Edibles are cannabis-infused foods or drinks. Their effects vary in length, but they may last 6 hours or more, compared with up to 4 hours after smoking or vaping.

Edibles deliver cannabinoids to the body through the digestive system and offer an alternative to smoking or vaping cannabis.

Edibles containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) will cause a similar high or euphoric feeling as smoking cannabis. In some ways, edibles are a more potent way to deliver these cannabinoids.

Research shows that the effects of an edible take up to about 1 hour to kick in but can last for 6 or more hours. In contrast, the effects of smoking or vaping THC tend to last 1–4 hours.

Edibles also do not carry some of the risks of smoking cannabis, such as chronic cough and phlegm production. However, knowing what amount to take can be tricky, as people respond differently to different doses.

When trying out a new edible, it is important to start with a low dose to see how the body responds. With edibles, it is easier to take an excessively high dose and feel negative side effects than it is with smoking.

Keep reading to learn more about edibles, including how long they last, how they work, dosage, and risks.

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In general, the effects of an edible start to kick in between 30 and 90 minutes after ingestion. However, this will vary depending on the type of edible and a person’s age, gender, metabolism, and food intake.

For some edibles, such as hard candies or suckers, absorption may begin while the person sucks on them, and, therefore, the effects may appear faster.

One study notes that hard candies may kick in within 15–45 minutes, whereas other edibles can take 60–180 minutes.

In comparison with smoking or vaping cannabis products, edibles are slow to produce effects. It takes some time to notice the effects of an edible, whereas the effects of smoking or vaping THC products are almost instant.

Eating an edible means that the active ingredients, such as THC, have to go through the digestive system to reach the bloodstream rather than the lungs. This process takes time.

People with faster metabolisms may feel the effects quicker, as the body can digest and process the edible faster. Eating an edible on an empty stomach may also lead to faster-acting effects, as opposed to eating an edible with other foods or just after a meal.

Some people may experience a delayed effect from eating an edible. They may not notice the edible’s effects at first, and then the effects can come on fast and strong.

That said, anyone who has eaten an edible and does not feel the effects should wait for at least 2–3 hours before deciding to eat more or use other cannabis products. Everyone is different, and the effects may take longer to manifest in some people.

Waiting helps reduce the risk of uncomfortable side effects due to very high doses or an overdose of THC.

While edibles take a long time to kick in compared with smoking or vaping, they also tend to last much longer.

The average dose from an edible can last 6 or more hours, with the strongest effects occurring about 3 hours after ingestion.

Again, this will vary depending on a few factors, such as dosage and metabolism. Taking a very large dose or a dose with very potent THC levels may cause a stronger, longer high, as the body takes time to process the THC out of the system.

Individual tolerance levels will also play a large part here. People who are not used to cannabis products may feel the effects more strongly and for much longer than a person who regularly uses cannabis products if they take the same dose.

The high from an edible will likely last for a few hours. The authors of a 2018 review note that the effects of edibles last about 6–8 hours.

However, it is not uncommon for the high to last up to 8–12 hours if the person has a lower tolerance and about 4 hours if the person has a higher tolerance.

It is difficult to generalize the dosage of edibles, as numerous manufacturers make different ranges of products. Additionally, the potency of the edibles will vary not only on the type of strain and THC content but also on factors such as cooking temperature and time.

Edibles can come in doses as low as 0.5 milligrams (mg) of THC. However, many consider 2.5 to 5 mg of THC to be the lowest effective dose and will recommend starting with this dose if the person has never tried edibles.

The average edible will contain 10–15 mg of THC. These doses are generally effective for a person who is used to cannabis and wants to feel the effects of the edible for a few hours.

A very high dose begins at about 20 mg of THC. Doses this high are generally not a good idea, as they may increase the risk of some unwanted effects from taking in too much THC at once.

However, people who take cannabis frequently or take high amounts of THC may use a higher dose edible to experience stronger or longer-lasting effects.

An older review article notes that the THC effects of edibles can appear in some individuals at doses as low as 2.5 mg, while others need doses of 50 mg to experience any of the effects of THC.

This range is very wide, reinforcing the idea that individuals should start with a low dose.

Edibles containing THC cause a similar high and feelings of relaxation and euphoria as smoking the compound. The high will vary based on the type of cannabinoids in the edible and the overall potency.

Some people choose to take edibles rather than smoke to avoid harm to their lungs, whereas others actually prefer the high that an edible brings.

Learn more about what it feels like to be high.

This section answers some frequently asked questions about edibles.

What are the risks of edibles?

In general, cannabis products are nontoxic, and there is a very low risk of a dangerous overdose.

It is possible to ingest too much THC, though, which can cause some uncomfortable effects.

Older research in the International Journal of Drug Policy notes that THC overconsumption is more likely to occur with edibles, as, unlike with smoking, the body does not give the person any warning signs when taking.

By the time any signs of overdose are apparent, the body is already processing the edible, and it is too late to reverse its effects.

Overconsumption of cannabis or THC products can cause several side effects, including nausea, rapid heart rate, hallucinations, and delirium.

To avoid an overdose, it is best to start with low doses of any cannabis product until a person knows their tolerance.

A person can contact a healthcare professional if they are worried about a cannabis overdose.

What are the benefits of edibles?

Although the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved the use of cannabis to treat any specific disease or condition, cannabis-related products may benefit some people.

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health notes that the FDA has approved pure isolates of cannabinoids for limited specific uses, by prescription only.

Drugs containing cannabinoids may help treat:

  • chronic pain
  • some rare forms of epilepsy
  • nausea and vomiting associated with cancer chemotherapy
  • loss of appetite and weight loss associated with HIV or AIDS
  • multiple sclerosis symptoms

Do edibles expire?

Edibles are a simple way to deliver cannabinoids to the body, but it is also important to consider their shelf life.

While cannabinoids can degrade over time, the other ingredients in an edible may make it more or less perishable. Food types will age similarly whether they contain cannabis or not.

For instance, a muffin or cookie may be more perishable than a piece of hard candy. Manufacturers should put expiration labels on their products, similar to any other food.

Keeping an edible in the fridge or freezer can help extend its shelf life and prevent it from spoiling, especially if it contains ingredients such as dairy or eggs.

Edibles can be tricky to consume correctly. Each person will have a different tolerance level, so an effective dose for one person may be too much for another.

Edibles are also difficult to quantify because, unlike with smoking, there is no way to tell how effective the dose is until the body breaks down the edible.

It is often easier for people to overdose when taking edibles than with smoking cannabis.

Overdosing by eating an edible is rarely a cause for serious concern, though it may lead to some disconcerting symptoms.

Anyone having severe symptoms such as panic attacks, a rapid heart rate, or difficulty breathing should seek medical attention.