Whether you have a medical marijuana card in a state where it’s legal to buy edibles like cannabis-infused espresso beans or mints, or the edibles you consume are made at home—if you’ve ever had a marijuana-laced gummy bear or brownie, you’re likely well aware that the experience is significantly different from smoking a joint or from a vape.
It makes sense: You’re literally digesting the weed, rather than having it go straight to your brain or your blood—so you get more of a physical, bodily high. “When you eat cannabis, it’s processed by your liver and the THC gets metabolized into compound called 11 hydroxy THC—a different molecule from regular THC—and it’s more psychoactive,” says Corinne Tobias, a functional cannabis coach and the proprietor of Wake and Bake, an edibles blog featuring healthy vegan edibles recipes infused with cannabis coconut oil.
Tobias, who’s 32 and based in Peyona, Colorado, describes her job as combining health coaching, nutrition, and stress reduction techniques to help people transform their lives and bring their bodies back into balance. Tobias experienced the healing power of cannabis herself when she used it to address a slew of health issues in her 20s, including back problems, problematic drinking and use of painkillers, and now devotes her time to helping others discover the positive potential of cannabis to trigger physical and emotional wellness.
I asked Tobias why she recommends that people who already use weed medically or recreationally should consider cooking with it more often. “Cooking with cannabis is cost-saving,” she says. “You can grow your own, which gives you control over ingredients. The chemicals that are used in black market cannabis—the kind you might buy off the street illegally and not know where it comes from—can be terrible. They use growth chemicals that are approved for shrubs and bank parking lots; not for human consumption. Some of these compounds are neurotoxic and can cause nasty bowel issues. You can end up adding even more toxins to your body, so you have to be careful.”
Just in case it doesn’t go without saying, we’ll be clear: You should always be careful when consuming cannabis, especially if you’re not doing it on doctor’s orders, or if you’re an inexperienced user. As mentioned above, cooking with cannabis can often have more potent, longer-lasting results than simply inhaling marijuana smoke. Tobias has a handy guide to calculating the dosage of THC in cannabis-infused oil, and one easy rule to follow for safety is that, when in doubt, always consume less over a longer period of time. The effects of edibles often don’t hit you until awhile after you’ve eaten, so don’t go gobbling up three brownies because you’re not feeling any more relaxed after half an hour.
And while the word “overdose” is one that’s still hotly debated in the context of marijuana, what’s generally agreed-upon is that while it’s extremely unlikely to experience serious health problems (or, worse, die) from consuming too much, you could certainly have a bad high that might leave you reeling and wishing you hadn’t eaten one bite.
One Forbes article nicely sums up the unknowns experimenting with edibles, since so many factors can play a role, including your metabolism and what else you’ve eaten that day: “…It’s partly a matter of raising awareness of the risks—and waiting for the learning curve to level out.” A combination of common sense and playing it safe is important when it comes to experimenting with edibles, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try them.
As for the best way to infuse cannabis into food, there are tons of options, says Tobias, from crock pots to mason jars and even high-tech gadgets like LEVO’s home oil-infusion machine, where you basically push a button and it does the work for you. “My favorite homespun way of infusing is the mason jar method, because it’s easier to keep track of the temperature, and not as messy,” says Tobias. Check out her step-by-step guide on how to make cannabis oil in a mason jar here.
“The worst mistake when you’re making cannabis oil at home is to burn or overcook it,” she says. “For most oils, cooking it between two to six hours at 160-180 degrees is the sweet spot. Not all the research is there yet, but it’s not rocket science and it doesn’t have to be completely perfect to work.” For more how-tos, check out Tobias’s guides to making cannabis-infused coconut oil, honey tincture, and “cannabutter” (hash butter).
Ready to experience the happy, healing benefits of cannabis cooking for yourself? Click through the slideshow ahead for all kinds of cool recipes that go way beyond pot brownies—from cannabis-infused grilled cheeses and guacamole to gingerbread truffles and chai lattes. Oh, and bonus: Many of these are vegan, gluten-free, and paleo-friendly, which means that in addition to the relaxation and anti-inflammatory benefits of cannabis, they’re also good for you. Eat up!