It can’t be disputed that Cannabis or weed edibles have been gaining momentum in recent years. According to research, the global market for Cannabis edibles in 2017 was approximately $8.4 billion with experts predicting it will reach $25.7 billion by 2022.
Today, we’re focusing on a widespread type of edible products known as weed brownies that seem to be popular with weed consumers these days. Some people use them recreationally, while others use medical cannabis as a way to manage chronic pain for conditions like cancer and migraines.
As a result of that, marijuana use has increased drastically in the last 10 years, and more and more countries in the United States and in the world, in general, are legalizing it. Among them is Colorado and its capital Denver, where medical marijuana and the recreational use of marijuana have been legal for more than 10 years.
However, a lot of people wonder whether ingesting weed affects you in the same way as inhaling weed when smoking or vaping. This article will answer that question and walk you through both the health benefits and side effects of consuming weed brownies.
What Are Cannabis Edibles?
Cannabis edibles are types of Cannabis-infused food products that contain the plant’s main chemical compounds and belong to the group of cannabinoids: Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and/or Cannabidiol (CBD).
Edibles in which THC is the dominant compound produce the popular “high” that weed is known for because of the compound’s psychoactive quality. CBD, on the other hand, is a non-psychoactive component. Edibles that are often used for relaxation, recreation, and treatment of some medical conditions (explored in the next section of this article) usually have a higher CBD dosage (NCBI).
The most common forms of edibles are candy (chocolate bars, caramel, lozenges, gummies, etc.) and baked goods (brownies, cakes, and cookies). Edibles also include Cannabis-infused drinks which are sometimes referred to as drinkables.
Contrary to popular belief, edibles are not a thing of this century. For example, bhang is an edible mixture from the female Cannabis plant’s buds, leaves, and seeds used in India as early as 1000 BC as a form of medicine.
The renewed interest in Cannabis edibles in the past 60 years is credited to Alice B. Toklas’ Cook Book published in 1954. Among other recipes, the book had one on how to prepare “hashish fudge”. In the 1960s, Toklas’ brownies were embraced and popularized by the counterculture movement.
Although the ingredients can vary from recipe to recipe, weed brownies are prepared much like regular brownies with the addition of one key ingredient – weed, of course. Typically, recipes call for the use of cannabutter, i.e. butter mixed with decarboxylated cannabis, or cannabis oil.
How Long Before the Weed Brownies Kick In?
Research shows differences in the pharmacokinetic profile of users consuming weed through edibles and those consuming weed by smoking or vaping.
Whereas the psychoactive effects of inhaled cannabis can be spotted in just a couple of minutes and last between one to four hours, if you eat weed brownies or any other Cannabis edibles, you’ll get high from the edible after 30 to 60 minutes (with some studies saying it can even take 90 minutes). Peak amount of THC blood levels can occur approximately three hours after ingestion and it depends on the milligrams of THC present in the cannabis product.
How Is the Weed From Brownies Absorbed in the Body?
Your body absorbs THC through the digestive system and it then gets modified to become 11-hydroxy-thc in the liver, before it enters the general circulation and reaches the brain. This takes longer than absorbing THC through the lungs which is why the effects of marijuana edibles are gradual but can last up to 6-7 hours (Enhancing Efficacy, Performance, and Reliability of Cannabis Edibles: Insights from Lipid Bioavailability Studies, 2020, David Julian McClements).
It also makes a difference whether you’re having weed brownies on an empty or full stomach.
The cannabinoids in weed brownies aren’t absorbed in the stomach. They’re absorbed in the small intestine where the stomach releases partially-digested food. So, if you had a nutritious meal before eating weed brownies, digesting that meal would slow the gastric emptying and as a result, the THC would be absorbed more slowly.
Studies have shown that eating weed brownies on an empty stomach will make them kick in quicker and stronger.
Health Benefits of Eating Marijuana Edibles
No matter if you are a first-time edible user, or you have used edibles before, you know that there are some benefits from consuming them. Depending on the level of THC and CBD in weed brownies, their consumption is associated with a number of health benefits:
Relaxation and anxiety relief
Most people use weed as a recreational drug because of its soothing and calming effect and because it helps take their mind off stress and work. The psychoactive compound THC is primarily associated with this relaxation effect.
In 2019, a study including 72 adults showed evidence that CBD produces a calming effect on the central nervous system. More than 79% of the participants experienced a decrease in their anxiety levels and had improved sleep scores. This is just one among many studies in support of this claim.
Treating chronic illnesses
Weed brownies might help to treat chronic illnesses if they contain higher CBD levels. This compound possesses anti-inflammatory properties and is used as a pain reliever.
CBD has also been said to improve seizure control in patients with epilepsy. In 2018, the US Food and Drug Administration approved Epidiolex, the first prescription medication containing a purified form of CBD, as a treatment of seizures associated with two severe forms of epilepsy.
Treating appetite and weight loss
The most common short-term effects of consuming edibles are increased appetite and food consumption which can help those struggling with appetite or weight loss, a common symptom in patients with cancer, heart disease, and HIV/AIDS. Scientists are working on ways to include THC use in their treatment.
Side Effects and Overdose
Are there any adverse effects if you consume weed brownies?
There have been studies showing that exaggerated and long-term consumption of pot brownies, i.e. weed in general, can affect memory and cognition, brain development (more associated with adolescents), and heart health. Side effects can be even bigger if you use weed every day.
Children and pets can accidentally eat weed brownies if they’re placed within their reach. In the States, between 2005 and 2013, there was a 30.3% increase in poison control calls to report cannabis-related incidents such as accidental ingestion of edibles.
Interactions with medications
Problems can occur when the THC in weed brownies interacts with alcohol and other medications (e.g. blood thinners). The THC can either cancel the effects of the medications or its effect can become intensified by the same medications.
An overdose could occur as a result of consuming weed brownies with an extremely high THC concentration, or in cases where the individual is unaware of the edibles’ long latency period and overdoses unintentionally. In such cases, studies have reported overdose symptoms such as temporary cognitive and motor impairment, sedation, agitation, anxiety, and vomiting as common side effects. The effects of cannabis as well as the side effects can be even more harmful if you use it every day.
In recent years, Cannabis-infused edibles such as weed brownies are becoming more and more popular among weed consumers. Studies have shown that weed edibles have multiple health benefits such as reducing stress and anxiety, reducing chronic pain in illnesses such as cancer and some heart diseases, treating epilepsy and weight loss, etc.
Moreover, ingesting weed is less harmful to your lungs than smoking weed. However, edibles take longer to kick in and the effects of cannabis can last up to six or seven hours. Ignorance of this fact can lead to you taking more serving sizes than your body can handle, which can lead to an unwanted weed brownies overdose. To minimize this risk, consumers are advised to start low with their brownie intake and gradually increase the dose until effective.