Food. What a pleasure. How most of us love to eat. Eating is a basic necessity for survival. We have to eat several times a day to stay healthy. And of course, cannabis culture has also led to the evolution of cannabis cuisine. Not surprisingly, in the states of the United States where cannabis is legal there is a thriving industry engaged in marketing food products which contain the main psychoactive substances in cannabis. You would be amazed at how many ingestible products containing cannabis are marketed.
Just go to any Internet search engine and type in ‘whatever you want’ + ‘cannabis’. You’ll get loads of hits. You can find just about anything. From cannabis chicken to four-season cannabis pizza (with four strains of marijuana) and all kinds of pastries and jelly beans (gummy bears are famous in states such as Colorado). A whole underworld of pleasures, yet fraught with risks as well.
There are various ways of administering cannabis. The most traditional and popular is smoking; remember those huge joints Bob Marley and the Rastafarian crowd used to make? Yet there are also others which are gradually gaining ground such as topical administration (applying a cream, ointment or oil on the skin) which is very popular among people who use cannabis for therapeutic purposes. Plus it’s a long time since the legendary Vulcano® was brought out and so more and more people are using a wide variety of tools to vaporise in order to avoid tobacco and reduce the risks of combustion associated with smoking. And then there is also the oral route, i.e. eating cannabis. However, we all know that eating it just like that is a bit unpleasant not to say unpalatable, even though the image of scoffing yoghurt mixed with freshly burnt poor quality hashish (what a tummy ache!) is still alive and well in the collective imagination of old stoners. The most common way to use it orally is to cook cannabis with pastries, be they cakes or muffins, and also with milk and butter because cannabis is not water-soluble but rather fat-soluble; this means that the cannabinoids adhere very well to the fats of the two dairy products which makes for more effective absorption.
The question of efficacy and absorption time is crucial for sensible use in order to minimise the risks of the oral route. You can’t liken smoking cannabis to eating it. If you do, things won’t go well. In smoking, there’s only a few seconds between taking a puff of the joint and when you start to feel its effects, which can last for around two hours or even longer depending on the dose and the cannabis’s psychoactive load. Plus, smoking is not very effective. A number of scientific studies suggest that only 10-30% of all the THC in a joint is absorbed by the body (under certain conditions this can be at most 50%). Eating it is totally different; there is no comparison. The time between eating the cannabis preparation and beginning to feel its effects is about thirty minutes, stretching to two hours and with effects that can last for more than six hours. And the efficacy of eating; wow, we really do take advantage of it this way! How much would you say we get if we achieve at most 50% when smoking? Also 50%, or maybe 70%? Well, it’s more than 90%. The stomach is more efficient than the lungs for the simple reason that the lungs only have a few seconds to absorb the THC before expelling the smoke. Meanwhile, and as you might imagine, once the piece of cannabis cake is in your belly, the stomach begins the absorption process. Slowly but surely, unless of course you make yourself throw up. Although absorption is high, hepatic metabolisation means that bioavailability is relatively lower, so not all the cannabinoids reach the bloodstream at the same time. Lucky you!
For both these reasons, you should be very careful when consuming cannabis-infused foodstuffs. The lack of regulation means that the cannabis edibles market is an unknown quantity. You don’t know what doses are in each serving of food. So a key risk-reducing practice is to reject any cannabis food product with unknown content and dosage. If the situation, the urge to have a good time and all this peer pressure stuff make you decide to consume, then caution will always be your best friend. First of all you should ask your host or dealer what kind of weed or hashish is in the cake (or any other preparation). Whoever baked the cake will be able to give you the lowdown to guide you. But be careful! Life is full of jokers, or stoners with a high tolerance. What is a small serving for them might be a high or even very high dose for you. Remember that 50% of the 4,293 hospital emergencies due to drug use (not counting alcohol) in 2017 in Spain were the result of cannabis, the vast majority of which were down to eating cannabis products. So you should always nibble a small bit and wait at least two hours to find out how you react. Don’t be impatient and think ‘this isn’t doing much’ after just a few minutes. And since it isn’t doing much, you have another piece. You might be in for a very unpleasant surprise two hours later on. Easy does it. And above all and very important: do not eat when you are hungry. Hunger should be assuaged with non-cannabis foods; if you stuff yourself with cannabis products, the outcome might be completely unpredictable. One of the most unpleasant consequences you may experience is a panic attack; to put it in simple terms, when the dose is too high you may have feelings of extreme anxiety which may make you think you’re going to die or that terrible things will happen to you. A panic attack is one of the most unpleasant situations a person who uses cannabis can experience. It is up to you to avert it.
Until a regulated market emerges which sells cannabis food products with full health safeguards, cooking your own cannabis edibles will be the safest and most feasible option. Here, too, caution is the watchword. You need to know exactly what concentration of THC is in each gram of weed you cook. It’s hard to know for sure without going to a lab, although there are testing services which, if not free, are almost free. If you don’t have any assurance from a laboratory, you should at least know which cannabis strain you are dealing with so that you can make an estimate. Seed banks usually state the percentage of THC in the marijuana. You’ll find this information useful for cooking: bear in mind that you should only put so many grams of THC per serving. And if you’re unsure about this, once again, it’s better to err on the side of caution. Too little is preferable to too much. Well, it’s up to you what you do, but the more reckless you are, the more likely you are to have a bad cannabis trip.
Enjoy your meal!