When you ask a cannabis user what their preferred method of consumption is, smoking and eating often top the list. They are, by far, the two most popular methods of enjoying cannabis in our world today. While smoking and eating cannabis will surely get you high, both ways differ in relation to the amount of time that it takes for the drug to be effective, as well as the impact that each has on the user’s body and brain, or sense of smell and taste. Below we break down some of the main differences between smoking and eating so that when faced with the decision to smoke a joint or eat a cannabis-infused bon-bon, you’ll know exactly where your journey will take you.

When smoking, the psychoactive compound THC-A (tetrahydrocannabinolic acid) is converted to THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), by burning or heating, which binds to the cannabinoid receptors in the brain causing constant stimulation of neurons quite like a pinball machine. THC is rapidly absorbed from the lungs into the blood circulation, where it crosses the blood-brain barrier. The effects are felt almost instantaneously for up to 30 minutes and lasting up to two hours, which makes it an excellent choice for people who want effects right away and not too long.

Because edibles are consumed like any other food, they tend to avoid the issues of odour and stigma commonly associated with smoking a joint. Commercially made cannabis edible products generally use extracted full spectrum THC or a further refined product called distillate. The difference is all about terpenes. The distillate has no taste, no odour, but is unpredictable or kind of bland on the effects. Depending on the type of full-spectrum oil (Sativa or Indica leaning), it can give you the effects of what a Sativa or an Indica joint would provide, as all the terpenes that guide your journey are there (Happy, chill, etc.).

When making edibles, THC is absorbed into fat, like butter or chocolate, due to its lipophilic properties. Your stomach absorbs the drug and then it is metabolized by the liver. Achieving a high usually takes much longer, reportedly taking anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours before taking effect. In the liver, THC is converted to 11-0H-THC (hydroxytetrahydrocannabinol). This highly potent chemical has a higher impact on the cannabinoid receptors in the brain and is different than smoking a joint, so be safe. According to several studies, 11-OH-THC crosses the blood-brain barrier faster than THC, making it more effective and potent when ingested compared to when inhaled. Eating cannabis provides a more substantial high (3-7 hours) without harming the lungs. Remember always to go low and go slow due to everyone’s liver metabolizes the THC to 11-OH-THC differently. One person could have 10 milligrams of THC in an edible and have a great time where someone else has the same dosage could be too much for them. Start at 5 mg per edible, wait a couple of hours, then decide on your journey from there.

smoking vs. eating cannabis infographic

We take a look at the impact eating edibles and smoking joints have on the brain and the body.

The two methods of consuming marijuana have both advantages and disadvantages. In the case of smoking, one of the benefits is that the desired effects occur almost instantaneously; however smoking can cause damage to your lungs. One of the main advantages of eating as a method of consuming cannabis is that the effects of the drug are felt for an extended duration.