Everything You Need to Know Before Eating Weed

Perry Santanachote/Thrillist
Perry Santanachote/Thrillist

Whether you’re buying them using a medical card, scoring 'em legally for recreational use in Washington and Colorado (with Oregon and Alaska coming soon!), making your own, or going through the age-old channel of pre-gaming in the parking lot of a Panic show, marijuana edibles are soaring in popularity. They’re also growing in notoriety thanks to people’s all-too-common rookie tendency to overdo it.

That’s why we consulted Jay Denniston, head of science at Denver’s Dixie Brands, who has logged 20 years in the lab as an environmental chemist and forensic toxicologist, and who now gets to play Willy Wonka with THC. In the glorious glow of the Dixie HQ, he laid out the fact and fiction of edibles. Here’s what you need to know before you dig in.

Madame Munchie

What’s the main difference between eating and smoking marijuana?

“When you smoke, it goes immediately from your lungs into your bloodstream and through the blood-brain barrier so your head feels that psychoactive effect quickly. With edibles, it’s all about metabolism. When you eat something infused with marijuana it goes directly into your stomach -- not at all in the bloodstream -- where it gets metabolized before spreading throughout the body.”

Can I mix different types of edibles at once?

“We recommend sticking to one type of edible product per medical or recreational session (four to six hours of marijuana activity). But, the oil we use here... it ranges from 70-80% in THC concentration, and is the same across all of our products, and the high you’re going to get will feel similar. It’s the supporting players in an edible like the fat, water, or carbohydrate content that can create conflicting effects when used together.”

But are some types of edibles stronger than others?

“Absolutely. A product with no fat, it’s going to take the body a little bit longer to absorb everything. Where, with a chocolate that contains more fat, the THC will be more rapidly absorbed and distributed more evenly throughout the body.”


What’s a general order of products a beginner should follow?

“For new consumers, start with one 5mg dose and see how you react. Even though a regulated dose is 10mg, you should still work your way up to that.” The best vessels for those doses? Hard candies, gummies, chocolates, and elixirs/tinctures.

Is there anything you can do to prepare for a session?

“Definitely don’t ever take an edible on an empty stomach. Also, be aware of the ingredients of what you’re ingesting and your body makeup. Just like alcohol, these products are metabolized differently by everyone, so age and BMI (body mass index) are things to take into consideration. I think it’s generally accepted that a person with less fat will not feel it as quickly as someone with more fat on their body.”

Can you have a drink with an edible dose?

“Mixing marijuana and alcohol can be pretty dangerous. Combining them isn’t going to cause a counter-reaction or produce a poison in your body, but it will increase the effects of both of them by an innumerable amount. Some people get extremely nauseous when mixing the two -- especially with edibles -- and some have no problem indulging in both. But it’s really about the reaction of the individual and it’s best to choose one or the other.”

Tell us about the new dosing and packaging rules with the most recent legislation in CO

“Any individual piece on the recreational side can be no more than a ‘dose,’ which is defined by Colorado as 10mg. Any other product (like an elixir) is considered ‘bulk’ and must be easily divisible into pieces dosed at no more than 10mg.” This varies state by state, so we recommend something you probably don’t want to do while high: reading.

Courtesy of Dixie Brands

How do you figure out the activation times stamped on each of your products?

“Again, it’s based on the fat in the product and also of the consumer. Because THC is a lipid, it dissolves into the fat from the ingredients and is more readily absorbed into the fat cells in your stomach. Different products have different times of metabolization based on all of the other ingredients used too.”

And how accurate are they?

“The general rule of thumb is the one-hour mark. But it can be as quick as 30 minutes or as long as four hours. As much as brands want to say they know exactly, it still is a little bit of trial and error on the consumer’s part.”

Courtesy of Dixie Brands

Is there anything you can’t infuse?

“Almost any food item has potential. If you look at infused oil for what it is -- just a fat -- then you can apply the same basics of food chemistry to anything. But what’s out there now is all driven by sugar, and we’re missing out on products with nutritive value. However medically or recreationally effective, we shouldn’t be eating chocolate bars every day. We’re in development now of a nutraceutical line, which will open a whole new realm to the industry.”

What are the signs of taking too much? Is there any way out?

“The most common are increased perspiration, nervousness, anxiety, and sleeplessness. The only thing you can do is try and relax, practice some deep breathing, and wait it out. For those who experience a panic attack and want to call 911 -- look, a lot of people are using marijuana to help already existing high anxiety. So when someone like that takes too much of an edible it definitely contributes. Most of those cases are overreactions. You’ll get through it.”

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Katie Shapiro is a Colorado-based cannabis and style writer. She slings indie film on the side as a producer and publicist. Follow her around the high country and the film festival circuit: @kshapiromedia.