Here’s the headline first: On average, expect about 30 minutes to 2 hours before an edible will begin to show effects. No two people are alike, though, meaning calculating the precise answer to the question of how long do edibles take to kick in is highly subjective.
In this article we’ll go over some of the various factors that can determine how long before someone feels the effects of a cannabis edible, including how factors such as body shape, hormones, and even our genes play a part in onset time. Let’s start with a basic one: Type of edible products consumed.
The Type of Edible and Why it Matters
Whether an edible is designed to be chewed and swallowed quickly or kept in the mouth can give it a vastly differing onset time.
As we talk about in our “Understanding 11 Hydroxy THC” article, when cannabis is ingested it passes through the liver. During this process the Δ9 (“Delta 9″) THC is metabolized into 11-OH (“11 Hydroxy”) THC.
This metabolization of the THC molecule makes passage through the blood-brain barrier much easier, meaning the dosage taken from eating an edible is much more efficient than if taken by smoking cannabis (usually; this might differ depending on your genetic makeup – more below). All of this only matters, though, if the THC is digested first.
Why Infused Candies & Lollipops Kick in Faster
When taking a cannabis edible meant to linger in the mouth, such as gum, a hard candy, lollipop, or even gummy snacks, much more of the available THC is absorbed into the blood stream via the mouth. Areas such as underneath the tongue or the base of the gum line have large amounts of blood vessels flowing underneath thin membranes of skin – Delta 9 THC from the edible then goes straight into the blood stream, without metabolizing into 11-OH-THC first. If you just chew and eat your edible like regular food (such as a brownie), it’s going to take longer to kick in since you “skip” those blood vessels in the mouth.
Taking edibles designed to be held in the mouth will likely kick in faster (closer to 30 minutes over hours) but may offer less-noticeable effects overall; this can be beneficial if you want to take the edible dosage for medicinal purposes, so take the method of ingestion into consideration when trying to figure out how long before you will feel the effects of your cannabis edible.
The fat content of your edible makes a difference in how many hours it takes the effects to kick in as well, leading us to…
How Your Diet Affects Edibles
Personal diet and individual metabolism rates both play a large part in how long edibles take to kick in. Both high-fat edibles (such as brownies or milkshakes) and high-fat meals taken before consuming an edible will lengthen the hours before the effects take hold.
THC in all of its forms is oil-soluble, meaning any fats it comes into contact with will bind to and envelope the THC molecule – Your body must then spend additional time – potentially hours – breaking down and removing any fatty molecules surrounding the THC.
The Effect of Fatty Foods
A longer onset period may be desired by some users, meaning taking an edible that is high in fat or eating a fat-heavy meal (fried foods, dairy, etc.) can help extend the number of hours edibles take to kick in; likewise, if desiring a shorter onset period, edibles low in fat can reach the digestive system faster, decreasing the time the edibles take.
Edibles on an Empty Stomach
Additionally, dosing on an empty stomach will greatly decrease the time cannabis edibles take to kick in – An empty stomach means the THC will be processed much sooner than if other substances are hanging about in the metabolic waiting line for hours. This can increase the sensation of the high received, though sometimes to unpleasant levels; we recommend caution if planning to take edibles on an empty stomach.
How Body Type Affects Your High
As mentioned before, fat absorbs and encases THC. When Delta 9 or 11 Hydroxy THC has been used by the human body it turns into THC-COOH, an inert chemical stored in the body’s fat layers. Diets high in fat, leading to individuals carrying a few extra pounds, usually mean a decreased effect from any given method of taking in cannabis – Even more so for edibles.
Think of taking THC, or any other medicine, as a tight rope tethered between two points: Point A is the point of ingestion (our mouth) and Point B is the point of effect (our brain), with a bottomless pit of no return (our bodies fat deposits) below.
The larger a person is, either by weight or by height, the longer that tight rope is – Meaning not only a longer trek across the way (more hours for the edible to kick in) but many more opportunities to fall off into the void and be lost forever more.
Considerations when Dosing with Edibles
The key to cannabis edibles and other medicines is bio-availability, meaning how much of the desired chemical can be effectively absorbed into the bloodstream before being lost or otherwise degraded over hours to the point of no use. Larger bodies, again either by weight or height, have larger vascular structures that can lead to the THC molecules being lost as they travel through blood toward the brain – Commonly due to being trapped inside fat deposits in the body.
Biological differences between the male and female gender can also lead to differences in how cannabis edibles are absorbed into the bloodstream. For example the shape of the female body and it’s related distribution of weight & fatty tissue can have a negative effect on how hard/fast cannabis edibles take to kick in, with other gender-related differences as well.
Hormone Distribution and/or Biological Sex
Our hormones have a surprising effect on how long cannabis edibles take to kick in, as well as the overall effect they have on the body.
According to research published in 2011 the absorption of Delta 9 THC is greater in those who have large amounts of estradiol, which is the primary form of estrogen in the human body; though this study was done on female rats using Δ9 THC it is believed this would hold true for humans (and 11-OH-THC) as well, due to the similarities in both rat and human hormonal cycles.
The Truth About Tolerance
When trying to answer the question of how long do edibles take to kick in individual tolerance and average marijuana consumption will also play a role, though little concrete scientific studies have been done on the topic.
Anecdotally, users typically report that cannabis edibles “bypass” tolerances built by regular smoking of marijuana, hitting seasoned smokers much harder than the equivalent amount of THC would if smoked or vaporized. Similar sources also claim that building a tolerance to edibles seems to happen much faster, with edibles losing their potent “punch” after only a few days of heavy use, making the hours of onset relatively unnoticeable.
Whether or not this will hold true for any given individual is hard to say, as again scientific research in this area is currently lacking, and with such a wide variety of factors already at play it can be difficult to determine exactly what someone’s “tolerance” is in the first place. But sometimes tolerance isn’t the only factor keeping the effects of cannabis edibles at bay. In the worst case scenario, you may find yourself asking…
What If Nothing Is Happening?
First and foremost, wait it out as long as you can; we recommend a minimum of two hours before re-dosing with more THC. Many and varied are the people who thought their brownie just wasn’t kicking in and got impatient and ate a whole bunch more and…. well, let’s just say they had an interesting time of it for the next few hours.
But what if it’s been much longer than a couple of hours and nothing really is happening? Unfortunately, depending on your personal genetic makeup, it may just be that the answer to the question of “how long does it take for edibles to kick in?” is “never”.
As we discuss in our “How Long Do Edibles Last?” article each person’s genetic code produces an enzyme called CYP2C9 – Individual variations in this enzyme can greatly effect the onset, duration and strength of ingested marijuana, and can even lead to some individuals feeling virtually no effects from any cannabis edibles. If not feeling the effects of edibles has been an issue before we recommend you take a look at the above link for more details.
Want to learn more about the world of edible cannabis products? Make sure to check out our companion articles on “How Long Does an Edible Last” or “How to Make Cannabis Edibles” for more information and other great reads!