It may be “just” a plant, but cannabis is an extraordinarily complicated drug that science is just beginning to understand. It demands respect and takes practice. The first thing to know when helping your relative decide between edibles or the smoking route is that the human body processes THC—the psychoactive compound in cannabis—differently for each. Smoke (or vape) cannabis and it goes to your bloodstream and makes its way immediately into your brain. Eat it, and the liver gets first dibs at processing the THC, turning it into 11-hydroxy-THC, which is five times as potent. The high will be delayed, but the effects last much longer.
Q: One of my relatives wants to get into cannabis (which is legal in their home state, of course). Should I tell them to smoke weed or do edibles?
Edibles might seem convenient and innocent enough (yay brownies!), but you need to be very careful with dosing. When you buy an edible at a dispensary, more than likely the dose is going to be 10 milligrams of THC. Which can be too much for a beginner.
A: Ah, the joys and terrors of exploring cannabis. We’ve all heard tales about overdoing it—maybe like me you once stood in line at an ice cream shop dumbfounded by the exchange of goods and services for money. But it doesn’t have to be this way! You can guide your relative as Virgil guided Dante, only without all the nightmares.
What about tinctures?
Whether your relative decides to smoke or do edibles, I’ll give you a little secret to pass along: Before doing either, start with a CBD tincture. CBD, or cannabidiol, is a non-psychoactive compound in cannabis. And it is insanely popular right now: Manufacturers have been putting it in face creams and claiming it can cure pretty much any ailment a human can suffer. Science has yet to confirm almost every single one of those claims, though CBD does seem to at least have anti-anxiety and anti-inflammatory properties.
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Science has also been exploring how CBD interacts with THC. For years, anecdotal evidence has suggested that CBD dampens the psychoactive high of THC. And increasingly, researchers are putting hard data to this. Patients taking the synthetic THC drug Marinol for nausea, for instance, often report nasty psychoactive side effects like paranoia. But they tend to handle the drug Sativex, which combines CBD and THC, much better.
Smoking or vaping weed is a bit easier to dose because the effects are much quicker and milder. Newbies might want to take a hit and wait 10 minutes or so and repeat as needed. Again, this isn’t a race.
Make sure they know the difference between THC and CDB, and remember: Low and slow