After years of working in the weed industry, I can tell you there’s more to it than choosing between the whole puff puff pass routine and eating your way to bliss.
When it comes to edibles vs smoking weed, onset time, effects, and the duration of your high will be different depending on what method you choose.
Keep reading to discover my take on the differences between smoking weed and consuming canna-infused edibles.
- Cannabis edibles and smoking weed are two popular ways to consume cannabis, with each offering different onset times, effects, and length of the experience.
- The effects of edibles take longer to kick in and are typically stronger than smoking weed because of the way THC is metabolized in the digestive tract before reaching the bloodstream and brain.
- Edibles are way more discreet but the high is different (lasts up to 4-6 hours) compared to smoking flower.
Cannabis Edibles: Not Just Your Average Snack
Cannabis edibles are foods infused with cannabinoids like THC or CBD. Unlike traditional consumption methods, like smoking or vaping, edibles let you experience the effects of cannabis without having to inhale.
Edibles are a discreet and smoke-free option for people who prefer not to smoke. This makes them appealing to health-conscious consumers or anyone interested in an inconspicuous way to consume cannabis.
The huge variety of edibles available also makes them popular. Gummies continue to steal the spotlight, but there’s also a bounty of infused baked goods, bevies, chocolates, hard candies, soft caramel chews, taffy, and snacks like popcorn, chips, beef jerky, and more.
The onset and duration of effects of edibles are different from smoking. The effects come on slower and last longer compared to smoking or other methods of consumption.
Smoking Weed: An Age-Old Tradition
Smoking weed involves inhaling smoke produced when dry cannabis flower is ignited. People have been consuming cannabis for thousands of years, but how long have they been smoking it?
A long time. The earliest evidence of ritual cannabis smoking dates back at least 2,500 years. According to a 2019 study, scientists discovered cannabis plants were burned in wooden braziers (a type of outdoor heater fueled by wood) during funeral ceremonies in western China around 500 BCE.
Authors of the study suggest the phytochemical analysis taken indicates cannabis was smoked as part of ceremonial and/or religious ceremonies. They also highlighted that cannabis plants produced high levels of psychoactive compounds.
This makes smoking weed the oldest method of getting high. It’s the OG of cannabis consumption. And the most popular.
Why do people prefer smoking pot when there are so many other options available?
Well, for one, the effects are felt pretty much immediately. If instant gratification is your thing, smoking delivers almost instant results.
It’s also an integral facet of cannabis culture. It’s a classic ritual and largely associated with social bonding. People who smoke weed love to smoke weed with other people who smoke weed. You’re way more likely to light up a joint with a fellow cannabis consumer than share an infused brownie.
Smoking also lets you create a customized experience. You can control how much you inhale. Once you’ve smoked weed for a while, you know exactly how one or two hits will make you feel. This means you can tailor how much you smoke to meet your unique preferences.
As an OG cannabis consumer with close to three decades of experience, I can honestly say I prefer smoking over any other consumption method. It’s not just the instant effects, either. There’s something about smoking cannabis being deeply rooted in tradition and ritualistic practices that will forever make me a fan of flower.
Smoking Cannabis VS Eating Edibles
At the end of the day, both consumption methods will get you high. But there are some significant differences between smoking cannabis vs eating edibles.
Smoking and eating edibles are both delightful, but both bring unique aspects to the cannabis experience.
Check it out.
How it Works
You’re probably aware that THC is what’s responsible for getting you high. But did you know THC works differently in the body depending on whether it’s smoked or eaten?
How Smoking Weed Works
When you inhale cannabis smoke, THC is absorbed by the lungs, and then quickly makes its way into the bloodstream.
Once THC reaches the blood, it makes its way to the brain. It passes the blood-brain barrier, attaches to CB1 receptors, and bam. You’re high.
The time profile of the whole process, from sparking that joint, blunt, bowl, or bong to experiencing the psychoactive effects, takes less than five minutes.
How Edibles Work
Edibles are a different story. When you eat a canna-infused edible, THC must travel through the digestive tract and liver before reaching the blood and brain. It’s a process known as the first-pass effect that completely changes the way weed works.
During this process, THC is converted to 11-OH-THC (11-hydroxy-delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), which is much more potent than Delta-9 THC.
This is the reason the effects of edibles are typically stronger than smoking, and why they last so much longer.
So, while both buds and edibles contain THC, the way the two consumption methods work in the body is decidedly different. So is the intensity of the high…and how long it lasts.
Because smoking weed and eating edibles work differently in the body, you can expect them to have different effects. Both will get you high. But the high will be different depending on which method you choose.
Effects of Smoking Cannabis
If you want to get high like now, smoking is where it’s at. When you smoke weed, the effects typically hit in just a few minutes. Peak intoxication levels (aka the “high”) usually occur after about 20 minutes.
The effects of smoking weed vary, depending on the consumer. That said, some of the most common effects of smoking weed include:
- Altered consciousness
- Increased sensory awareness
- Relaxation and/or stress reduction
- Increased creativity
- Heightened sensuality
- Increased appreciation for the arts
On the flip side, smoking weed isn’t without its potentially negative effects. Cannabis use isn’t always sunshine and rainbows. It can trigger some serious anxiety and panic in some users.
Anxiety is the most commonly reported adverse effect of smoking weed. In a 2023 analysis, researchers found that 17% of consumers experienced anxiety, and close to 12% experienced panic attacks after smoking weed.
As a daily smoker, I still get anxious from time to time when I smoke weed. It’s typically dependent on my mood and mental state.
Inexperience can be a large contributing factor to experiencing anxiety after smoking cannabis. This is why newbies are urged to “start low and go slow” whether smoking or eating edibles.
If you’re new to smoking weed, take one small hit and wait at least five minutes to see how you feel. If you don’t feel the effects you wanted, take one more small hit and wait another five minutes. This may help reduce the anxiety inexperienced cannabis consumers sometimes feel.
Effects of Eating Edibles
Edibles typically produce much stronger effects than smoking flower. Because of the first-pass effect, you won’t feel much for up to an hour or two. But when you do, expect the effects to be strong AF.
Peak effects are typically experienced about four hours after eating an edible, and the general effects are typically the same as smoking.
Expect euphoria, altered consciousness, increased awareness, and all the other wonderful reasons people consume cannabis.
Because THC transforms to highly potent 11-OH-THC when digested, the effects of edibles are typically stronger than other consumption methods. That said, the adverse effects could be even more intense.
Take the 2008 incident linked above of a cop calling 911 after eating pot brownies. In the infamous 911 call, he tells the operator he thinks he’s “dying,” then goes on to say, “I think we’re dead, I really do.”
While the adverse effects of eating edibles aren’t always necessarily so extreme, they do happen. And when they do, they can be even more intense than smoking weed.
I’ve been there. Which is one of the reasons I don’t enjoy edibles. I’ve become plenty paranoid from a few homemade brownies more than once. And while legal edibles are precisely dosed, I still don’t take any chances.
The duration of the effects of edibles compared to smoking weed is another difference.
When you smoke weed, you can expect the effects to last around 1-3 hours. I tend to stay pleasantly elevated for just about an hour after I smoke. I have a fairly high tolerance, however, and am a daily consumer.
If you’re new to smoking the wacky tobacky, the effects will likely last longer. Depending on how much you consume and how often, expect your high to last up to 2-3 hours.
The duration of an edible high is different. Remember, THC absorption is different when cannabis is consumed orally. Effects usually last around six hours but can last up to 12 hours or longer. Especially if you’re new to cannabis and have a low tolerance.
Smoking Weed: Cost Analysis
- Cost of Cannabis Flower: On average, the price of cannabis flower ranges from $15 to $20 per gram in most legal markets. For this analysis, let’s use a price of $15 gram.
- Average Consumption per Session: I typically might consume around 0.5 grams in a single smoking session. Assuming this is the same for you, the cost per session would be approximately $7.50.
- Frequency of Use: Assuming you smoke once a day, the monthly cost would be 30 days x $7.50 = $225.
- Additional Costs: Smoking also requires paraphernalia such as rolling papers, a grinder, and possibly a pipe or bong. A basic setup can cost around $20 to $50, but this is a one-time or infrequent expense.
Consuming Edibles: Cost Analysis
- Cost of Edibles: A package of edibles typically ranges from $15 to $30 and contains around 100mg to 200mg of THC. For this example, let’s assume a price of $20 for a package containing 10 servings of 10mg THC each.
- Average Consumption per Session: A standard dose for an average edible is about 10mg of THC. Therefore, the cost per dose (or session) is $2 (since $20 ÷ 10 servings = $2 per serving).
- Frequency of Use: Assuming you consume edibles once a day, the monthly cost would be 30 days x $2 = $60.
- Monthly Cost of Smoking Weed: Approximately $225.
- Monthly Cost of Consuming Edibles: Approximately $60.
- Additional Considerations: Smoking may require more frequent purchases and additional gear, while edibles have a longer shelf life and generally require no additional equipment.
Related Read: Smoking Weed Cost VS Edibles
When comparing edibles vs. smoking weed, there are also health considerations to think about.
It’s well established that smoking can cause countless adverse health conditions. Most people associate smoking cigarettes with health problems.
But smoking cannabis isn’t without its health considerations. The respiratory and immune systems tend to take the most damage from cannabis smoke.
There’s also the 2021 study that found smoking weed could expose you to the same toxic chemicals found in cigarette smoke.
Hands down, edibles would be considered the “healthier” option between the two. Especially when it comes to respiratory and immune health.
But it’s important to consider that edibles are often loaded with sugar and other ingredients that aren’t exactly great for your health.
Something else to think about is that food safety doesn’t get much attention when it comes to cannabis edibles. Cultivation, extraction, processing, manufacturing, packaging, and distribution can all pose health safety issues in cannabis food products.
You can avoid some of the potential health risks in edibles by choosing products that have been full-panel third-party lab tested. The Certificate of Analysis (COA) will give you information on the presence of any contaminants that may be lingering in your product.
If you’re looking for a discreet way to get high, smoking isn’t your best bet. The pungent odor of cannabis is difficult to hide.
This means that if you’re interested in getting high anywhere outside your home, edibles are the more discreet option of the two.
The ability to consume edibles pretty much anywhere is one of the things that make them so popular. Eating a couple of gummies before boarding a plane is much more inconspicuous than taking a couple of hits off a joint, am I right?
One study found some consumers prefer edibles to smoking because there’s no smell or secondhand smoke.
Discreet and convenient, it’s easy to see why edibles are the clear choice when considering edibles vs smoking weed.
When it comes down to it, the primary reason people consume cannabis is to feel better.
Whether this means getting high recreationally or using cannabis therapeutically, cannabis flower and edibles are two of the most popular consumption methods.
Both offer the effects cannabis is famous for. But the experience between the two is decidedly different. Onset time differences, potency, and duration aren’t the same at all.
At the end of the day, the choice of edibles or smoking weed comes down to user preference. I will forever consider myself a flower girl, but this doesn’t mean I’m opposed to the occasional edible. Especially when out and about.
The beauty of discovering your preferred canna consumption method lies in the exploration of each option as many times as it takes until you find what resonates with you most!