You’re browsing at your local dispensary (if you have to travel to a nearby “legal” state, maybe it’s not so local). You’re there to purchase some flowers, but it’s always fun to look around.
There’s wax and shatter…there are tinctures and oils…there are edibles…beverages…vape pens…and what’s this?
THC pills? That’s a new one.
Actually, they’re not really new. They’re just becoming quite popular in the weed community.
THC pills sound like an easy way to get stoned, without the calories that come along with edibles. But what’s the high like, compared to smoking? Is it the same as edibles? And do the pills take as long as a weed brownie or gummy to kick in?
You can probably figure out how to take THC pills – you just swallow them.
As for the rest of your questions, we have answers.
What’s In THC Pills?
We could be snarky and say “Um…there’s THC in them.” But that wouldn’t be nice, and it also wouldn’t tell the whole story.
THC pills usually contain either cannabis oil or chopped-up weed. Commercially-available pills normally have marijuana extract or concentrate mixed with coconut oil; the oil helps with absorption in the digestion system since THC isn’t water-soluble.
Homemade THC pills most often contain flowers, but some people who are more ambitious and want a better buzz may use kief or concentrate. Needless to say, those who use flowers must be sure to decarb it first. Otherwise, the THC in the pot won’t be activated, and swallowing the pills won’t get the user high.
The pills themselves aren’t really pills. They’re capsules, made from either animal-based gelatin or vegan vegetable starch. Both choices are easily digestible. They’re also easier to swallow than pills, and of course, you take THC pills by swallowing them.
What happens next?
How THC Pills Work
If you’re familiar with edibles, THC pills work in basically the same way. If not, here’s what you need to know.
These capsules don’t take effect as quickly as a weed that’s smoked or vaped because the body processes them differently.
Smoke or vapor is inhaled directly into the lungs, where the THC is absorbed nearly immediately and sent right into the bloodstream. It reaches the brain and begins to produce its psychoactive effects within seconds.
The story is very different when you swallow THC pills or edibles. Once they move through the digestive tract and into the stomach, they have to be digested. The process is a little faster for the type of capsules most often used to make THC pills; they’re so-called “immediate release” capsules and they dissolve quickly. You may occasionally find cannabis oil or weed packed into “time-release” capsules like hydrogels, which are designed to release their contents slowly over time.
After the THC has been freed through digestion, its journey is far from over. It’s sent to the liver where it’s metabolized into a different compound called 11-hydroxy-THC (or 11-OH-THC for short). Finally, the 11-hydroxy-THC is released into the bloodstream where it can travel to the brain and take effect.
The entire process takes a lot of time, usually between one and two hours, and sometimes more. And that explains one of the biggest differences between smoking weed and taking THC pills: you have to be very patient after you swallow the capsule. You won’t feel anything for at least an hour, often longer.
We’re not done with the story yet, because there are two very interesting things to know about 11-OH-THC. First, 11-OH-THC is potent, about two or three times more potent than the THC that gets you high when you smoke. When you take THC pills, you may get a lot higher than you do when you smoke.
Second, 11-OH-THC has a much longer half-life, meaning it will provide its psychoactive and medicinal effects for a far greater time period than weed does when you smoke or vape it. The capsules’ effects will last for as many as 6-10 hours after the THC metabolite kicks in, compared to the 20-30 minutes that the effects of a few tokes will linger.
So if you’re going to take THC capsules, settle in. It’ll take a while before they do their work, you may end up more wasted than you expected to be, and it could be a long – and hopefully, enjoyable – ride.
Pros And Cons Of Taking THC Pills
Being able to pop a THC pill like Advil or Tylenol might seem like a great idea – or a terrible one.
If you’re a pain patient and just want to take a pill in order to get some relief, THC capsules might seem like the perfect way to consume weed. If you’re a cannabis connoisseur, on the other hand, you’d probably think the whole idea of just swallowing a pill to get high is heresy.
Not sure what to think? Here are the pros and cons of taking THC pills.
- Better high: THC pills, like edibles, may provide a stronger high (thanks to the 11-OH-THC metabolite that’s created in the liver) and their effects will last longer.
- No smoke: Some people don’t want to inhale anything into their lungs for health reasons, others simply don’t want to smoke or vape. Advantage: pills.
- No calories: Some may prefer edibles instead of smoking or vaping, but they aren’t crazy about the extra calories and sugar they have to consume, or they may be diabetic. THC capsules are the ideal solution.
- No muss, no fuss: There’s no need to roll joints, pack bowls or bongs, or deal with a vaporizer. It’s easy, and if you buy your THC pills in a dispensary, the doses are pre-measured for you.
- No attention: Those who want to get high discreetly without the telltale aroma (or equipment) can just pop a pill and enjoy.
- Delay: As with edibles, THC pills won’t take effect for at least an hour, often more. You can’t just decide to get high, and then be high a few minutes later.
- Not sociable: Smoking weed (or vaping, these days) is a very sociable experience. When you’re with a group of friends, there’s a lot less enjoyment in popping a pill and waiting for an hour or two, than there is in passing a joint or sharing a bong.
- Not always available: If you live in a legal state, your dispensary may not carry THC capsules. If you live elsewhere, you’ll probably have to make your own.
- Expensive: In general, THC pills cost a good deal more than buying the equivalent amount of flower.
THC pills can be a godsend for some cannabis users, particularly patients, but they’re definitely not for everyone. And there’s a good chance you’ll know which category you’re in, as soon as you see the capsules on display at your local dispensary.
How To Take THC Pills FAQ
Q: I understand that dosing is easier with weed capsules, but how do you know what the “right” dose is?
A: The budtender can help with that if you’re buying at a dispensary. If you’re looking for rules of thumb, weed newbies should start with 2.5 milligrams of THC or less. 5mg is considered a standard dose, 10-15mg will give an experienced user a good buzz and relieve moderate pain, 20-30mg is more suitable for getting wasted or treating serious pain, and 40mg+ is only recommended for certain types of medical patients. One other note: dosing is much more difficult if you’re decarbing weed and making your own THC pills.
Q: Are THC pills the same thing as Marinol?
A: Not quite. Marinol, a medication only available by prescription, is made with synthetic THC and not real cannabis. Some people say it’s effective for pain, while other patients say it’s virtually useless.
Q: Are THC pills and CBD pills similar?
A: Sort of. They each contain cannabinoids from the marijuana plant, but THC will get you high. CBD won’t. Each one has specific medical benefits and uses – but you can’t just substitute one for the other and expect the same effects.