Potency and the route of administration of cannabis infused oils or edibles varies the time it takes for the effect to hit. It can take anywhere between 25 minutes to 2 hrs and 30 minutes before one feels the full effect. That’s not insignificant – in fact, it’s equal to:
- 15-105% of the length of Die Hard 1.
- 1-6.5 full-length episodes of Friends, or
- ½ to 3 full playthroughs of Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd.
Because of this extended onset, and because black market and homemade edibles haven’t typically included a measure of their potency, dosing edibles has long been a confusing and overwhelming experience for first-time consumers.
Even with this being common-knowledge in the cannabis community, many first-time consumers have failed to heed advice. After 45 minutes without “feeling it,” they proceede to double (or double-double or.. you get the picture) their dose. Cue the story of, three cookies in, someone realizing that they’ve wayyy overdone it.
Cannabis Overdose: Not Fun
Although most of these stories are presented in a lighthearted way, the reality of cannabis overdose is far from glamorous. For some people cannabis overdose can precipitate a detachment from reality that mimics psychosis; for me, it meant lying down with my head perched over the edge of the bed, repeatedly vomiting and almost passing out with any attempt at movement. Not super fun.
While these cases represent the extremes of overdose (and its important to remember that there are no reports of long term harms associated with overdose), they highlight the need to dose cannabis edibles safely and sensibly – and the first step to doing so is understanding potency!
There are a number of factors that make assessing the potency of homemade edibles difficult. First of all, even when thoroughly mixed, homemade edibles are prone to potency “hot spots”. This means that more infused oil may be found in one serving vs. another, even within the same recipe. Ovens are also prone to temperature variations that can affect the potency of the end product, especially if the dish isn’t uniformly heated. So even when using the same recipe, controlling for temperature, and weighing serving sizes by the gram, potency variations can still exist within a single batch. This is why it’s always recommended to start low and go slow!
There Are Ways To Minimize Your Risk!
Despite the hurdles, it’s vital to calculate the highest attainable potency of your infused oils and edibles. Getting an idea of the amount of cannabinoids you’re ingesting will make the experience safer, as well as more enjoyable and repeatable! If you want to calculate the highest possible potency of your oil, use this simple formula:
1. Multiply the THC percentage on your package by 10 – this will tell you how many milligrams of THC are present in one gram of cannabis (i.e. 10% = 100mg THC per gram).
2. Multiply this number by the amount of cannabis you intend to use (i.e. 5 grams at 100mg/gram = 500mg of THC)
3. Multiply this number by 0.87 (i.e. 1000×0.87 = 435mg)
4. Multiply the previous number by 0.7 (i.e. 435×0.7 = 304.5mg of THC).
5. Finally, divide this number by the number of milliliters of fat you’ve infused. For example, half of a cup is 125ml, so 304.5 divided by 125 is roughly equal to 2.44mg/ml.
This can be pretty easily converted to mg/serving if you’re using this oil in a recipe. Simply divide the previously calculated number (304.5mg) by the number of servings. If you were using that half-cup of oil in a brownie recipe that produced 16 servings, you’d end up with a maximum of 19mg of THC per serving! (Although the likelihood is your oil will be less potent that the highest attainable potency, it’s always best to err on the side of caution and assume that you’ve achieved this upper limit.)
Start low, Go Slow
As a beginner, it’s recommended to start low and go slow, waiting at least 3 hours between doses to assess effects. A standard beginner dose is 5mg, so you’d start off with 1/4 of one brownie and wait to see where it takes you. If after 3 hours you don’t feel any effects or desire a more potent experience, increase that dose to 1/2 of one brownie. Once you’ve established your ideal dose, dosing in the future will be a breeze!
While these formalities can seem tedious, they serve as an important step in safely assessing your ideal dose and how cannabis may affect you. Try to set aside at least one day for “testing” purposes. The effects of edible cannabis can last for up to 8 hours. It can also be reassuring to consume for the first time around a comfortable figure. A friend, partner, or family member can be ideal.
Make sure to check back for part 4. We’ll be looking at some pairings and recipes for your newly infused oil. Until then, happy trails!
About the author
Lana Tong is an aspiring Endocannabinoid Psychopharmacologist and Squirrel Behavioral Therapist based in Victoria, British Columbia. She’s passionate about cannabis as a medicine, entheogen, food, fiber crop, and so much more. Lana hopes to one day swim in a pool filled with organic CBD-infused coconut oil – we all have dreams, right?