism. People with faster metabolisms may feel medicated after an hour, yet people with slower metabolisms may not feel the effects for two hours or more.

How Long Does the Effects of an Edible Last?

Metabolizing cannabis makes the effects much stronger. Edibles are typically made with highly concentrated cannabis, be it in actual concentrate form (hash oil), cannabis-infused butter, or infused oil. This means that it’s incredibly easy to overdo it. Between the time it takes for the cannabis to kick in and the highly concentrated levels of THC found in many edibles, finding the correct dose can be quite the chore.

Lindsay says, “In most places, 10mg is a ‘dose.’ Consider this like one beer; this amount will affect some people a lot, and others not at all. Take your time and learn what is right for you.”

While no one has ever reportedly died from cannabis overconsumption, ingesting too much cannabis can mean that what was once a pleasant evening can turn into a pretty bad time. Eating the entire cannabis-infused cookie may seem like a good idea, but many times a single product may actually be considered two or more doses. When it comes to edibles, it’s best to taste and wait for a while before gorging yourself on potent and delicious treats.

Another important factor is whether you consumed the edible on an empty stomach or after you’ve already eaten. An empty stomach will feel the effects much more quickly, while a full stomach won’t hit you as hard. In order to avoid feeling uncomfortable when eating an infused product, you may want to take Lindsay’s advice: “Eat a meal, and then try an edible. Not vice versa. Food doesn’t have the same effect for edibles as it does for alcohol. If you feel like you have taken too much, eating a meal can actually push more into your system rather than dilute what’s already there.”

What Should You Look for on Edible Labels?

Cannabis-infused edible labels

The cannabis industry is in its infancy. Due to the plant’s federal illegality, cannabis products are not subjected to FDA regulations, so a lack of standard rules could result in a lack of consistency in dosage from one product to another. This can make finding the correct dose for you even more difficult.

“At Dixie,” Lindsay said, “we want our customers to know what they will get from us each and every time so that they can have a predicative experience. Many edibles’ potency varies from unit to unit. We run excessive lab tests to ensure the consistency and quality of our products.”

In actuality, finding brands that provide consistent results each time can be quite challenging. Remember to read the label to figure out the correct portion size for the dose that works best for you. Finding products with clearly labeled packaging can also be a bit of a challenge, especially in regions where the industry has only just started.

When trying to find the best edible for you, look for products that have a clear label and are properly packaged. Support companies that have taken the initiative to create clearly labeled, quality packaging for their products, as they’re taking extra steps to ensure their products are consistent, safe, and honest.

Photo credits in order: etringita; Βethan; mark sebastian via photopin cc

  • Not coming back

    eh.. not much good info on this tbh, too vague with a few things

  • >Another important factor is whether you consumed the edible on an empty stomach or after you’ve already eaten. An empty stomach will feel the effects much more quickly, while a full stomach won’t hit you as hard. In order to avoid feeling uncomfortable when eating an infused product, you may want to take Lindsay’s advice: “Eat a meal, and then try an edible. Not vice versa. Food doesn’t have the same effect for edibles as it does for alcohol. If you feel like you have taken too much, eating a meal can actually push more into your system rather than dilute what’s already there.”

    This is scientifically innacurate. These two published studies show the opposite (as counter-intuitive as it sounds) is actually true. Consuming cannabis when you’ve already eaten is actually more effective because of how the digestion process works.
    http://www.cannabis-med.org/english/bulletin/ww_en_db_cannabis_artikel.php?id=291#2
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19280324?dopt=Abstract

    • Antifa-geddaboutit

      I would think so, and if you think about it, it sort of makes sense. The digestive system has to “warm up” as it were. Meaning that when you eat, the digestions doesn’t start right away outside of the breaking down by the stomach acid. Had you eaten prior to taking it, that “warm up” is already done and gone, and the digestion has begun. On an empty stomach, one has to wait that little period. It does seem counterintuitive when you think about it, but once you know how the body works, it actually makes a lot of sense.

    • Gojira74

      You did read that article? It It’s talking about oral admission of a cannabinoid receptor agonist, not the same as compounds found in edibles. The article didn’t study actual cannabinoids and may not be useful in the context that you are presenting it. Particularly when you challenge the scientific accuracy of a statement while using a study that is NOT of the compounds in question. So, it MAY be a first step, but it isn’t strong enough to use it as you did.

  • TheRegalBeagle

    Well a kid in the Florida panhandle just died from edible overdose last night/this morning so you can change your dangerous (mis)information.

    • Sam Smith

      Bullshit!! Something else entirely if someone died of an overdose. Anyone who knows anything at all about cannabis knows you’re full of shit!

    • Could you supply a news story on that? It should be extremely famous because it has never happened before, and I simply can’t find a single mention of it on google news. I’m not calling you a liar. I wrote my Masters Thesis on the subject, and I highly doubt any type of news item of this type in the first place, as news people misquote the coroners. C students have to get jobs somewhere…

      • denjoga

        I’ll call him a liar.
        Completely full of b.s.
        Probably saw some satirical article and believed it.
        Just like the one that got passed around shortly after CO legalized, claiming a bunch of O.D.s.
        Was satire highlighting the ridiculousness of such a concern, but sooo many hand-wringers believed it to be true (and probably still do).

    • Kelley Hall Taborn

      There is no way it was just Marijuana in the bkys system. It had to be a natural cause, or a different drug. THC don’t kill you

    • JOhn

      I googled florida youth dies marijuana. Nothing. No deaths anywhere in Florida due to marijuana ingestion. I tried ‘dies from marijuana’ then ‘edible overdose’ – no one anywhere in the US has died anytime from consumption. I think you should change change your dangerous (mis)information.

    • Apollo John Pampallis

      It is possible to have too much cannabis. Different people have different tolerances. One girl calls my cookies ‘too weak/insipid’. Most find them ‘just right, but one, after being very giggly, felt sick and vomited profusely (a very nervous and uptight person). Our endocannabinoid system is designed for cannabis. If you have ‘too much’ you will become nauseous and vomit. That’s all. No lasting effects (‘positive’ or ‘negative’) other than memories, usually but not always good ones, whatsoever.It is thus impossible to die from cannabis. You can however die from binge eating or even kidney failure from drinking too much water

    • Patrick Michael

      You have proof of that? F#¢%ing people on the internet, post a thing with absolutely no proof and everyone is supposed to believe what you post. You post some sort of proof from a credible source and you are more likely to get someone to agree with you.

    • James T. Kirk

      not true. Nothing about it is on the news anywhere. Not even the fake news sites have any stories of it.

  • Kittie Barreras

    I have been having “enlightened experiences” on edibles. I have also eaten too much, and couldn’t move, but my mind was just a blast!

  • Antifa-geddaboutit

    What would you suggest for someone who doesn’t want to be silly stoned unable to move? I intend to buy some gummies (recreation is legal here woohoo), but I have heard they can pack quite a punch. I was wondering if I should just bite the poor bear’s head off and try that? Go smaller? I guess I would just assume to start small and go bigger if need be, since the opposite is not really an option.

    • trisha f

      This is where microdosing comes in handy. I make gummies with 5 mg or less of THC per piece. I can eat as many as I need to get to where I need to be based on my symptoms. Sometimes it’s a 1.5 mg piece of hard candy….sometimes it’s 3 of the 5 mg gummies. The best way to approach it is simple….Start Low, Go Slow.

      • Antifa-geddaboutit

        Yes, I had an…..interesting experience with them.

        I ate one at about 12pm and waited until 4. Nothing happened. So I took another. Nothing happened again, so at about 6pm, I took the 3rd one in the package.

        Now, you would think I would be smart enough to figure this out, but there is this thing called “biology”. In it, we learn that if you don’t eat anything all day besides 3 small gummies, your digestion doesn’t kick in. That is, until you eat something at dinner, for instance.

        I was SO HIGH. Like, uncomfortably, nauseatingly high. It was not great. I only had that happen to me one other time in high school with what they called “creeper”. We smoked and smoked and nothing happened, then all the sudden…..BOOM.

        It was my fault. I knew better. I just didn’t understand why nothing was happening at the time, and the guy at the store had said the dosing was just an estimate, that you MIGHT get 1mg in one and 9 in another for a total of 10mg, they were sort of hit and miss. That should have been a warning for me right there lol.

        Thanks for your answer though. I now just cut one in half and take it. Works like a charm.

  • Tony Beech

    With the name, The Regal Beagle, I have to believe him! And the fact that I keep getting faded via edibles!

  • Deborah L. Andrew

    I am thinking of trying them for my Multiple Sclerosis issues. Don’t know much about it though. I smoked it a couple of times and it worked great on my M.S. pain issues without the side effects that narcotics come with.

  • Bea Little

    I know nothing, and I mean NOTHING about marijuana. I’m thinking of seeking out edibles for my elderly mom who suffers with joint pain. Can anyone suggest where to start, how to dose, etc? I don’t think she would want to feel high, but the pain does sometimes cause her some stress/anxiety in addition to physical discomfort, as you might imagine. Any information would be greatly appreciated, and again please dumb it down as much as possible — you’re talking to a neophyte here. Thanks in advance to anyone who answers.

    • Helen Damnation™

      If you live in a legal state, I’m sure the local shops would be a good first start. I have hip pain, and it works wonders.

      • Bea Little

        Thanks Helen.

      • Dee

        Thank you Helen, I am trying to learn about edibles.

      • Janet Weeks

        I know nothing. Do you look for CBD or THC? What is the difference for pain management?

        • Helen Damnation™

          THC products work better for my pain. Perhaps in a distractive, or dissociative, way. If I get a above-board job I’ll not be able to continue with my (currently illegal in La) cannabis.

    • Diane Del Mercado

      I was diagnosed with breast cancer 8/3/17. I had surgery 9/5/17, they took 24 lymph nodes and my left breast. It’s very difficult to sleep at times due to pain and discomfort. I was given edibles that were 3mg for each piece. I would take one an hour before I would go to bed but it didn’t always help, but two definitely helped me sleep better. I never felt high and rested well. This is my first experience with cannabis and I am glad I finally took the leap. Good luck. By the way, make sure you have her get a medical need card by a certified professional depending upon where you live.

      • Bea Little

        Diane, Please forgive the lateness of my reply, I’m just seeing this. As two months have gone by, I’ll take the opportunity to say I hope you have progressed in your recovery and all is going well for you. Thank you for your response, unfortunately my mother has since expressed reluctance to go this route. Perhaps your email will sway her — it seems like excellent advice. Thanks again, and Good Luck to you as well.

    • bccazdsrtdwlr

      Early this year, I asked my 94+ yr old mother her opinion on MMJ and she said, “worth a try if it works!” “I” was becoming unable to handle her pain and all the misery that went along with it so for her to be open to trying something like this is a miracle in itself. Strictly edibles, preferably chocolates, but with the lack of good quality and variety of CBD dominant edibles on the AZ medMJ market….the first product I came across for her was the chocolate covered blueberries at 10mg each!! I assumed that would be an extremely high dose for a 1st time trial user so I cut one in half. 4 hours later, asking every hour….she felt nothing! Not in the head, not in the body….nothing! Surprised as I was…..6-7 weeks later, I am seeing improvements in cognitive and mobility, with less pain (complaining). Every one is different but in her case, I believe her body was in such dire need of pain relief that any “high” from a THC dominant product actually targeted itself where it needed to be versus creating a “head high”. We are still watching closely what works for her – on an experimental basis but her visiting monthly doctor did comment on improvements, as he approved the mmm ingestion for her. I am still preferring CBD dominant over THC and I am also finding Colorado is far surpassed AZ – even in the recreational market varieties and production over AZ’s medicinal MJ…… It is a learning curve, for sure, but being depressed, lonely, body parts frozen from atrophy, etc….this has been a God send to help Mom feel better these days!

      • Bea Little

        bccazdsrdwlr Wow, I’m glad your mom is feeling better. My mother is in her 90s as well, and has just started declining this year. Unlike last time I checked in here, she is now more open to edibles. Thank you for the mention of CBD over THC — I was wondering about that. And yes, agreed. This is a trial and error process. I admit I’m finding much of it emotionally exhausting. Thanks very much for your thoughtful reply and your advice.

      • Dee

        This is so wonderful to hear. Thank you for sharing. I really appreciate

  • Teddy Lindsay N Lauren

    your question “how long does the effects of an edible last” has no answer below just a bunch of suggestions. that is stupid

    • Ben

      You’re right, the article isn’t very helpful there. I’d want to say it depends on the dose and edibles are tough to dose. THC metabolizes when eaten into a compound 6x more psychoactive than the same amount of THC inhaled. See my comment above about overdosing. It could last 8 hours or even 18 hours. Trip hard enough and you may not feel very sober for days. And if you’re genetically prone to psychosis, hope you have good mental health insurance.

  • ConcernedGOM

    Seems other States are better serving their medical patients. In Florida were are stuck with vap, $$capsules, CBD only tincture, mixed with olive oil at one site. Other stores have nasal & other sprays. I want to change from the gross oil to hard candy melt in my mouth cannabis by legally buying the unmixed pure cannabis oil (like RSO). I want hard candy so it dissolves around my mouth. I know mixing an entire batch will produce uneven results. I want to stir in the correct dose of RSO into each candy mold cell but think it might harden before I can do this with a batch. Any help

    • trisha f

      I make edibles with Florida MMJ. I have no trouble getting consistent dosing by mixing the product into the batch of whatever it is I’m making. I’ve worked with fudge, toffee, peppermint bark, cookies, hard candies, gummies, lollipops, and caramels. I infuse the product into the fat before cooking if there is any kind of fat in the recipe; I have noticed that making them with an infused fat makes them a bit more potent because of how they are metabolized. You never know if you never try.

  • Jason

    I am looking for information about THC. I want to get big pharm out of my system and I did find several instances of deaths after eating edibles. The reason I am posting this is because I got some edibles the other day and it’s the first time I have ever tried them and now I am afraid thinking about this will ruin my first experience with them. LOL https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/04/18/denver-death-marijuana-edibles/7887025/

    • Ben

      That’s very unlikely to impossible, (THC is not like opiates AT ALL in regards to overdose risks) however the phenomenon of “ego death” which is quite possible with high doses of THC can make you wish you were in the ground. You are wise to research this. The main guidelines I can think of are start low (dosage), go slow (wait 2 hrs after ingesting to feel the effects). Just don’t have to be anywhere for the rest of the day until you’ve done this a few times. You could well be incapacitated; someone I just read about described himself stuck looking at his thoughts as if he was inside the tesseract in the movie Interstellar! As with taking any strong psychoactive you are new to, it helps to have a “trip sitter” or someone who cares about you nearby and who is more sober, or at least more experienced.

    • Jai Guru

      Congratulations on not being part of the goofy pot religion that thinks it’s 100% safe to feed to babies and has no risks what so ever. You will be shouted down, but you’re not wrong.

    • Kristin Perry-Hahnlen

      Just start slow…. You can always eat more if you need to but you cannot take back what you’ve already eaten

  • April Ghalami

    This told me nothing.

  • Drew Galindo

    What about shelf life? I was considering getting some for my mom, but if she didn’t want to try it right away, how long would she have before it expired?

  • Jai Guru

    And queue all the flakey green “scientists” who work at Stuckie’s but thinkt hey have PhD’s in 3..2..

  • Greg Boycott

    I learned absolutely nothing. Thanks for being very careful not to convey any actual notion of anything.

  • Doc Hunter

    Are there any edibles/strains that will help with increasing ones appetite?
    I’m a 72 yr old cancer survivor, VA cutting my minimal ops a month so pain reduction and weight gain are my main concerns.
    Any suggestions? Thanks………

  • therasa jones

    Dr Peter Hurt get to my doorstep with some good edibles and Strains for Relieving Anxiety Grand Daddy Purple (indica) and
    Purple Haze (sativa) via his phone # (804) 537 0917 am happy for this very good Dr Peter Hurt

  • truthbeatold

    After ingesting edibles, I decided to go to TJ Maxx to do some browsing. I picked up one of those grip exercisers and started blasting my forearms while looking through the aisles. When I got to an even one thousand reps with my left hand I switched over to my right for another thousand. I was there longer than I realized and ended up doing another thousand reps with each hand. Everything was fine until I got home. My hands curled up into a ball and I’ve been unable to open them for three days now. My nephew is typing this comment out for me. I’ve called in sick from work because I can’t do my job at without my hands. But I only have one more sick day left. My fists have been soaking in hot soapy water for the last five hours but they still won’t open up. Any suggestions? I’m pretty desperate.