Inhale or ingest? One of cannabis culture’s timeless questions. As it turns out, there are some pretty significant differences between the two main methods for imbibing the miracle plant that is cannabis. And that’s a good thing, because understanding these differences will allow you to expand the types of experiences you have while using ganja.
Ultimately, you can choose how to consume your herb based on the type of high you’re looking for.
Here’s the main difference between inhaling and eating: the high you get from smoking or vaping weed tends to hit faster and dissipate quicker, while the high you get from eating takes longer to set in, but when it does it’s usually more intense and lasts longer.
There are two main reasons for this difference.
The first difference has to do with the way your body processes THC.
When you smoke marijuana, the THC gets into your body quickly, with as much as 50 to 60 percent of the chemical going straight into your blood plasma, according to The Daily Beast’s Steven Wishnia.
Ultimately, the THC in the bloodstream goes straight to your brain to produce the feeling of being high. This entire process happens quickly, but it also fizzles out fairly quickly as well.
When you eat marijuana, however, you send the THC contained in the herb on an entirely different metabolic route, which creates a significantly different experience.
To understand the process of metabolizing cannabis when it’s eaten, Wishnia quotes Mitch Earleywine, a professor of psychology at the State University of New York—Albany and author of Understanding Marijuana.
Here’s how Earleywine describes it:
“In a nutshell, eaten cannabis gets metabolized by the liver, so delta-9 THC becomes 11-hydroxy-THC, which passes the blood-brain barrier more rapidly and has more of a psychedelic effect than standard THC.”
“Smoked or vaporized cannabis bypasses the liver and doesn’t create the same 11-hydroxy-THC.”
To put it in simpler terms, when you eat cannabis, the THC passes through your liver before entering your bloodstream. This essentially gives you a “double high,” as the THC gives your body a high when it hits the liver and then another high when it gets into the bloodstream.
This process takes a bit longer, which is why it takes longer to get high from eating pot, but once it happens, the “double high” it produces tends to last longer and can often be more intense than the high produced by smoking or vaping.
The second reason there are differences between inhaling and ingesting cannabis has to do with what’s often called “set and setting.” This has more to do with the environmental factors impacting how a drug is used.
Here’s how Wishnia summarized this factor:
“Why people might perceive the effects of eating cannabis to be more intense also has to do with set and setting.”
“As the effects of smoked marijuana can be felt within seconds, even mildly experienced users can generally pick the point where they’ve had enough, a process called ‘titration.'”
“In contrast, those who eat cannabis have to estimate what the dose they’ve taken will do, and the length of the high means that any unpleasant effects take longer to go away.”
Essentially, the argument here is that the quick-hitting high of smoking or vaping makes it easier for a person to know when they’ve had enough, while the slower-working high of eating cannabis can make dosages harder to figure out.
Often, people end up eating more than they would have smoked simply because they’re unsure of how high they’ll actually be once their edibles have been fully metabolized. By the time the high finally hits, they discover they’ve eaten more than they thought they did, and they find themselves soaring through the stratosphere.
Luckily, one of the many amazing things about marijuana is that it’s impossible to overdose. So even if you eat too many brownies, you’re never in danger of seriously harming yourself.
This makes it safe to experiment and explore, to figure out just how high you like to get and what the best way is for getting there.