Heating cannabis is the core of cannabis pharmacology. Cannabinoids found within the resin glands of the cannabis plant contain an additional carboxyl molecule that makes them psychoactively inactive. Heating the cannabis removes this molecule. In so doing, the plant’s cannabinoids become psychoactive. Thus, CBDA becomes CBD, while THCA becomes THC, and so forth. This process is called decarboxylation.
Other than the decarboxylation process, how a cannabis product is consumed depends on the user. Some consider the long-lasting effects of ingesting cannabis products as more desirable. Others prefer the almost-instant onset of effects from vaping and smoking.
A common question among cannabis users is how long it takes for a specific cannabis product to kick in. Of course, various factors affect the onset of effects. So, how long until different cannabis products kick in?
Factors Influencing the Onset of Cannabis Products Kick In
Several factors may affect how soon you experience the effects of consuming cannabis. They include:
- Body metabolism
- Level of your cannabis tolerance
- The last time you ate
- Delivery method
Delivery method is perhaps the aspect that most significantly impacts the time it takes before the cannabis effects kick in. Some methods of consumption allow the cannabinoids to enter your bloodstream quickly, hence having immediate effects. Conversely, others cause you to digest the cannabinoids much slower, but the duration of their effects last longer.
Smoking Cannabis Flower
The flower, bud, or nug is the part of the marijuana plant that is smokable after it has undergone the drying and curing process. Smoking involves lighting up the dried marijuana plant.
While there are newer methods of consuming cannabis, smoking is still a common choice due to its versatility.
Here are various methods to smoke cannabis flower:
- Joint: Commonly referred to as cannabis cigarette or pre-roll. It comprises ground cannabis that is wrapped in a smokable rolling paper.
- Blunt: Just like joints, blunts are made up of ground flower that’s rolled into an emptied cigar or blunt wrap.
- Bong: Also known as the water pipe, bongs comprise a downstem, bowl, mouthpiece, and a chamber partly filled with water. The water chamber helps to filter the heat and weed smoke while inhaling.
- Pipe: Pipes are arguably the easiest method of smoking cannabis. The flower is filled into the bowl and lit up. The user then draws air gently via the mouthpiece while inhaling the smoke.
When smoking cannabis flower, the cannabinoids enter directly into your lungs through inhalation. In the lungs, they are quickly absorbed into your bloodstream and circulated all over your body. The effects kick in almost instantly and may last for an hour or even longer.
Vaping Cannabis Oil
Despite the dominance of smoking as the preferred cannabis delivery method, vaping THC or CBD oil is on the rise. It is a newer, trendier, and safer way of inhaling cannabis. This is particularly prevalent among teens, according to findings from the National Institute for Drug Abuse for Teens.
Lighting up a cannabis joint or blunt emits cancer-causing chemicals. Your lungs are not designed to inhale tar and other infection-causing combustion agents. Thus, smoking cannabis may result in respiratory inflammation and other diseases.
Vaping pens, on the other hand, heat cannabis extracts to a temperature that converts the mind-altering cannabinoids into a vapour that is then inhaled. Vaping is relatively safer than traditional smoking for cannabis use. This is because it is devoid of the myriad harmful compounds that cause cancer and lung infections.
Bottom line: Just like traditional smoking, the onset of vaping effects is next to instantaneous—often within a minute or two. This is because of how quickly the cannabinoids are absorbed into the bloodstream. The duration of effects could be around 1-2 hours, depending on the dose and potency of the vaped cannabis.
New varieties of cannabis edibles enter the market almost daily. Common forms of cannabis edibles include:
- Beverages: Coffee, tea, energy drinks, wine, beer, alcohol
- Candy and sweets: Chewing gum, lollipops, gummies, fruit bars, chocolates, lozenges, hard candy, truffles
- Baked products: Waffles, cookies, brownies, biscuits
- Other items: Cannabutter, syrups, jerky
Research shows that edibles kick in much slower, but the duration of the effects last longer compared to smoking or vaping cannabis. In contrast to inhalation, where cannabis rapidly enters into the bloodstream and is circulated in the brain, cannabis edibles are first synthesized through the digestive system.
Upon ingestion, the edibles land in the stomach, where they are synthesized by stomach acids. A lot of the absorption takes place in the intestines, after which active ingredients go up to the liver for further metabolism and filtering. They are then sent back into the bloodstream, where they bypass the blood-brain barrier to enter the brain. At this point, the effects kick in.
According to a specific study, oral ingestion of cannabis takes around 30-90 minutes for the onset of effects. These effects attain their peak at the 2-3 hour mark.
Many factors influence the onset time of edibles. First, what are the active ingredients in the edible? A product with a high THC concentration would take a shorter time for the effects to kick in. Remember, CBD-only edibles don’t produce psychoactive effects—they don’t make you high, while edibles laced with THC do. Thus, it may be difficult to accurately predict the onset of effects from CBD products.
Another factor that affects the onset time of edibles is where they are being synthesized and absorbed into the bloodstream. For example:
- Edible products such as gummies, lollipops, and lozenges are not swallowed. They are sublingually absorbed into the bloodstream via the mucous membrane in the mouth. In this case, the effects usually kick in faster.
- Chewable edibles, including cookies, gummies, and brownies, take longer to kick in. This is because they are synthesized in the digestive tract.
- Because chewable edibles take longer to kick in, you may eat more quickly after your initial dose. This may lead to overdosing.
Bottom line: Edibles take longer (anywhere between 30-90 minutes) before their effects kick in. Whether the edibles are absorbed sublingually or via the digestive system also affects the onset time.
Concentrates or dabs are concentrated cannabinoids and terpenes extracted from the cannabis plant via solvent-based or solventless methods.
Types of concentrates include:
- Shatter: This is the most potent type of concentrate. Its potency levels go up to about 80 percent.
- Wax: This is a popular choice among those trying out concentrates for the first time. This is mainly because of its low potency (somewhere in the 60% range). However, it requires proper dabbing tools because of its soft texture.
- Crumble: While crumbles are breakable, they are not as fragile as shatter. They are easy to handle and come second only to shatter as the most potent concentrate.
- Budder: Similar to wax, this is a low potency concentrate option. It packs a stronger flavour compared to budder, though.
Concentrates have several big draws, such as:
- Increased flavour: Concentrates usually deliver a stronger flavour compared to other cannabis products. Because the taste of cannabis is probably the least favourite aspect among cannabis users, vaping concentrates ensure that it is no longer a drawback.
- High potency: As their name implies, concentrates are incredibly concentrated. They pack only active ingredients. And unlike other cannabis products, their potency level can reach up to 80 percent.
Vaporizers are used to consume dry herbs and concentrates. The vaporizer heats the concentrate up to a point where THC burns and emits its vapour without hazardous byproducts. The inhaled vapour contains CBD, THC, and terpenes in regular, measurable quantities. Vaping concentrates also bypasses the respiratory problems of smoking.
Bottom line: The effects of vaping concentrates kick in much faster compared to any other delivery method. You’ll likely feel the effects of budder or shatter almost immediately. Cannabis concentrates are also much stronger, too, so the effects can last for a while.
Tinctures present a viable alternative to controlling your cannabis dose. It is also a good starting point for novice cannabis users trying to find their way in the cannabis world.
Tinctures come with a dropper for accurate dosing. You are supposed to place the CBD or THC oil under the tongue, then let it sit for at least 30 seconds, after which it is absorbed into the bloodstream.
The part underneath your tongue contains tiny blood capillaries. So, cannabis oils are absorbed directly and quickly into the bloodstream. This process is called sublingual administration. The onset time is around 15-45 minutes, and the duration of the effects may last up to 4-5 hours.
Cannabis products ingested orally must pass through the digestive tract. It’s a long way, and the digestive system is very harsh. Of course, that’s how it’s supposed to be. It breaks down food, stripping out nutrients while discarding the waste. This process undoubtedly weakens the potency of any drug or substance that passes through it.
In contrast, consuming CBD oil using a tincture bypasses this long and degrading route. Besides the speed, the tincture method maintains the potency of the cannabis oil. That means you only need a low dose to achieve the desired effect.
Bottom line: Cannabis oils placed under the tongue are absorbed into the bloodstream quickly. The onset of effects typically happens in 15-45 minutes or less than an hour.
The gastrointestinal tract and the tongue are not the only places where cannabis absorption occurs in the human body. The skin can take in cannabis as well. Topicals are cannabis products that are applied to the skin. They bring relief to superficial ailments without getting into the bloodstream.
Some of the common types of topicals include:
- Ointments and salves
The skin possesses its own endocannabinoid system. When CBD is applied topically, it navigates the skin barrier, accessing the epidermis layer. This is the actual location of the CB2 receptors. Topicals activate the cannabinoid receptors in the skin by binding to them. This then leads to pain relief, reduced inflammation, and faster healing.
How fast the effects kick in after applying a topical depends on the ingredients used. They influence how well CBD enters the skin.
Bottom line: Topicals take their sweet time before penetrating the skin layer and activating CB2 receptors in the skin. Thus, the onset of effects is longer compared to sublingual or inhalation delivery methods. Users report noticing signs of relief after about 30-120 minutes.
Patches are an excellent way of receiving prolonged effects of CBD throughout the day. Patches vary from topicals, even though they are applied on the skin. The patches are applied onto the skin and remain there for several hours.
Typically, CBD seeps out of the patch across the skin at a preset and controlled speed and is absorbed in the capillary bed. The CBD is then circulated throughout the entire body while circumventing the first-pass hepatic metabolism. This delivery method is called the transdermal route of cannabis administration.
While topicals only act on the epidermal skin layer, transdermal patches seep across to the dermis and beyond. Thus, they exert their therapeutic effects on deep-lying tissues.
Bottom line: Transdermal patches deliver a slow release of CBD through the skin. And therefore, the onset of effects takes far longer compared to other delivery methods.
The method of consumption plays a greater role in how long it takes for the effects of various cannabis products to kick in. For immediate relief, it’s best to vaporize concentrates. The effects will kick in almost instantly due to the strong potency of the concentrates.
Smoking a hemp flower joint, sublingual administration, and vaping of CBD oil also lead to faster onset times. Meanwhile, ingesting edibles takes a bit more time because of the long route of metabolism through the digestive tract.
Regardless of your chosen consumption method, remember to always begin at the low end of dosing. This will allow you to figure out how your body responds. Later on, you can adjust the dose accordingly.