Why Are Edibles A More Intense High than Smoking?

There are a lot of stories of first time cannabis users finding themselves way too high. Sometimes it ends in a panicked trip to the ER, sometimes it results in (albeit interesting) calls to 911, people have described terrifying experiences – which is why it’s so important to know how to safely dose with cannabis edibles. However, it’s also important to be educated, and understand why it is that cannabis edibles are so much more intense than simply smoking or vaping cannabis flower or concentrates.

The main thing to know, is that different forms of consumption release different versions of the THC cannabinoid, the compound responsible for feeling stoned. When it is still in raw plant form, the cannabinoid takes the inactive form of THC-A, which is non-psychoactive – and when it is heated it becomes THC, the psychoactive version that the cannabis plant is so well known for.

“The issue isn’t that [weed is] metabolized differently, it's that it's gonna get metabolized to different degrees in different parts of the body, depending on the route of administration,” Nick Jikomes, the principal research scientist at Leafly, explains.

When THC is introduced to the bloodstream the effects are nearly immediate – however, when consumed as an edible with active THC, the cannabinoid will change in the liver, becoming a more potent version of itself known as 11-hydroxy-THC.

“The real difference between edibles and smoking or vaping is that with edibles, a much larger fraction of Delta-9-THC makes it to the liver first. There it gets converted to 11-hydroxy-THC,” Jikomes says. “So in other words, if you smoke or vape, the ratio of 11-hydroxy-THC to Delta-9-THC is quite low, and if you take an edible it's much higher.”

While it is impossible to consume enough cannabis to actually kill you, it is possible to consume enough that you feel extremely sick and uncomfortable. People have reported feeling as though they are going to die – usually the reason for the worried trips to the ER or calls to 911 – but the thing to remember is that you will be okay if you consume too much cannabis, you just have to wait it out.

Evergreen Organix offers a great Guide to Safe Dosing with Cannabis Edibles to help ensure that anyone trying edible cannabis for the first time has an experience worth remembering (for a good reason!), as well as a few tips on What to Do If You Eat to Many Cannabis Edibles. This should ensure that no matter what edibles you prefer – from Fruit Chews and Cereal Bars to more traditional cookies and brownies – you can truly enjoy yourself when the effects start to take hold.