The body absorbs cannabis consumed orally much differently than when it is smoked – it is usually a slower, but longer-lasting experience.

Smoked cannabis delivers cannabinoids like THC, the psychoactive agent in marijuana that makes a user feel high, or CBD, a component of cannabis that actually counteracts the psychoactive effects of THC, through the lungs and then straight to the brain. The impact is felt almost immediately, and the effects usually wear off relatively quickly, depending on the potency of the marijuana.

Cannabis-infused edibles can be divided into two categories: those digested through the stomach, like baked sweet treats and savory foods, and those absorbed through saliva, like tinctures, lozenges or gum. There are a few edible products out there, like chocolate, sodas and drinks, that are absorbed by both the mouth and the stomach.

The impact of an edible can vary depending on body weight, metabolism, general health and what else may already be in a user’s stomach, but the biggest variable involved is the potency of the cannabis that is infused into the food or tincture. Most states that have legal adult-use cannabis markets limit a single edible serving to 10 milligrams of THC or CBD. Maine hasn’t set its limits yet.

Edibles that rely on gastrointestinal uptake take longer to kick in – for a 10-milligram dose, it can take up to two hours – but the effect can last for up to eight. An orally absorbed edible can take effect much sooner, like 15 to 20 minutes, but can wear off in two to three hours. A hybrid can kick in sooner, and last about four hours, because it is both absorbed and digested faster.

The most popular edibles use the gastrointestinal system to deliver their effects. Anything going through the stomach goes through the liver first. The liver converts THC into another chemical known as 11-hydroxy-THC, which is stronger than THC and passes over the blood-brain barrier more rapidly than THC. That is why an edibles high can seem more intense and last longer.

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