Most people enjoy weed by smoking, vaping, or dabbing it. But the popularity of consumable marijuana products is growing faster than anything else you can buy at dispensaries.
Statistics from the cannabis analytics company Headset show that edibles command about 10% of the overall market. However, a survey of seven legal states has found that sales of edible weed products increased by 60% in just one year.
Growth in the edibles market comes both from new users and “mature” ones who are switching from smoking to consumable products. That rapid increase in sales is expected to continue for the foreseeable future.
There’s one big problem with purchasing edibles at dispensaries: they’re really expensive. There’s a smaller problem, too: you’re limited to whatever dosages are available.
You can solve both problems relatively easily by making your own edibles.
Here’s what you need to know about edibles and how to make them.
Smoking Weed vs. Consuming Edibles
You may already know that weed hits differently when it’s in an edible than it does when you smoke it.
But it’s important to understand why before you start making edibles at home. Stay with us; this won’t take long.
Weed and the Body
The cannabinoid THC is responsible for most of the effects of weed. THC interacts with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS), which regulates many of the body’s crucial functions. Most important for this discussion are the ECS receptors, which send and receive messages throughout the nervous system.
When you smoke (or vape) cannabis, of course, you inhale the smoke right into your lungs. From there, THC moves rapidly into the bloodstream and is carried throughout the body and brain, interacting with ECS receptors and providing its psychoactive effects and medical benefits within minutes.
The process is quite different when you consume an edible.
The first stop is the gastrointestinal system because the edible must first be digested in the stomach. Depending on the molecular complexity of the food you’ve eaten, digestion can take anywhere from 30-60 minutes.
That’s not the end of the story because the stomach doesn’t release THC into the bloodstream. Instead, it sends the cannabinoid to the liver, where it’s converted into several other substances called metabolites. That process takes even more time.
One THC metabolite is called 11-hydroxy-THC, and that’s the psychoactive substance that’s finally released into the bloodstream to interact with ECS receptors in the brain and body.
The Effects of Weed Smoke vs. Edibles
There are two key facts to pull out of the science we’ve just discussed.
One is that edibles don’t kick in within minutes, like the THC in weed smoke. You start feeling high a few minutes after your first toke, but you probably won’t feel any effects from an edible for 45-60 minutes, sometimes even longer.
The other fact involves 11-hydroxy-THC, the metabolite that gets you high when you consume edibles. 11-hydroxy-THC is more potent than THC, and its effects last longer than THC’s.
Here’s why those facts matter.
When you make edibles, dosing is more of an art than a science. There’s no simple recipe that tells you exactly how much herb to use; the “right amount” depends on the way your body reacts to THC, and everyone’s tolerance is different.
In short, you have to experiment to find the right dosage — and as you do, it’s crucial to take 11-hydroxy-THC’s stronger potency into account.
There’s something else to consider. The length of time you have to wait before an edible’s effects kick in means that you can’t eat a little…then eat a little more…and then have some more. You essentially get one shot. If your edibles aren’t strong enough, you’ll have to eat a more the next time. And you’ll probably have to adjust the recipe the next time you want to bake.
Does that all make sense? Great. Let’s make edibles.
The Science of Making Weed Edibles
People making edibles for the first time often make one big mistake. They chop or grind raw flower and drop it into their batter.
We’ve already gone through enough science, so we’ll make this quick. Cannabis doesn’t contain THC. It contains a precursor compound called THCA, and THCA only becomes THC when it’s heated.
If you’re smoking or vaping weed, the conversion happens automatically. If you’re making edibles, you have to expose your bud to heat in order to make it psychoactive. That process is called decarboxylation, or decarbing for short.
Once your weed has been decarbed, you can bake or cook with it — but just mixing the decarbed flower into your batter isn’t the best approach. It’s much smarter to combine it with butter to make “cannabutter” or with oil to make “canna oil.” You can then use the cannabutter or canna oil instead of the butter or oil that your recipe calls for.
There’s a good reason behind that.
Cannabinoids like THC are absorbed by fat, and butter and oil are both fats. They fully absorb THC and act as a carrier, ensuring that all of the weed goodness is evenly distributed throughout your batter.
So there’s no big secret to making edibles. You decarb the weed, infuse butter or oil with it, and then simply use the butter or oil in your favorite recipe.
All you really need to know is how to decarb herb and how to make cannabutter or canna-oil.
How to Decarb Weed
This one is simple.
- Crumple a sheet of tin foil and spread it out on a baking sheet.
- Grind or break your flower into small pieces, each about the size of a rice grain.
- Spread the weed out on the foil in a single layer and cover it with another piece of tin foil.
- Bake at 225°-230° for 30-45 minutes, until it’s golden brown. Cool.
Your weed’s THC has now been activated, and you’re ready to make butter or oil.
How to Infuse Butter or Oil with Weed
If your recipe calls for butter, you can usually substitute oil. It works the other way, too. Most recipes, though, will turn out best when you use the ingredients they specify.
So we’ll tell you to infuse both butter and oil with decarbed weed.
The amount of cannabis in both of these recipes is just a starting point. You can use less or more, depending on how potent you want your edibles to be.
However, because of the extra potency of 11-hydroxy-THC and the fact that it takes a long time to kick in, you have to be very careful with dosing. The guideline for edibles is always “start low, increase slow.”
- Simmer a cup of water and a cup of butter in a double boiler.
- When the butter starts to melt, stir in a cup of decarbed weed.
- Simmer on low heat for 2-3 hours, stirring regularly and making sure the mixture doesn’t boil.
- Strain through cheesecloth and let cool.
- Refrigerate for an hour and drain any water that’s accumulated. You now have cannabutter.
- Refrigerate any cannabutter you don’t immediately use.
Making Canna Oil
- Heat one cup of oil to a temperature between 130° and 180° (absolutely no higher) in a double boiler. The best choices are coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, or avocado oil, but canola oil will work in a pinch.
- Add one cup of coarsely-ground decarbed weed and stir.
- Cook for 30-60 minutes, stirring occasionally and monitoring the temperature.
- Strain through cheesecloth. Your canna-oil is ready for use as soon as it’s fully cooled.
How to Make Edibles: FAQ
Q: What happens if you put weed directly into the batter?
A: If it’s not decarbed first, you won’t get high. If it’s been decarbed, you will — but there will be “hot spots” in the brownies or cake because the THC won’t be distributed evenly. Some servings may contain lots of the weed and get you totally baked, while others may not have much of an effect at all. One other note: it’s believed that THCA has its own medicinal properties, so some patients do benefit from edibles made from cannabis that hasn’t been decarbed.
Q: What if I want to make infused salad dressing or tea?
A: That’s not a problem. Simply use canna oil instead of the oil you’d normally use to make your dressing. You could just mix decarbed weed into the dressing, of course, but the psychoactive effects wouldn’t be evenly distributed. The same holds for making tea; it’s best to let the tea steep together with added cannabutter. You can also simmer water and decarbed flower with a tablespoon of butter or oil for 15 minutes, strain it and add your teabag.
Zou, S., & Kumar, U. (2018). Cannabinoid receptors and the endocannabinoid system: signaling and function in the central nervous system. International journal of molecular sciences, 19(3), 833 .
Lemberger, L., Martz, R., Rodda, B., Forney, R., & Rowe, H. (1973). Comparative pharmacology of Δ 9-tetrahydrocannabinol and its metabolite, 11-OH-Δ 9-tetrahydrocannabinol. The Journal of clinical investigation, 52(10), 2411-2417 .