how long are marijuana edibles good for

How Long Do Edibles Take to Kick In?

Edibles are cannabis-based food products. They come in many different forms, from gummies to brownies, and contain either one or both of marijuana’s active ingredients: THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol).

With the legalization of marijuana, edibles are increasing in popularity. CBD-only edibles have even been found to help treat ailments such as anxiety and chronic pain. As an added benefit, edibles don’t pose risks to the respiratory system — unlike smoking marijuana.

The edible experience tends to differ from that of other cannabis products. The “high” from edibles can feel more intense, and it may last longer than the high you get from smoking.

Edibles also take longer than smoking or vaping cannabis to kick in, although many factors affect the timing.

Keep reading to learn more about edibles, including how long they take to kick in and how long the effects last, along with dosage, side effects, and precautions.

Edibles typically take around 30 to 60 minutes to kick in. However, onset time depends on a lot of factors.

First, it depends on the product’s active ingredients. If the product contains a high dose or concentration of THC, it could take effect faster.

Keep in mind that CBD-only edibles are not psychoactive. They don’t cause the “high” typically associated with THC-infused edibles. As a result, it may be harder to identify when CBD products have taken effect.

For both types of products, onset time also depends on where in the body the edibles are being broken down and absorbed into the bloodstream.

Lozenges, gum, and lollipops kick in faster because they’re absorbed sublingually

Some edible products, such as lozenges, gum, and lollipops, are ingested but not actually swallowed. In these cases, absorption occurs through the mucus membranes of the mouth. This is called sublingual absorption, and the effects are more likely to appear faster.

Chewable edibles take longer to kick in because they’re absorbed through the digestive system

Chewable edibles, such as gummies, cookies, and brownies, may have longer onset times. This is because absorption first occurs in the digestive tract. From there, active ingredients enter the bloodstream and travel to the liver.

In the liver, active ingredients are metabolized before they are released back into the bloodstream and enter the brain, at which point the effects appear.

Other factors affecting onset time

Other factors that can affect how quickly you start to feel the effects of ingested edibles are related to your habits and physical makeup. They include your:

  • diet
  • metabolism
  • sex
  • weight
  • tolerance to cannabis

Since edibles don’t kick in right away, it can be tempting to take more soon after your first dose. This can lead to taking too much.

You should always wait at least 24 hours before taking another dose.

Edibles don’t kick in right away

Since edibles don’t kick in right away, it can be tempting to take more soon after your first dose. Wait at least 24 hours before taking another dose.

An edible high generally lasts much longer than smoking or vaping, from six to eight hours.

Among edibles that contain THC, peak blood levels occur around three hours after administration. That’s when the effects are likely to be the most intense.

As with onset time, the length of an edible high depends on a variety of factors, including the dose and potency. The high from products that are chewed and swallowed may last longer than the high from products that are absorbed orally.

Individual factors, such as metabolism, weight, and tolerance, also affect duration.

Yet, it may not be possible to predict how long the effects of edibles will last. In a 2016 study , researchers analyzed over one hundred thousand tweets about edibles. An “unpredictable” high duration was one of the most common adverse effects listed.

Edibles come in many different forms, and new products come onto the market almost daily. Common types of edibles include:

  • Baked goods: brownies, cookies, biscuits, and waffles.
  • Candy and sweets: gummies, chewing gum, lozenges, lollipops and hard candy, chocolate, truffles, fruit bars, and marshmallows.
  • Beverages: coffee, tea and iced tea, soda, energy drinks and shots, beer, wine, and alcohol.
  • Other products: jerky, butter, sugar, and syrups.

Most edible cannabis products identify how much THC or CBD is in a single serving. For instance, a single gummy typically contains 10 milligrams (mg) of THC.

In some cases, though, the manufacturer lists the THC or CBD content of the entire package or food item. To use the gummy example, a package might contain 100 mg of THC. If the package contains 10 gummies, that’s 10 mg per gummy.

This can be quite confusing with food items such as brownies and cookies. In some cases, it might mean that a single dose corresponds to a fraction of the item.

Be sure to read the label

It’s important to read the label carefully before you consume the product. Look for the THC or CBD content per serving, and identify whether the serving size refers to the entire product or only a portion.

That said, even when you know exactly what you’re consuming, edible dosing isn’t always predictable. There are a lot of variables involved.

Start slow

It’s best to start with a low dose, and work your way up to a dose that produces the desired effect.

It’s best to start with a low dose, and work your way up to a dose that produces the desired effect.

Here are some general dosing suggestions for THC and CBD edibles.

THC dosing

THC tolerance isn’t the same for smoking and edibles. Edible THC typically produces more intense effects.

According to a 2015 report commissioned by the Colorado Department of Revenue, the behavioral effects of eating 1 mg of THC are comparable to those associated with smoking 5.71 mg of THC.

Even if you’re a regular marijuana smoker, you should start with a low dose. Over time, you can increase the dose until you reach the desired effect.

Doses that exceed 20 to 30 mg per day are associated with an increased risk of negative side effects, including dependency.

Effect Limited to no THC tolerance Some THC tolerance (smoking) THC tolerance (smoking) THC tolerance (edibles)
mild > 2.5 mg 2.5–5 mg 5–10 mg 10–15 mg
moderate 2.5–5 mg 5–10 mg 10–15 mg 15–30 mg
strong 5–10 mg 10–20 mg 15–30 mg > 30 mg

CBD dosing

Since CBD does not produce psychoactive effects, there’s less risk if you take too much. Still, high doses may cause undesirable side effects, such as fatigue.

As with THC edibles, it’s best to start small. Opt for a low dose between 2.5 and 10 mg, and work your way up to a CBD dose that produces the desired effects.

Since CBD can make you sleepy, it’s best to take it in the early evening until you understand how it affects you.

Cannabis-infused edibles present distinct advantages over smoking. These include:

  • No respiratory risk. Cannabis smoke contains carcinogens. In addition, regular cannabis smoking is associated with respiratory issues such as lung inflammation and bronchitis. Edibles do not involve burning marijuana and inhaling the smoke, and therefore do not pose the same risks.
  • Longer duration. Edibles last longer than smoking or vaping, which makes them ideal for medicinal users who want long-acting relief from symptoms.
  • Accessible. Taking edibles does not require going outside. People who cannot smoke may also find edible products easier to consume.
  • Discreet. Much like medication, it’s possible to take edibles without others noticing. Unlike smoking, edibles aren’t associated with odor. This may be helpful for those who use cannabis for medicinal purposes, and need to take it while at work.

Edible side effects depend on the active ingredient.

THC edibles

High doses of THC edibles can produce unpleasant symptoms that persist for several hours up to several days. This is sometimes referred to as “greening out” or a cannabis overdose.

Some symptoms associated with edible cannabis overdose include:

  • cognitive impairment
  • motor impairment
  • extreme sedation
  • agitation and anxiety
  • increased heart stress
  • nausea and vomiting
  • hallucinations
  • delusions
  • psychosis

CBD edibles

According to a 2017 review , known side effects of CBD include:

  • tiredness
  • diarrhea
  • changes in appetite
  • changes in weight

More research into short- and long-term side effects of CBD use needs to be done.

When purchasing edibles, it’s important to evaluate the manufacturer carefully.

In general, reputable edible manufacturers are transparent about the contents of their products and the required dosages. A trustworthy source should take the time to answer your questions without pressuring you to purchase the product.

Still, it’s not always possible to know exactly what you’re getting. A 2015 study evaluated the dose and label accuracy of 75 different products.

After testing the products for THC content, researchers found that only 17 percent were accurately labeled. Among products that were inaccurately labeled, 23 percent contained more THC than stated, and 60 percent contained less THC than stated.

Edibles can interfere with medication and other supplements. If you’re thinking about using them, speak with a doctor. In states where edibles are legal, a doctor may be able to recommend a dose or brand.

Edibles can take up to several hours to kick in. If you’ve already taken a dose, you should wait at least 24 hours before taking more. Taking another dose could cause unpleasant side effects.

When taking edibles for the first time, start with a small dose and work your way up to a dose that produces the desired effect.

Is CBD Legal? Hemp-derived CBD products (with less than 0.3 percent THC) are legal on the federal level, but are still illegal under some state laws. Marijuana-derived CBD products are illegal on the federal level, but are legal under some state laws. Check your state’s laws and those of anywhere you travel. Keep in mind that nonprescription CBD products are not FDA-approved, and may be inaccurately labeled.

Edibles take longer than smoking or vaping cannabis to kick in — typically around 30 to 60 minutes. However, onset time depends on a lot of factors. Learn what these factors are as well as how long the effects last, dosage suggestions, side effects, and precautions.

How Long Do Edibles Last?

The edible high can peak 2-3 hours after consumption and the effects can last 7-12 hours in total.

According to the existing research, the effects of marijuana edibles can start to kick in anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour following ingestion. The peak high can then occur two-to-three hours after consumption, while muted effects can often persist for five hours or more after that.

If only small amounts are taken, this ‘come down’ could be relatively quick and normality may resume as soon as six hours after the edibles are eaten. But if a dose is particularly high (20 milligrams and above), the effects can last much longer.

Timeline of an edible high:

Average onset time: 30 mins – 1 hour
Recommended waiting time: 2 hours
Peak high: 2 – 5 hours
Come down: 7 – 12 hours

But, of course, it’s always going to be more complicated than that. The effect of edibles will differ depending on how much was consumed, the THC potency, the contents of a person’s stomach, and their digestive health.

So to understand the edible high in more detail, it’s important to know how digesting cannabis differs from smoking it, how fats change the potency of cannabinoids, and which digestive organs they affect. And before that, it’s good to ask the obvious:

What are edibles?

Cannabis edibles can be different products to different people. To the investor, they’re a growing market predicted to hit $4.1 billion by 2022. For the health-conscious connoisseur, they’re an alternative to traditional combustion methods. And for the careless customer, they’re the cause of a crazed night they’d rather forget.

But at their basic level, edibles can be any cookie, brownie, chocolate bar, gummy bear or other treat laced with cannabis chemicals like THC and CBD. And because these confections are digested rather than inhaled, they can affect the body in far more potent ways.

In recent years, this stronger, longer-lasting effect has led to several edible-horror stories. Certain consumers have jumped off bridges and even murdered family members. Fortunately for most novice customers, the outcome of over-consumption is likely just a night of paranoid regret. Unpleasant, yes, but relatively risk-free.

Nevertheless, these dangers have sparked stricter regulations in some legal areas. Canadian authorities only legalized the products this October on the condition of a 10-milligram THC cap, which they hope will prevent over-consumption incidences.

So why are these safeguards really necessary? What it is that can make digesting cannabis a more terrifying experience than smoking it?

Edibles vs smoking

“Depending on whether you’re smoking [cannabis] or taking an edible or an oral liquid, they’ll go through a different pathway,” says Tim Garrett, an assistant professor at the University of Florida College of Medicine. “So if you’re ingesting it, it’s going to go through your digestive system, be metabolized, and [absorbed] in a different manner than it would be through smoking, which would be distributed through the lung system and have a more rapid effect.”

So digestion is key to edibles’ effect. But it does depend what type of food is being digested.

While it may seem like brownies and chocolates dominate the edibles market because cannabis consumers are chocoholics (and some certainly are), there’s actually some solid science behind this sugary selectivity.

“I’ve studied lipids and fats for the last 15 years,” Garrett tells Analytical Cannabis, “and THC and CBD are highly lipophilic, so I would assume they perform better when they’re associated with other lipid formulations.”

As it turns out, fats are ideal vessels to bind with and carry THC and other cannabinoids across the many cell barriers and membranes that span the stomach and intestine. So don’t expect to find a cannabis salad on the market any time soon.

“[The fats] allow you to cross through the epithelial layer of the intestinal wall into the bloodstream using a liquid transfer media,” Garrett adds. “That’s part of reason why we have oils.”

This sticky relationship between fats and cannabinoids is partly why an edible-high can feel so much more potent than the effect of smoking cannabis. But it’s not the only reason.

Rather than the stomach or the lungs, it appears that the key organ that creates that edible-kick is actually the liver. It’s here that marijuana’s famously intoxicating THC is slightly modified to become 11-hydroxy-THC. Though far less is known about 11-hydroxy-THC, research suggests that it can cross the blood-brain barrier even faster than THC and create a more dramatic impact.

But while 11-hydroxy-THC may not be as present in inhaled cannabis fumes, new research indicates that the medium of smoking shouldn’t be disregarded as ‘weaker’ than digestion just yet.

“Depending on the studies we look at, inhalation has the highest bio-accessibility, north of 20-to-25 percent,” says Michael Rogers, an associate professor at the University of Guelph. “But when you start talking about edibles – a chocolate bar, cookie or an oil, for example – you’re talking single digit bio-accessibility, meaning 90 percent of that never exerts its biological effects. It’s either degraded in first pass metabolism or it’s just excreted with the feces.”

So, yes, digesting marijuana can make the cannabis chemicals more potent, but the process isn’t very efficient. Plenty of cannabinoids are left unmetabolized and excreted – something Rogers is working to rectify by binding even more cannabinoids to fats.

“Instead of going through the haptic portal vein to the liver, we can get [cannabinoids] to go in with the oil through the lymphatic system, which then bypasses first pass metabolism,” he told Analytical Cannabis in March. “So we look at technologies that are stable and can have an exaggerated effect with the same concentration.”

How long do edibles take to kick in?

Famously – or infamously depending on how much you’ve eaten – edibles take a while to kick in. Certain studies have narrowed down the average onset time to be between 30 and 60 minutes. But many retailers and producers caution consumers to wait at least two hours to feel the full effects of the product before deciding whether to eat more.

“One of the issues is when you ingest it, you’re going to have a delayed effect versus when you’re smoking it,” Garrett says. “So you have this differential understanding of how and when your body’s going to have a change.”

But these standard one-to-two hour waiting times aren’t always exact predictions for each person. As Garrett explains, the contents of the stomach and a person’s digestive health can make all the difference.

“Our digestive systems aren’t the same,” he says.

“Some people have a stomach that may not empty as fast, so your body may take much longer to digest food and pull out the material that [is] then circulated through the body.”

“It could be that an effect comes within 30 minutes to an hour, or it could be several hours later if you have a digestive system that’s fairly slow and empty, versus smoking,” he adds.

It’s thought that these variable waiting times can also be compounded by pre-existing digestive disorders, such as Crohn’s disease. Although how such stomach issues actually affect the metabolism of cannabinoids isn’t entirely clear yet.

“We don’t know exactly in all cases how those [cannabinoids] are going to be metabolized by individuals, because some people may metabolize them faster than others,” Garrett says.

“So depending on whether or not you have an underlying digestive disorder, that might delay your uptake through the body…. we haven’t really done any studies to know what the bio-availability of edibles are in those given conditions.”

How long do edibles stay in your system?

The growing popularity of marijuana edibles raises a lot of questions for legal regulators. How much THC is too much? Should there be a spending limit? And what warnings should be given on the labels? But for the voracious customer unfortunate enough to have overeaten, there’s only one question that matters: when will the nightmare end?

Well, best bunker down somewhere safe, because it’s not going to stop anytime soon. As discussed, certain studies have found that the edible high peaks two-to-three hours after the consumption of edibles, while muted effects can often persist for five more hours or so.

In one study THC levels in the blood peaked 1 hour after consumption, but the effects didn’t peak until two hours later.

Graph of edible potency over time. Data sourced from Ohlsson et al.

“Eventually, you’ll get a peak plasma concentration and then your body will excrete [the cannabinoids] in, say, two hours,” Garrett explains.

But, again, this question of time is dependent on many factors, including how much was eaten and the gut health of the individual.

“I think the misunderstanding is that anytime you ingest it, you’re going to get the same effect,” Garrett adds. “So you don’t want to take too much to get the effect because it could be that you just don’t have the ability to digest it through your GI (gastrointestinal) system and you might need to take it in a different way.”

To help better inform customers and producers, Garrett and his associated biotechnology company, Juno Metabolomics, are hoping to help conduct more research into the processes of edible digestion.

“We recently started thinking about how we can… enable improved development of products that can pass FDA inspection and translate to clinical tests, [which will] enable us to better measure why something is having the effect it does,” he says.

But while more studies could give the emerging edibles sector a healthy dose of scientific understanding, other scientists are concerned that what the industry really needs are health-focused regulations.

“We’ve got to be careful because THC and CBD in the edible industry [are] going to go into processed foods, things like chocolate bars, cookies, brownies,” Mike Rogers told Analytical Cannabis. “Anytime you eat a highly processed food there’s risk for developing diet-related diseases. So, in creating edibles we are going to increase the amount of ultra-processed foods in the food industry, which is never a good thing.”

Leo Bear-McGuinness

Leo joined Analytical Cannabis in 2019. From research to regulations and analysis to agriculture, his writing covers all the need-to-know news for the cannabis industry. He holds a bachelor’s degree in biology from Newcastle University and a master’s degree in science communication from the University of Edinburgh.

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How Long Do Edibles Last? The edible high can peak 2-3 hours after consumption and the effects can last 7-12 hours in total. According to the existing research, the effects of marijuana