Heres What Happens When You Eat Cannabis
2 min

Heres What Happens When You Eat Cannabis

2 min

Eating cannabis can make for a really potent experience - more so than if you had smoked the same amount - and it is thanks to the different ways your body deals with it.

The age old discussion of smoking vs. eating cannabis is one that many a stoner philosopher has pondered upon, and many a novice stumbled over. With cannabis and the legalization movement gaining more and more public attention, this comparison is more prevalent and important than ever. Digested cannabis is a force to be reckoned with; most people know there is a difference between smoking and eating cannabis, put the specifics are often lost somewhere or fall to the wayside. So here is what happens when you eat cannabis.


The main difference between smoking and eating cannabis is the way the body absorbs and metabolises it. When you smoke or vaporize cannabis, THC and the other cannabinoids pass through the lungs and directly into the bloodstream. This gives the cannabinoids almost instantaneous access the blood-brain barrier, and consequently the brain, causing a high.

When cannabis is cooked and eaten, the process is very different. Cannabis first passes into the stomach, followed by the intestines. Throughout this procedure it is broken down and absorbed the same way nutrients from food are. This causes the THC and other compounds to pass through the liver before entering the blood stream. This is the most significant difference between eating and smoking, as when THC enters the liver, it is converted into 11-hydroxy-THC, a much more potent form of THC that can pass the blood-brain barrier very quickly. The result in a sober delay as the cannabis is digested, followed by a potentially thunderous and potent high.

This isn’t to say that eaten cannabis has to always result in an unrelenting experience, but dose for dose, the above is the reason eating cannabis is stronger than smoking the same amount of it. By starting out eating a small amount, a nice comfortably buzz can be achieved. This is why novices are always advised to start small – you can always up the dose, but you can’t take it back. This may also give you an idea about dosage for future reference with similar edibles.


Not only does eating cannabis cause a perceived stronger high, it also lasts longer. Once again, this is down to the way the body deals with the influx of cannabinoids. Although eating cannabis feels stronger, thanks to it being metabolised by the liver, a smaller concentration of cannabinoids are actually delivered to the plasma in your blood – around 10 to 20 percent, in fact. On the other hand, when you smoke cannabis, you get a percentage in the region of 50 to 60 percent.

Despite this, the THC from smoked cannabis tends to dissipate over an hour or so, whilst THC from ingested cannabis can last for up to 10 hours. This could be from a combination of two factors. Firstly, 11-hydroxy-THC could be harder for the body to further metabolise and break down. Then there is also the fact that compared to smoking, ingested cannabis is going to cause a much slower release. The entire cannabis content is not all digested at once, and it can take a while for it all to pass through the digestive tract and into the blood.

Eating cannabis is a great way to experience another side to the cannabis high, and offers new and exciting way to experiment in the kitchen as well as share with friends. Knowing how ingested cannabis interacts with the body can go a long way to make sure you get the dose correct, and don’t run into an experience that could overwhelm or put you off edibles all together. There is so much joy to be had with them, plus, it’s healthier than smoking!

Adam Parsons
Adam Parsons
Professional cannabis journalist, copywriter, and author Adam Parsons is a long-time staff member of Zamnesia. Tasked with covering a wide range of topics from CBD to psychedelics and everything in between, Adam creates blog posts, guides, and explores an ever-growing range of products.
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