A cannabis edible, aka cannabis-infused foods or simply an edible, is a food product which contains cannabinoids, especially tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Although edible may refer to either a food or a drink, a cannabis-infused drink may possibly be referred to as a liquid edible or drinkable.
Most edibles contain a significant amount of THC, which can induce a wide range of effects, including relaxation, euphoria, increased appetite, fatigue, and anxiety. THC-dominant edibles are consumed for recreational and medical purposes. Some edibles contain a negligible amount of THC and are instead dominant in other cannabinoids, predominantly cannabidiol (CBD). Fundamentally these types of edibles are used for medical purposes.
Edibles can also refer to foods and beverages made from non-psychoactive cannabis products known as hemp foods.
Contemporary interest in edibles is attributed, by many, to Alice B. Toklas and her eponymous 1954 cookbook. Toklas included a recipe for “haschich fudge”, which was contributed by artist and friend Brion Gysin when the book was published. Although it was omitted from the first American editions, Toklas‘ name and her “brownies” became synonymous with cannabis in the growing 1960s counterculture.
The earliest recorded evidence of cannabis-infused edibles was from the Indian subcontinent, where people prepared food and drink with bhang for generations, these were used in both spiritual and medicinal contexts. The oil-solubility of cannabis extracts was also known to ancient Indians, with Sanskrit recipes requiring cannabis to be sautéed in ghee before mixing it with other ingredients.
In some U.S. states that have legalised cannabis, edibles have experienced a dramatic rise in sales. However, there is growing concern about the danger edibles pose to children and inexperienced cannabis consumers, who may easily ingest too much at once, possibly not even realising the food has been infused. Furthermore, calls to poison control have dramatically increased since 2008 due to dogs ingesting edibles. In Canada, cannabis-infused food products were legalised in October 2019.
Cannabis does not naturally contain significant amounts of THC. Rather, it contains high levels of tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA), which converts into THC through decarboxylation, a process induced by heating.
Comparing effects of eating cannabis products and smoking them is difficult because there are large margins of error due to variability in how different people smoke, with the number, duration, and spacing of puffs, the hold time and the volume of the person’s lungs all affecting the dosing. With regard to eating, different vehicles in which cannabinoids are dissolved for oral intake affect the availability of the cannabinoids, and different people metabolise differently. Generally, however, because oral doses are processed by the digestive system and the liver before entering the bloodstream, cannabinoids that are ingested are absorbed more slowly and have delayed and lower peak concentrations, and are cleared more slowly, compared to inhaling them when cannabis is burnt. Oral administration generally leads to two peaks of concentration, due to enterohepatic circulation.