People who are used to smoking weed have one common question a few minutes after trying their first edible.
“How long does it take for this thing to kick in?”
That’s not surprising. There’s not much of a wait before you start feeling weed’s effects after you take a huge toke. You begin experiencing the high within a couple of minutes, maybe even sooner.
Edibles are different, though, because they take much longer to hit. In fact, a regular smoker’s first experience with baked goodies can lead to an unexpected problem.
Newbies often go back for a second helping when they don’t feel anything right away. And often, they end up much more wasted than they expected or wanted to be. Reports say the majority of weed users going to emergency rooms in Colorado were there because they overdid the edibles.
Why is there such a difference? And how long do edibles take to kick in?
How the Body Handles Weed
You probably know that weed’s psychoactive effects (and many of its health benefits) are due to the THC it contains. Once you’ve ingested or inhaled the cannabinoid, it interacts with endocannabinoid system (ECS) receptors located in the brain and throughout the body to make you high, lock you to the couch, or help relieve the pain that you’re feeling.
But how does THC actually get to the receptors? It depends.
Smoking or Vaping
When you smoke or vape cannabis, the smoke or vapor quickly enters the lungs. THC immediately passes through the bronchi and alveoli, enters the bloodstream, and travels throughout the body. It is then free to interact with ECS receptors in the brain (to get you buzzed) or elsewhere (to provide its other effects).
That takes only a minute or two, although it can be half an hour or so before the cannabinoid’s effects reach their peak. The high will last anywhere from an hour to a few hours, depending on the potency of the weed and how much you’ve smoked.
The process works similarly when you take THC sublingually (with oil dripped or tablets placed under the tongue). THC is absorbed by the membranes under the tongue called the oral mucosa and enters the bloodstream immediately. Its effects hit even more quickly than if you had smoked up.
It takes much longer for the THC in edibles to reach ECS receptors, because it’s been baked into a product that has to be digested.
Naturally, when you swallow an edible it moves through the digestive tract into the stomach. Once the digestive process is complete, though, more has to happen before you can get high.
THC is sent to the liver where enzymes break it down. Most of the THC is turned into metabolites; one of them is the THC-COOH that’s stored in body fat and can show up in urine tests for as long as a month. But there’s another important metabolite created as well: 11-hydroxy-OH-THC.
That’s the metabolite that matters most when you’ve consumed an edible because 11-hydroxy-THC is quite a bit more potent than THC. It is sent to the bloodstream, crosses the blood-brain barrier, and gets you even more wasted than when you smoke or vape.
The effects of 11-hydroxy-THC last longer, too. They don’t peak until 2-4 hours after you’ve taken the edible, and may not completely wear off for 6, 8, or occasionally even 10 hours. But here’s the downside we’ve referred to.
The digestion process takes a while, as does the metabolization of THC in the liver. So once you’ve consumed an edible, it can take 30 minutes to an hour — and sometimes even longer — for the weed to kick in.
The poet Ogden Nash once wrote, “Candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker.” (You may know the line from the original movie version of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.) Updated for the weed generation, though, you could say that edibles are tasty and stronger, but smoking is quicker.
What Affects How Long It Take For Weed to Kick In?
It generally takes just a couple of minutes for a few tokes to hit, and between 30-60 minutes for edibles to be felt. Those numbers are just ballpark ones, though.
There are other factors that play a role in how quickly you’ll get high:
1. Weed Strain
This is the big one. Some strains contain higher levels of THC than others, and the more potent the flower, the faster it will usually hit.
Some people are less likely to feel weed’s effects because they have a genetic mutation that limits the ability of cannabis to interact with ECS receptors. By extension, those people will have to smoke or eat more in order to get buzzed, and it will take longer for THC to do its psychoactive work.
3. Sex at Birth
THC and estrogen interact, so women need less THC to get high than men do. That also means that pot can take effect more quickly for women.
4. THC Tolerance
Habitual users can build up a tolerance to weed, so they need higher doses and more time for THC to kick in. The genetic factor we mentioned can also be viewed as THC tolerance.
5. Body Weight & BMI
The more you weigh and the more body fat you’re carrying, the longer it may take for you to feel the effects of weed.
6. The Last Time You Ate
It will take longer for the stomach to digest an edible if it’s already working on that Big Mac and fries you picked up on the way to your smoke sesh. Obviously, this doesn’t affect how long it will take the smoke to reach your lungs and your body.
Edibles Require Caution
We mentioned at the start that people who misuse edibles are most likely to end up in the ER. That should serve as an important warning.
There’s probably nothing wrong with the edibles you picked up at the dispensary or made yourself, if you’re not ready to kick back and enjoy them after half an hour. They’ll take at least that long, and often much longer before you feel their effects.
What you shouldn’t do is get impatient and down another one. Give it at least 90 minutes before you decide you need a few more bites. Patience is just as important as potent bud when it comes to edibles.
How Long Does It Take For The Weed to Kick In? FAQ
Q: Does this mean you’ll get high more quickly if you eat an edible on an empty stomach?
A: Absolutely. But it doesn’t mean that’s the best idea. Having a small snack shortly after downing an edible is smart; the food will speed up the digestive process while ensuring that the effects of 11-hydroxy-THC won’t immediately knock you completely on your ass.
Q: Does the way an edible is made have any effect on how long it takes to kick in?
A: Actually, it does. If your cookie, brownie, or other treats were made with cannabis oil or concentrate, they’ll be more potent and hit faster than if they were made with flowers.
Q: Is there anything you can do to speed up how quickly weed kicks in?
A: If you’re smoking, not really, although potent weed may hit a bit faster. If you’re using edibles, the approach to food we just mentioned can help. And if you buy edibles at a dispensary, ask the budtender which ones will kick in the fastest. Trust us, they’ll know.
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- Sharma, P., Murthy, P., & Bharath, M. S. (2012). Chemistry, metabolism, and toxicology of cannabis: clinical implications. Iranian Journal of Psychiatry, 7(4), 149.
- Barrus, D. G., Capogrossi, K. L., Cates, S. C., Gourdet, C. K., Peiper, N. C., Novak, S. P., … & Wiley, J. L. (2016). Tasty THC: promises and challenges of cannabis edibles. Methods report (RTI Press), 2016.