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Pros and Cons of Edible Marijuana vs. Smoking

Since the increase in acceptance of cannabis consumption and legalization in more states, the edibles market has seen a boom and is expected to continue growing. A global market report found that the cannabis edibles market was valued at approximately $2.9 billion in 2020, with a projected value of $11.8 billion by 2027. In light of this boom, it is important that consumers understand the pros and cons of edibles vs. smoking or vaping, especially since edibles are becoming a popular means of consumption among both medical marijuana and recreational cannabis users.

What Are Edibles?

Edibles can easily be defined as food products and beverages that contain cannabis. Edibles can come in many forms, including but not limited to baked goods, gummies, tea, juice, and chocolate. Individuals can purchase ready-made edibles or make them by adding infused oil, butter, or tinctures into foods. Edibles are also considered to be a safer and more discreet consumption method (compared to inhalation for example).

It is also important to note that eating raw cannabis and consuming edibles are not the same thing and will not have the same effect. This is due to the fact that cannabis needs to be decarboxylated (exposed to heat) in order for the cannabinoids (e.g., THC and CBD) to become active. While raw cannabis will not get you high like edibles, it may still offer some health benefits.

When eating or juicing raw cannabis flower, the plant itself contains compounds such as THCA and CBDA, which turn into THC and CBD respectively when decarboxylated, or “activated.” However, acidic precursors like CBDA and THCA are still biologically active. CBDA is the main cannabinoid in hemp fiber and seed oil and may help relieve pain, nausea and vomiting, seizures, and inflammation. THCA is the source of up to 90% of a raw plant’s THC and has similar properties. It should be noted that the research on eating raw flower is still in early stages, leaving much undetermined.

We also know that CBDA and THCA are water-soluble, unlike CBD and THC, making them easier to infuse directly into beverages like teas and juices. Other non-acidic cannabinoids like THC and CBD need to be infused into oils or other dissolvable fats first. These are things to keep in mind when making your own edibles, especially when trying to cut down on calories, fat, and sugar.

Different Ways to Consume Edibles

There is a wide and increasing variety of cannabis edibles, including baked treats such as cookies and brownies, candies such as gummies and lollipops, savory dishes such as pizzas and pasta, and beverages such as milk and juice. While you can always purchase pre-made edibles from your local dispensary, there are plenty of delicious edible recipes you can try at home using decarboxylated cannabis flower. Our guide to making edibles is a good place to start.

Properly Calculating Dosages

Making edibles can be a fun and creative experience, but one should take measures to properly calculate the dosages of cannabis in order to ensure the safe delivery of the compounds and avoid any unwanted effects—especially since the digestive system transforms THC into 11-hydroxy-THC, which is what makes edibles more potent and longer-lasting than other forms of consumption. While calculating the dosages of homemade edibles is not an exact science, it is good to have an estimation of the compound quantity for your own safety and enjoyment.

The first thing you need to know when calculating edible dosage is the approximate percentage of THC in the flower you are using in your recipe. If you purchased the flower at a dispensary, the percentage is usually on the packaging. Otherwise, you can use the rule of thumb of an average of 15%. Remember that 1 gram of flower weighs 1000 milligrams, so each gram has an average of 150 mg THC (if the flower is 15%).

Learn more about cannabis flower measurements: A Guide to Cannabis Measurements and Weights

To determine the total amount of THC you’ll need, multiply the individual dose desired by the number of finished treats. For example, if you want to bake a pan of 10 brownies with 10 milligrams in each, then you’ll need a total of 100 milligrams of THC. Head to Veriheal’s edible dosage calculator to easily calculate the potency of your edibles.

Edible Recipes That Will Tickle Your Taste Buds

It’s often best to start your edible creation process by infusing a basic ingredient with cannabis. Try one of these:

Ready to make a treat? Check out these recipes:

Last but not least, here are some oh-so-delicious infused drinks that will have you on cloud nine:

Effects of Edibles vs. Smoking

When one smokes cannabis, whether with pipes, bongs, or joints, the cannabinoids enter the body through means of inhalation. Once smoked, cannabinoids make their way to the lungs first before entering the bloodstream and circulating to the brain and the rest of the body. Through this method of consumption, users are able to feel the effects faster since absorption into the bloodstream happens faster with smoking than with edibles.

It is also thanks to the fast absorption rates that the effects of smoking cannabis do not last as long as the effects of edibles. When smoking, you can expect effects to kick in about 2-10 minutes and last between 1 and 3 hours. However, some strains can linger in the body for up to 8 hours.

With edibles, cannabinoids are processed by the digestive system after being consumed. This metabolism process is why edibles take so long to kick in—roughly 1-2 hours after consumption. However, because, when you eat an edible, the liver converts Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol into 11-Hydroxy-THC, the high lasts much longer than with smoking, often 2-10 hours, with effects sometimes lingering for up to 24.

The conversion from THC into 11-hydroxy-THC makes the THC content much stronger and longer-lasting. This means that you’ll get way higher for a longer amount of time when eating edibles that you would from vaping or smoking marijuana.

Check out this post to learn more about the length and type of effects of each consumption method: From Smoking to Dabbing to Edibles, How Long Does a Cannabis High Last?

The Pros and Cons of Edibles vs. Smoking

Whether you prefer ingesting cannabis-infused edibles or smoking cannabis, there are pros and cons to each different form of consumption, as they induce different effects. Eating edibles is safer for patients with lung and cardiovascular conditions: there are plenty of options, and the effects stay in your body much longer than when you smoke or vape, making them ideal for medical cannabis patients with chronic pain. However, the effects of edibles can take a long time to kick in, and dosages vary for each person.



Pros Cons Pros Cons
1. Better for patients with respiratory and cardiovascular conditions, or for individuals who want to avoid smoking 1. Effects and benefits take longer to kick in 1. Rapid onset rate, which means that consumers will feel effects and benefit from cannabis almost immediately 1. May compromise respiratory function since some of the same chemicals found in cigarettes can be found in cannabis smoke
2. Come in an infinite array of options, so consumers can take edibles that appeal to their taste buds 2. Easy to consume too much, whether by miscalculating dosages or not waiting long enough before taking more 2. Easier to manage how much is being consumed 2. Has a shorter duration in terms of experiencing effects and benefiting from compounds
3. Can be bought or homemade 3. Though rare, there is a risk of inducing psychosis when consuming too much. 3. Delivers higher bioavailability rates in comparison to other methods 3. Compounds can be lost in side-stream smoke
4. Last longer than other methods, which can offer prolonged relief from symptoms of medical conditions such as chronic pain 4. Potential side effects associated with overconsumption, such as confusion, anxiety, panic, paranoia, hallucinations, delusions, increased blood pressure, faster heart rate, and nausea 4. Effects fade more quickly (about 1-2 hours); overdoing it is more difficult and will wear off sooner and less intensely than with edibles 4. Similarly to edibles, and other means of consumption, smoking cannabis with a potency that is too high can lead to adverse effects such as anxiety.
5. A more discreet means of consumption 5. According to the same 2016 study, overconsumption of edibles has been linked to: cognitive and motor impairment, extreme sedation, agitation, anxiety, cardiac stress, and vomiting. 5. Has a reduced risk of being eaten by pets and children since it does not look like a delicious treat 5. Emits a noticeable smell
6. According to a 2016 study, edibles have been anecdotally reported to assist with symptoms of conditions like muscle spasms, pain, nausea and vomiting, cancer, appetite stimulation, and epilepsy, as well as several psychiatric disorders such as depression and PTSD. 6. Quick and convenient means of consumption

Tips to Consume Edibles Safely

As seen in the table above, safe edible consumption is of the utmost importance since edibles are potent and long-lasting. That’s why it’s important to “start low and go slow”: start with a low dosage (5-10 milligrams) and wait for it to kick in before consuming more.

Tips for Safe Marijuana Use

  1. Stay hydrated.
  2. Start with a low quantity and potency and work your way up slowly.
  3. Know your limits. Smoking weed comfortably may take some experimentation, but you want to find the optimal effects with the smallest amount of cannabis use.
  4. Do not drive under the influence.
  5. Practice caution and consider avoiding methods that involve smoking.

Tips for Safe Marijuana Edible Consumption

  1. Read the label of your product carefully. The label should inform you of the quantity, potency, and serving suggestions of the edible.
  2. Start with a low dose (5-10 mg of THC) and wait patiently before consuming more, around 3-4 hours.
  3. If you plan to make your own, follow a recipe so that you have a better idea of how much cannabis is in the product. Try a small piece in order to assess its potency and effects on yourself before consuming more or larger pieces.
  4. Plan ahead so that you consume in a safe space with no plans to drive anywhere, work, or operate heavy machinery.
  5. Store your edibles where children and pets cannot get to them.
  6. Try to remain as calm as possible if you have consumed too much. Though unpleasant side effects and stronger psychoactive effects are possible, try to remind yourself that serious health effects are unlikely.
  7. Do not mix edibles with other substances such as alcohol or prescription medication.
  8. Do not consume edibles if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

As with all substances, listen to your body and ensure you’re in a safe environment when consuming edible cannabis products.

Final Takeaway: Edibles vs. Smoking 

Edibles serve as a great smoke-free option for the medicinal and recreational use of cannabis, especially when taken with care and control. They’re tasty, discreet, and very effective. Just make sure to follow the “start low and go slow” rule of thumb, especially when experimenting with edibles for the first time.

Check out these posts for information on counteracting an uncomfortable edible high:

Note: The content on this page is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be professional medical advice. Do not attempt to self-diagnose or prescribe treatment based on the information provided. Always consult a physician before making any decision on the treatment of a medical condition.

Note: The content on this page is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be professional medical advice. Do not attempt to self-diagnose or prescribe treatment based on the information provided. Always consult a physician before making any decision on the treatment of a medical condition.

This article was first published in May 2021 and most recently updated in October 2023. 

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