The Difference between Inhaling and Ingesting Cannabis

The Difference between Inhaling and Ingesting Cannabis

Throughout my work on High Cookery, many people have asked me about the difference between ingesting and inhaling cannabis and I’d like to take this blog post opportunity to share with you once and for all my perspective on the matter.

First of all, it’s worth mentioning that while inhaling (e.g. smoking or vaping) marijuana is the common way of consumption nowadays, this was not always the case, to say the least. Through most of cannabis known usage history, the predominant medium for consumption was through eating and drinking. This was the case in Ancient China, India and the Middle east way before the western world was a thing, but also in North America where cannabis was sold off the counter in the form of liquid drops in your neighborhood pharmacy – oh what a time that was…

Both means of bringing cannabinoids into your brain will produce a psychoactive effect, a.k.a. the ‘high’. However, there is a difference which stems from the ingestible cannabis pathway through your liver on the way to the brain as opposed to the lungs. In the liver, the delta9-THC is metabolized into 11-hydroxy-THC, which is a fancy way of saying that the liver transforms some of the drug’s active ingredients. The newly transformed substance produces a more psychedelic experience. This translates differently in different people, but generally speaking, an edible high is described as a “body high,” which means that users feel a much more intense and body-numbing experience.


Time for the high is longer

It takes longer for the THC to hit your brain. While inhaling marijuana brings an effect within minutes, ingesting THC can take any time between 1-3 hours.


Time for the high to dissipate takes longer

As opposed to the ~1.5 hours high effect you get when inhaling weed, edibles will take more time to conclude their effect on your brain. It may take up to 10 hours but typically a 4-6 hours window is what you should prep yourself towards. This is one of the reasons edibles are a healthier alternative to smoking and preferred by many medicinal users who want to prevent the long-term impact of the frequent inhalation of smoke


The psychoactive experience is different

Edibles bring about what’s called a ‘body high’ as opposed to a ‘head high’ when smoking or vaping. This broad term can mean different things to different people and depending on the context and potency of the edible, but, generally, consumers report stronger bodily and sensory sensations with an occasional tinge of a psychedelic experience.


The experience can turn out to be a very negative one

Since the high from edibles is more intense and longer-lasting it can create negative effects. These effects can vary from numbness and dizziness to disassociation and losing a sense of reality. Habitual edible users will most likely have bad trips, on rare occasions. There are ways to deal with a bad trip and, more efficiently, to prevent them. I definitely advise educating yourselves around them.


Edibles are much harder to dose.

I encourage you to read our tutorial for determining potency. However, determining the THC content of a homemade batch of edibles can, at best, produce a good guestimation. In addition, in underregulated markets where commercial infused edibles are starting to become available on the shelves, you should keep in mind that the stated THC concentration may not be very accurate and there have been numerous instances reported on this issue. That said, I imagine this is a temporary problem and as the space gains more legitimacy and regulatory recognition it will slowly subside. In either case – if you’re a novice to the consumption of edibles please read our easy beginner’s guide to help you through this great expedition.