Can You Eat Weed? All You Need to Know About Marijuana Edibles
Marijuana — colloquially called weed — refers to the dried flowers, seeds, stems, and leaves of the Cannabis sativa or Cannabis indica plants (1).
It’s a popular drug used by millions of people either for pleasure or to treat chronic health conditions.
Weed can be used in a number of ways, but some of the most popular methods include smoking and vaping.
However, some people wonder whether it’s safe to eat marijuana and whether ingesting it has the same effects as smoking or vaping.
This article explains whether it’s safe to eat weed and the health effects — both positive and negative — related to ingestion.
The short answer is yes, you can eat weed. In fact, marijuana-infused foods and drinks have been consumed throughout history, as far back as 1000 B.C. ( 2 ).
Marijuana was used as medicine in ancient China and India and was introduced to Western medicine in the early 19th century. Edible applications, such as tinctures, were prescribed to treat various conditions, from chronic pain to digestive disorders ( 2 , 3 , 4 ).
Edible marijuana products were also used to relieve stress and induce euphoria, similar to alcohol.
Bhang, a beverage made from a mixture of the leaves and flowers of marijuana plants, has been consumed for centuries during religious festivals, such as Holi, a Hindu festival of love and color ( 3 , 5 ).
In the United States, recreational use of edible marijuana products became popular during the 1960s, and today, many different types of edibles are available, both legally and illegally, depending on state laws.
For example, gummies, candies, chocolates, capsules, teas, and oils are some of the edible marijuana products sold in both legal marijuana dispensaries and through the illegal marijuana market.
Edibles enthusiasts also make their own weed products by infusing butter or oil with marijuana and mixing it into baked goods and other recipes.
Though you can eat raw weed, it won’t have the same effect as consuming marijuana-based products, as marijuana has to go through a process known as decarboxylation to become activated ( 6 ).
Raw marijuana contains tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) and cannabidiolic acid (CBDA), compounds that must be exposed to heat, such as in smoking or baking, to turn into the active forms, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) ( 6 ).
Therefore, eating raw weed will not result in the same effects as consuming weed that has been heated, as in edible products like candies, tinctures, and baked goods.
Though you can’t get high from eating raw weed, some health experts believe that eating it may offer some health benefits due to the wide array of plant compounds it contains.
Yet, research in this area is lacking, so the potential therapeutic benefit of raw marijuana is still unclear.
Weed has been consumed in various forms throughout history for both medicinal and recreational purposes. Though you can eat raw marijuana, it won’t have the same effects as marijuana that has been heated.
Marijuana has many medicinal benefits and has been used to treat various ailments throughout history.
Today, edible marijuana products have a number of uses in the medical field and are becoming a more popular, accepted natural treatment in clinical settings.
May benefit certain health conditions
Edible marijuana products are often used to treat conditions, such as chronic pain, cancer-related symptoms, and anxiety.
Medical cannabis products can legally be prescribed in countries around the world, including Italy, Spain, Germany, and parts of the United States ( 7 ).
THC is one of over 100 active compounds — known as cannabinoids — in marijuana.
THC is the compound responsible for the psychoactive properties of marijuana products, including edibles, that may induce feelings of euphoria and relaxation ( 2 ).
Other compounds in marijuana, such as CBD, have been shown to have pain- and anxiety-reducing properties.
The powerful combination of therapeutic compounds in this plant makes it a popular natural treatment that effectively reduces symptoms of and eases pain related to various conditions.
For example, edible marijuana products, such as oils, tinctures, pills, and gummies, are prescribed to treat poor appetite, pain, and weight loss in people who have cancer ( 8 ).
Additionally, these products may significantly reduce pain and muscle spasms, relieve nausea and vomiting, enhance sleep quality, and improve depression and anxiety ( 9 , 10 , 11 ).
In fact, pharmaceutical companies manufacture oral preparations of marijuana-derived treatments, such as Sativex, which is an oral spray prescribed to treat pain and muscle spasticity ( 12 ).
Though edible marijuana products are prescribed and used to treat many other ailments, such as digestive and neurological disorders, high-quality research in these areas is lacking.
Therefore, the full therapeutic potential of marijuana is still unknown ( 13 ).
Edible marijuana is used to treat symptoms related to various medical conditions, such as cancer and chronic pain. However, high-quality studies are lacking, so the full effects of marijuana products on health are still unclear.
Though edible marijuana products may benefit many conditions, some potential adverse effects may occur.
The main issue with edible marijuana products is that it can be very difficult to determine an appropriate dosage. Concentrations of THC vary widely depending on different factors, such as where the product was made and the quality of the marijuana used.
Additionally, unlike smoking weed, edible marijuana products have a long latency period, meaning it can take a while — sometimes hours — for it to take effect.
When marijuana is smoked, THC reaches the brain and takes effect within a few minutes. The effects peak at around 20–30 minutes after smoking and begin to wear off within 2–3 hours ( 10 ).
In contrast, the psychoactive effects of edibles usually take 30–90 minutes to kick in. The high feeling lasts much longer and typically peaks at about 2–4 hours after ingestion ( 10 ).
The effects of edibles can last for many hours, depending on how much was ingested, as well as your body weight, metabolism, gender, and other factors.
The combination of the highly variable THC concentration and the long latency period of edible marijuana products makes them very easy to unintentionally overconsume, which can lead to unwanted symptoms, such as paranoia and impaired motor ability.
Additionally, though rare, there have been instances of cannabis-induced psychosis, a condition usually related to overconsumption of edible marijuana products that results in symptoms like paranoid delusions, extreme sedation, hallucinations, and confusion ( 14 ).
Other side effects related to edible marijuana products include dry mouth, sleepiness, and changes in visual perception.
Edible marijuana products can also interact with alcohol and certain medications, including blood thinners and antidepressants. Therefore, you should avoid consuming edibles with these products (15).
Another concern is that edible marijuana products often resemble regular candies, cookies, and other baked goods, posing a risk for children, pets, and other adults.
In fact, between 2005 and 2011, marijuana-related calls to U.S. poison control centers increased by 30% per year in states that decriminalized marijuana. Many of these calls were related to accidental ingestion of edible marijuana products ( 16 ).
Edible marijuana products are difficult to dose and take a long time to kick in. They also resemble regular food products, which may lead to accidental ingestion.
Though smoking weed is not often considered harmful, research has shown that inhaling marijuana smoke can negatively impact health, similar to cigarette smoke.
Both cigarette and marijuana smoke contain toxins, such as ammonia, hydrogen cyanide, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, that may damage your lungs and increase your cancer risk ( 17 ).
Currently, some research shows a weak link between smoking weed and certain types of cancer ( 18 ).
Yet, scientists emphasize that it’s unclear whether or to what extent smoking marijuana influences cancer risk, as many available studies are of low quality, and confounding variables, such as cigarette smoking, affect study results ( 19 ).
Smoking weed has also been associated with lung inflammation, bronchitis, and even impaired brain function ( 10 ).
In contrast, edible marijuana products have not been shown to negatively affect lung health or cancer risk.
Therefore, if you’re concerned about the possible health risks associated with smoking weed, you may want to use edible marijuana products as an alternative.
However, because most marijuana research focuses on smoking weed, the long-term health implications of consuming edibles are still unknown.
Nevertheless, ingesting marijuana is likely safer than smoking it.
Marijuana smoke contains toxins that may negatively affect health. Though edibles are likely safer, the long-term health implications of these products are still unknown due to a lack of research.
Many people enjoy using marijuana products to relax and ease stress, while some take edibles to treat or improve symptoms of a medical condition.
Either way, it’s important to use safe products and choose appropriate dosages to avoid unwanted side effects.
If you’re interested in using edibles to treat a medical condition, your healthcare provider is the best person to consult to learn if medical marijuana is an option.
Depending on where you live, you might be able to get a prescription. In the United States, 33 states allow the use of medical marijuana. It has also been legalized in countries around the world, including Italy and Australia ( 20 , 21 ).
Some conditions that may warrant a medical marijuana prescription include chronic pain, anxiety, multiple sclerosis, terminal illness, and inflammatory bowel disease.
In contrast, recreational use of marijuana is illegal in many parts of the world, including most parts of the United States. Only 10 states, including California, Maine, Vermont, and Oregon, allow for the use of recreational marijuana products.
However, even though marijuana is legal to use in these states, it remains illegal at a federal level and is considered a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).
According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Schedule I substances are “determined to have a high potential for abuse” and are defined as having “no currently accepted medical use” (22).
Yet, many disagree with this classification, especially those who have seen firsthand that marijuana products offer powerful medicinal and therapeutic benefits for many people.
In fact, scientists have repeatedly questioned marijuana regulation, with some arguing that the current legal status is outdated and “thwarts legitimate research” exploring the potential of marijuana in the medical field ( 23 , 24 ).
Though both social and political views on marijuana are changing rapidly, for now, citizens must abide by the laws set forth by state and federal governments for the use of both medical and recreational marijuana.
Purchasing safe marijuana products
When using edible marijuana for the first time — whether for medical or recreational reasons — it’s important to do so safely.
Sticking to prescribed dosage and usage recommendations can help reduce your risk of potential negative effects related to overconsumption.
If purchasing edible marijuana products in a state where recreational use is legal, only purchase products from a licensed dispensary that you trust.
Licensed dispensaries are often required to have their products tested for safety and potency in state-accredited laboratories to be approved for sale.
However, testing protocols vary considerably from state to state, and some don’t require laboratory testing ( 25 ).
It’s important to note that marijuana bought from illegal operations or dispensaries that sell untested products can be contaminated with pesticides, mold, fungi, bacteria, heavy metals, formaldehyde, and other substances, which can pose serious health risks ( 26 ).
Dispensaries typically carry a variety of marijuana products with different concentrations of THC and CBD, which can be confusing for first-time buyers. Consulting dispensary staff is a smart way to find the best product to suit your needs.
The legality of marijuana varies, so the use of both medical and recreational marijuana products depends on where you live. Only purchase marijuana products from trusted sources and follow dosing recommendations carefully.
Edible marijuana products may offer various benefits, including reducing symptoms of chronic illnesses and anxiety.
Still, these products may cause side effects, react with common medications, and take a long time to kick in.
Depending on where you live, you may be able to use medicinal or recreational products legally. However, it’s important to only purchase from licensed, reputable dispensaries that sell products tested for purity and potency.Marijuana can be used in many ways, but you may wonder whether it can safely be ingested. This article explains whether eating weed is safe and discusses both positive and negative health effects.
Can You Get High From Eating Raw Weed?
Despite the popularity of green dietary trends, we’d advise against it.
by Nicholas Garaffo – October 9, 2020
It just does not make sense! Why does cannabis have to be fried, smoked or vaporized to get you high instead of simply being eaten? The active ingredients that are most commonly associated with marijuana’s high are delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cannabidiol (CBD), and cannabigerol (CBG), but in uncooked weed they are locked in a structure that is not recognized by the body to produce a high effects. In order to unlock THC and the other ingredients from their native state, the cannabis must undergo a chemical reaction known as decarboxylation.
Will eating raw marijuana get me high?
No, eating raw cannabis shouldn’t get you high, as long as it has not been heated. The cannabinoids found abundantly in raw cannabis are THCA (tetrahydrocannabinolic acid) and CBDA (cannabidiolic acid).
THC is not the main compound in uncooked cannabis, it is actually THC-A, or delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinolic acid. In raw cannabis, the main psychoactive compounds: THC, CBD, and CBG have an attached carboxylic acid group. Basically, this attachment is the natural storage molecule in cannabis and, in the plant world, allows easier metabolic activity.
But, THC-A, CBD-A, and CBG-A are not recognized by the body as psychoactive compounds and cannot interact with the corresponding receptors. Like all metabolites, these active ingredients in cannabis bind to specific cells throughout the body– most notably neurons in the brain– to produce the desired effects. The cell-metabolite interaction is very specific so any changes to either the cell or the corresponding molecule will likely sever the communication. Adding an acid group to these compounds does just that and prevents the interactions.
What do these Compounds Do?
While these precursors are much less studied than their psychoactive partners, there are some preliminary studies that illustrate their benefits!
Much like THC, THC-A interacts with brains and produces many therapeutic effects. However, THC-A does not bind the main cannabinoid receptors, CB1 and CB2, like THC does. It is not well understood how THC-A elicits its effects, but there are many peer-reviewed benefits:
Neuroprotective Activity : Dr. Nadal and others investigated the benefits of THC-A in the brain, and they found that mice treated with THC-A had a protection against neurological damaging agents. Furthermore, in mice with a predisposition to neural damage, THC-A slightly improved motor deficiency and decreased neural degradation which suggests it may be a future therapeutic for neurodegenerative diseases, like Huntington’s disease.
Anti-Obesity : Dr. Palomares and others wanted to investigate how THC-A functions in the body. They were able to uncover the exact route THC-A takes in the body, and linked it to weight loss in mice. In diabetic mice, THC-A stimulated weight loss and prevented weight gain suggesting it may be used for diabetic intervention.
The difference between CBD and CBD-A is difficult to assess because CBD is a multitarget compound; meaning, it binds throughout the body rather than one specific location. One known difference is that since CBD-A is non-psychoactive it acts completely outside of the CB1 and CB2 receptors (receptors for cannabinoids that are associated with the high effect). Some of the effects of the CBD-A include: anti-depression , anti-nausea and anti-inflammation .
How can you get the Active Compounds like THC?
For these compounds to become psychoactive, the acid group must be removed so the body can recognize the compound. This is done through a process known as decarboxylation.
When cannabis is brought to a temperature over 105℉ (40 ℃) the carboxylic acid group is released as carbon dioxide. Decarboxylation begins when cannabis is being dried, either in the sun or in the oven, but there is still a very large amount of THC-A or CBD-A once dried. To complete the process, it is easiest if cannabis is brought to a temperature where all acidic compounds would break down, like on fire.
To put this in perspective, sun drying cannabis occurs at around or slightly above 100℉. This is about the temperature that decarboxylation will be active. If the dried cannabis were to be used to make edibles, it would be cooked in oil at somewhere between 200-350℉ for several hours. But smoking or vaporizing cannabis is a much faster decarboxylation because it occurs at much higher temperature– a Bic lighter has a flame at over 3,000℉! That is hot enough for an instantaneous conversion of THC-A to THC.
Are there Other Ways to get THC from Cannabis?
Browse the internet with a few ambiguous searches about cannabis cooking, and you will find people trying a variety of methods like microwaving or juicing raw cannabis in an effort to get high. While neither of these methods seem to convert THC-A to THC, they may offer some small benefits.
In an effort to reach the 105℉ decarboxylation limit, some users have tried to microwave their cannabis. While the contemporary microwave cannot be convert to a degree system, the hottest items get when coming out of it is around 100℉, which is equivalent to sun drying the cannabis. It would take several hours to convert all of the THC-A to THC, and by that time many of the other compounds, like terpenes, would become airborne and escape inhalation.
But, microwaving cannabis can be helpful to break down the bud. If you do not have access to a grinder and need to separate cannabis into very small pieces– most likely to put in oil to make edibles– microwaving cannabis with a glass of water can hydrate the plant and make it easier to peel apart!
Juicing has slowly made its way into mainstream culture as a way to get the daily amount of vitamins and minerals in one quick drink. Some have thought that adding cannabis to a juicing machine would be the best way to make a THC-concentrate, but as we have recently found, that is not the case.
Simply putting cannabis into a juicier will not convert THC-A or the other cannabinoids to their non-acidic state, so it will not get you high. However, it will add the cannabinoid precursors to your juice which have been shown to have their own benefits. Recall some of the benefits may include flavoring, anti-inflammation, and anti-nausea.The active ingredients that are most commonly associated with marijuana’s high will disappoint you if you try to chow down on your buds. Here's why. ]]>