The first time I ate cannabis edibles—just a few years ago—was an accident. Womp womp! I had a raging migraine, though, so—well, this is how it happened.
I was on Day Three of a really bad migraine. Nausea, pain, vomiting, you name it. My roommate, a longtime cannabis user, was out. I was starving, because I hadn’t kept down anything in days.
I spied a chocolate bar on the kitchen counter. It didn’t even occur to me that it might be medicated.
I opened it, and broke off a square, thinking I might make myself feel even sicker. I let the chocolate melt in my mouth, and it tasted, I don’t know, a little funny, but so did my mouth.
And who knew! Not only did I keep it down, but I felt a tiny bit better.
Unfortunately for my roommate, this led to me polishing off the whole bar. Did I end up seeing aliens or in the hospital, you ask? Nope. I got some writing done and went to bed!
I learned later that I had eaten a hash chocolate bar (and that I owed her $50).
Back then, I had never even tried cannabis. That was my first experience with it.
But it got me thinking: could cannabis help me, especially if I had edibles? So I asked my friend, Google.
But Google totally let me down! Nothing but sales-y stuff and really technical information about making things that were already way out of my pay grade. Like, most of the articles I was finding were on the details of decarboxylation and making fire cannabutter—and I didn’t even know why you’d want or need to cope with any of that, let alone why I should invest hours of my life into it.
So I went to a dispensary. But there wasn’t a whole lot of advice to be had, just people wondering what I wanted. Um…a gummy, I guess? The thing was, I didn’t know!
It may be worst if you love to eat and cook or bake, but you just aren’t sure about how edibles work, or what’s out there. Like, you know you can probably do it! But you don’t know where to start.
These days I’m way more of an edibles expert, but I never forgot that feeling of being lost in the edibles woods. This post is all about where the footpath out of those woods starts, and how to make edibles for absolute beginners.
We realized looking at all of our recipes and guides that something was missing: a step-by-step walk and talk through for people who are really new to edibles. So here we are. Use this guide together with the actual cannabutter (which is just infused butter) and cannaoil recipes—all of the recipes on our site, actually!
This way you’ll have all of the beginner-friendly tips you need together with the detailed steps everyone has to have. So whether you’re a seasoned canna-sseur or an edible noob, here is our companion piece to our step-by-step guide to making cannabutter, plus our advice for those who have never made edibles at home, including how to use it, flavor issues, what kind of cannabis to use, and dosing carefully.
How Weed Edibles Work
First of all, here’s how edibles don’t work: by throwing regular cannabis into some brownie batter or something and baking. Don’t do it. Here’s why.
It’s the THC and other cannabinoids in cannabis that produce the effects you’re looking for. But to work, they have to be activated first.
That’s where decarboxylation, or decarbing, comes in. It’s really just a slow and even heating process, just like if you were slowly caramelizing onions or something until they produced sugar.
It’s because the cannabis plant itself produces THCA, not THC. The heat changes the THCA to THC. The same is true of CBDA, the precursor compound for CBD; it needs the heat to make the change.
But to keep it simple, find out how to decarb cannabis in our cannabutter guide, if you’re doing it yourself with flower. You really just need an oven, a cheesecloth lined strainer, parchment paper, and a baking sheet and some time, and once you have decarbed a batch of cannabis, you can save it and use your decarboxylated cannabis later, if you want—although it’s best to use it right then.
Also, here is a list of cannabis products that you can and cannot just throw into your edibles based on whether or not they need decarboxylation:
Ready to use/decarboxylate when you buy it:
- THC isolate
- CBD isolate
- THC tinctures
- cannabis flower, cannabis buds, shake
- hash oil (including wax and other BHO, EHOs, PHOs etc.)
- extracts (such as shatter, crumble, badder, batter, and budder)
- kief/dry sift
- hashish/hash pucks
- ice water hash/ice hash/wet sift/bubble hash
- live resin
- moon rocks (flower nugs dipped in extracts and rolled in kief)
- rosin/taffy/rosin coins
- sugar/sauce/terp sauce
So if you really do want to just add something to your cooking and forget about it, stick to those few in the top list. But don’t worry, decarbing is easy enough. Try something new!
Tips for decarboxylating cannabis:
- If you don’t have a grinder yet, get one, this makes it a lot easier to achieve the finely ground cannabis that works best.
- Remember, follow our instructions carefully, including for the temperature settings. Although all decarbing takes place at low heat, different types of cannabis and cannabis concentrates require different levels of low heat.
- Don’t skip this or you’ll miss out on the wonderful psychoactive, medical benefits of the THC!
- If you don’t like the oven method, you can use a slow cooker, an immersion cooker or sous-vide system, or just the stove. Check out our guides on making cannabis butter and other infusions to see how.
How Edibles Affect the Body
We should have called this part: why bother? In other words, if you’re going to have to take all these extra steps, why not just smoke or vape your cannabis?
It’s a real question—but there’s a real answer, too. The benefits of cannabis edibles—and there are a few of them—are the answer:
1. Because then you’re smoking, and although it’s not as unhealthy as cigarettes, it’s still not ideal.
2. Because you get some deep, lasting effects, including a nicer body buzz, from edibles.
3. Because you’re hoping to keep it to yourself.
Edibles mean you don’t have to smoke
The correlated risks and underlying mechanisms of tobacco smoking and cannabis smoking differ dramatically, but smoking cannabis can still affect your respiratory health adversely. And anyone who’s taken a harsh hit knows that the feeling isn’t a good one. Any sort of smoking can lead to an inflamed airway, obstructive pulmonary issues, barotrauma, and potentially cancer—although again, tobacco smokers appear to be at higher risk.
Edibles produce deep, lasting effects
Smoking cannabis delivers the THC, CBD, and other compounds to the brain via the bloodstream—a direct route—and then to the rest of the body. In contrast, eating a cannabis-infused edible sends the compounds along the digestive tract to be metabolized by the liver. Then the THC and other chemicals hit the bloodstream and brain—in a more potent and sedating form after processing.
For people with muscle pain, joint problems, and other symptoms, this type of body buzz and sedation felt physically is especially useful. It’s also more long-lasting, from six to eight hours. Your peak blood levels from edibles occur at around three hours—long after effects from vaping and smoking are usually gone.
(Onset time and how long a high from a cannabis edible lasts depends on numerous things, including potency and dose, and the user’s overall tolerance, weight, metabolism, and individual factors such as genetic makeup.)
Edibles are discreet
Most people know what cannabis smells like, and you’re not fooling anyone by ducking behind the building at work, for example. If you want or need the benefits of cannabis without that tell-tale “Hello, I just smoked out!” odor, edibles are ideal.
They look like whatever food they are, and there’s no cannabis smell. No one who doesn’t try one will know the difference.
How to Dose Edibles
You’ve heard it before, and you’re going to hear it again—yes, from the person who ate the whole thing: start low and go slow.
Bottom line: I got lucky! I don’t know why I didn’t freak out or get sick, but you really might if you have too much.
Dosing edibles properly can be tricky, even for commercially manufactured edibles, let alone for the homemade kind. The exact yield of a recipe, the mystery amount of how much of the cannabinoids are lost during the process, and the potency of the cannabis itself all figure into this, as well other variables.
Here’s what to do. First, think about the edible you believe you’ll want to need. Now cut or break it in half, and start there. Especially if you’ve never made anything like our amazing pot brownies before, half a serving is a good place to start to determine the right dose for you.
Wait at least one or two hours, no matter what, before taking any action or reassessing to start feeling the edible’s effects. Yes, two hours is awhile, especially if you’re used to smoking. However, it can really take that long to hit you, depending on the day, the food, and your body. Never take more after just 30 minutes or so, even if you’re certain you can’t feel anything. Wait.
In fact, always keep this important rule in mind: without knowing your tolerance and the relative potency of an edible, never eat more of it. This helps guarantee a positive experience, and otherwise, why bother?
(Oh, and please note: if you just made it, you can’t be sure of the relative potency, and if you’re new to the edibles game, it’s hard to be sure of your tolerance.)
Even in legal cannabis states where THC and CBD and levels are clearly listed on packages, potency is tough to nail down. Plus, you lose some in even the most careful decarboxylation processes.
However, you can get a good estimate—it just takes your favorite subject, math!
Here’s how it works:
- 1 gram of weed that is 20 percent THCA will have 200 milligrams of THCA.
- A standard decarboxylation process for the flower will leave it with about 90 percent of the THC that it had listed (200 x 0.9), so you will have 180 mg of THC.
- Let’s assume you infuse into oil or butter and achieve only 60 percent (and you may do better, but you will almost certainly get that much into your cannabutter or cannabis-infused oil). This gives you (180 x 0.6), or about 108 mg of THC in the cannabutter or cannabis cooking oil. If you’re dosing at a pretty standard 5 mg, that’s about 21 portions.
- We recommend you start with a THC dose of 2.5 to 5 mg, no more, so in this example you’d have 21 to 42 doses with this infusion.
- Let’s say you use it to make 2 dozen cookies or bars: the 1 gram of cannabis would produce 24 pieces with about 4.5 mg of THC each.
- Start with just half of one cookie or pot brownie. After you eat it, wait 1 to 2 hours with plenty to drink and other snacks. Don’t be tempted to eat more of your edibles—eat other snacks if you’re hungry! Wait to feel the effects, and only after a couple of hours should you try any more—no more than say ¼ of a piece at a time. Remember to set a timer so you’re sure how long you’ve waited.
Remember, there is no way to achieve 100 percent conversion to THC. There is always some loss during cooking, infusion, and of course decarboxylation.
How to Make Edibles at Home
Making edibles at home starts with cannabutter. This is just regular butter that is infused with cannabis. But you can also use almost any kind of fat or oil, including coconut oil, olive oil, walnut oil, bacon grease, whatever. You can also infuse milk and cream, or make infused honey.
Cannabutter is the most famous, and it’s easy to use. You can cook and bake with it, and just keep it in the refrigerator for a last minute, elevated meal or treat. You can infuse just about anything with cannabutter, from classic brownies or chocolate chip cookies to pancakes and waffles or pot pies. Yum!
The idea is simple, but the process can take some time. Check out our recipe for all of the steps in serious detail. But for the first time with edibles, we love to make cannabutter.
What Kind of Cannabis to Use
If you’re trying to make a succulent pasta dinner, you can’t dump Spaghetti-Os in a bowl, slam it in the microwave, and call it done. (I mean you can—but it’s not great.)
In other words, ingredients matter.
This doesn’t mean you can’t use that ancient stash you just rediscovered—you can!—or a whole range of concentrates or other forms of cannabis. It’s just that the final taste and effects of your edibles will be impacted by what you use. (Speaking of your aging cannabis, when you use the old stuff, expect a more sedating high.)
So should you rush out for the fresh stuff? Not necessarily—freshness isn’t the thing, exactly, since plant material imparts its own flavor. In fact, freshly harvested cannabis, like trim and shake and other plant matter heavy products, has more chlorophyll. Since that bitter, plant-y taste you’re trying to avoid is caused by chlorophyll, take note and use those cannabis sources in things with stronger flavor profiles.
We love using bubble hash, concentrates, and kief in cooking and baking—and in some cases, when you really don’t want any flavor and high potency, distillates or isolate are the way to go. But the easiest place to start to keep it simple is just one gram of high-quality, top shelf cannabis flower. This just means those lovely popcorn nugs you’re used to smoking that have been dried and cured.
Now, what kind of cannabis, exactly? When you buy edibles in dispensaries you might see them labeled indica or sativa, right? So should you choose your weed based on that?
Not really, although you should surely choose what you like. Here’s why.
The term sativa usually refers to a more energizing, active, mental high, while people use the phrase indica to mean a body buzz, a sedating high, or a more nighttime sort of vibe. But it’s not a THC level thing, it’s more of a holistic effect from cannabinoids and terpenes, and how they interact. Unfortunately, terpenes in particular don’t always have the same effects when you eat them.
But they do impact taste! For example, I love a nice lemony, limonene-dominant strain for making infused honey—because I love cannahoney in my tea. That lemon flavor really adds a depth of taste. Or if I’m making a salad dressing that’s strong and garlicky, I might go for something more piney or gassy. And nothing beats a high caryophyllene strain like a Kush with a peppery taste for something savory! Just follow your nose.
So, if you’re shopping for cannabis for your edibles, focus on quality, what you like, and the THC and CBD ratios. Seek out a 1:1 ratio of THC and CBD for a balanced high.
Tips for When You Eat Too Many Edibles
It happens to the best of us. What do you do when you’ve just had too much?
- Start by only consuming edibles in an environment that is safe and calm. If you’re not there, get there. Realize that even if it doesn’t seem like it, objectively, everything will be alright.
- Read that above sentence again.
- Drink lots of water. Staying hydrated is really important.
- For a partial antidote and some relief to feelings of anxiety and paranoia, consume a large dose of CBD only—about 50 to 200mg. You can also use natural lemon oil and lemon zest for this. Just grate the zest from one lemon and chew it well before swallowing it.
- There is no need for medical attention unless you have a serious medical condition such as pre-existing heart disease. If you have diarrhea and/or vomiting that lasts, you may need intravenous rehydration.
- We promise: everything will be okay.
Final Thoughts on How to Make Edibles
We hope these basics on how to make cannabis edibles at home for beginners has been useful. And now you’re ready for our guides on how to make cannabutter from regular unsalted butter and weed, how to infuse cannaoil into whatever cooking oil you love, how to infuse dairy products, and all of the rest of the best ways to make homemade edibles!
There are so many ways to infuse cannabis into your food and drinks. Even as a newbie, it’s easy to get inspired and come up with something creative. We always have a stick of cannabutter in the fridge, and some cannabis cooking oil in mason jars, saved for a special meal!
If you have your own tips or tricks for making edibles at home, we would love to learn! Share your method for infusing a cannabis goodness into your cooking and baking. Share the love!