Dosing Cannabis Edibles Safely

by HelloMD

Jaene has been in the medical cannabis industry for years, and is currently a cannabis consultant at Oakland's Harborside Health Center. She also teaches iRest meditation with OperationEVAC (Educating Veterans About Cannabis). She has written and edited various cannabis articles for digital and print media, and enjoys educating patients brand new to cannabis on all the wonderful benefits this plant has to offer. In her first article, Jaene talks about how to dose edibles

What's a Phytocannabinoid?

Here’s the most amazing thing about cannabis medicine: it’s got a special design in mind just for you! Because of the DEA’s Schedule I classification of cannabis deeming it without medicinal value, research in the U.S. has been slow and limited. Though scientists worldwide have only scratched the surface on the far-reaching benefits of the plant’s numerous phytocannabinoids, experiential evidence puts the number of ailments which can be treated with cannabis in the dozens, if not hundreds. Some hundred or so phytocannabinoids exist in the plant, though currently, only a few have been isolated and are being put to work in cannabis medicine formulations. Of the six most prominently used - CBD, CBDA, THC, THCA, CBN and CBG -- THC is the only one that is psychoactive. (CBN, which is aged THC, is considered to be mildly psychoactive).

You are Unique

Every body is different, there is no one-size-fits-all for cannabis medicine. So, unlike the western medical model, in which we’ve willingly turned our wellness over to the (presumed) wisdom of the person in a white coat, cannabis medicine requires that YOU experiment and find just the right method of delivery and dosage for you -- whether it be edibles, flower, concentrate, topicals, tinctures, or some combination thereof. As you enter into this experiment, mindfulness is key. Keep a journal. Write down what you’re taking, the dose, the effects, what you liked, and what you didn’t like. Return to the entry later, when the dose/effects have worn off. Write some more about your experience. Return to these entries often, for reference, until you know what works for you!

The Bad Edibles Trip

Edibles are serious (and, often, seriously delicious) medicine. A bad THC edible trip is just not fun. It usually goes something like this:

You take a bite of the edible.

You forget it was a dose of MEDICINE, because, hey! It doesn’t even taste like weed!

You wait a few minutes. Maybe a half hour. Nothing happens. You’re getting impatient.

The edible taunts you. “I’m delicious. I don’t taste like weed! Eat me.”

Despite the fact that you’ve educated yourself, and/or been warned about the potency of the edible, you fold under the temptation. You take another bite. Maybe two. Or maybe - gulp - you finish the entire edible.

Two hours later, you’re higher than you’ve ever been, and it isn’t necessarily a good experience.

You’re paranoid, anxious, fearful. Maybe you believe you are dying or have died. It’s dark. The darkest you’ve ever felt.

Perhaps you get nauseous. Maybe the room spins. You might vomit.

And it goes on like this for hours and hours…

How Edibles Work

Edibles are cannabis-infused foods -- candies, cookies, pretzels, gummies, popcorn, chocolate bars, capsules, drinks -- with new products coming to market every day. THC edibles can be very powerful medicine, (and, according to at least two studies, so can CBD edibles which just may turn into THC in stomach acid). Once an edible is swallowed, THC works its way through the gastrointestinal system before it is broken down in the liver and distributed out into the bloodstream, producing the high felt in the body and mind. This entire process can take two hours or more, depending on an individual’s metabolism. The peak of the THC high can last up to six hours and residual effects may be felt for more than ten hours. You can see why edibles are NOT recommended for people who are brand new to cannabis and have never experienced a THC high. It is also not recommended for anyone with eating disorders or food compulsions. (For cannabis novices, it’s best to try a different method of delivery, such as tinctures or inhalation.). A bad edible experience could cause someone who might otherwise really benefit from cannabis to swear if off completely.

The 'Dowd Effect'

Two years ago, Maureen Dowd wrote a cautionary piece for the New York Times in which she recounted a less-than-pleasurable evening of overdoing it with an edible at her hotel room in Denver. Colorado tour operator and Dowd’s dispensary chaperone Matt Brown disputed the piece, saying Dowd had been warned during the four or so hours she spent with him while shopping for cannabis. Regardless of the she-said, he-said, Dowd’s piece spurred a Colorado edible dosing education campaign and birthed the slogan. Start Low and Go Slow. (SLaGS). If you’re thinking of trying edibles, or really ANY method of delivery for cannabis, consider this your mantra. Learn it. Practice it. Share it with others.

Are you taking any other medications? Be sure to ask your doctor about any possible drug interactions. If your doctor gives you the okay, be sure to wait at least a couple of hours after taking other medications before taking your edible dose.

How to Dose Your Edible

Take your first edible dose in the privacy of your own home, at a time when you can relax, preferably a couple of hours before bedtime.

Never take an edible on an empty stomach!

Never take an edible with alcohol!

5-15 milligrams is considered in the cannabis world a starter dose, but remember this is powerful medicine and effects range from person to person. SLaGS!

If you’re brand new to cannabis, start with a microdose of 1.0 - 2.5 milligrams.

Cut/tear/pull your desired dose off the edible, put it aside.

Wrap up the rest of the edible and put it away.

Consume your edible.

Wait TWO HOURS for full effect.

Record the effects in your journal, if you are able.

After two hours, If necessary, consume another microdose 1.0 - 2.5 milligrams. If you find that you are too high, tell yourself this feeling will pass. (I promise it will!)

Once your edible is in full effect, go to bed! You’ll have a great night’s sleep! If you should need to get up in the night for any reason, sit up slowly and wait until you have adjusted to any sensations you are experiencing. Depending on how long the edible has been in your system, you may still feel high or feel a bit groggy or sleepy. Go slowly and mindfully. When you wake up from the edible, record any further information in your journal. Share your newfound wisdom with others!

Do you have questions about edibles? Ask a question in HelloMD's new Answers feature. Our doctors and community will answer.

If you are new to cannabis and want to learn more, take a look at our Cannabis 101 post. HelloMD can help you get your medical marijuana recommendation; it's 100% online, private and efficient.