Cannabis edibles are foods and beverages infused with cannabis. Though they’ve risen in popularity recently, edibles aren’t exactly new. There’s a long history of humans incorporating cannabis into their diets, ranging from traditional drinks in India to the humble pot brownie in the US. Now, thanks to advances in infusion methods, you can find a wide selection of cannabis-infused baked goods, gummies, seasoning packets, cooking oil, chocolates, breath strips, mints, sodas, and countless other items.
The benefit of consuming cannabis-infused edibles is the ability to feel the effects of cannabis without having to smoke flower or vaporize concentrates. Consuming is easy and intuitive — we all know how to eat and drink.
What’s not easy or intuitive about edibles is the fact it can take anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours for the effects to kick in. Because the cannabis within the edibles has to go through your digestive system before entering your bloodstream, the effects may take hours to set in and the strength of effects gradually builds to a peak. The duration of your high can then last anywhere from a couple of hours to a full day depending on how much you consume.
If you’re interested in trying edibles for the first time and want to know how to find the right product for your needs, this is the guide for you.
Getting creative with cannabis in the kitchen can sound appealing. Who doesn’t like the sound of serving canna-infused brownies fresh out of the oven? However, making edibles that deliver a safe dose of THC is a precise art, and achieving a consistent dose across every serving is a challenge. It requires meticulous math, a clear understanding of the THC content in the flower you’re using, and knowledge of decarboxylation.
This is why manufacturers have to follow rigorous requirements to ensure all of their edibles contain the exact quantity of THC claimed on the package. The tools you work with at home can derail even your best attempts at accuracy. For example, if your baking tray is warped with indentations, the THC can pool, causing some servings to be very potent while others are weak. Calculating doses for homemade edibles requires care and attention.
But don’t take your apron off just yet. In this article, we’ll explain how to make sure your homemade edibles are dosed safely and consistently.
Why is it vital to calculate edible dosage correctly?
Edibles are distinct from other methods of cannabis delivery in several key ways. For starters, the human body processes the THC present in edibles differently. The digestive process transforms THC into 11-hydroxy-THC, which is more potent, long-lasting, and has more pronounced sedative properties. Edibles also have a delayed onset thanks to the digestive process. The high can take up to two hours to fully kick in and once it does, it can last six hours or sometimes longer. Finally, edibles can affect individuals differently. History of cannabis use, weight, age, genetics, diet, and gastrointestinal health all influence an individual’s response to edibles.
Factors That Influence Cannabis Extraction
“This is a very tough and complicated conversation,” says deCesare. “The reason is because you are mixing apples and oranges in your procedures, each one contributing an error. Once you multiply all the potential errors together, it’s very difficult to figure out which errors become the major contributors to your issues.” In particular, she notes that “because of the excessive amount of time required to extract, we normally see a lot of damage done to the primary drugs of interest,” including THC, CBD and various terpenes.
DeCesare explains that due to the difficulty of getting an accurate analysis, licensed edibles producers generally test at multiple stages. First, they test the cannabis flowers to be used in the production run. This initial analysis provides an estimate of how much of each cannabinoid and terpene is available for extraction. Subsequent testing of the extract determines how effective the extraction process actually was. Finally, testing of the spent plant matter post-extraction confirms the amount of cannabinoids and terpenoids left behind. Home bakers, however, lack the resources to pursue these types of analyses.
So what is lost in the extraction and baking process that kept us from Dowding out on our theoretically 400-plus milligram edibles? For one thing, a given amount of THCA (the non-intoxicating acid broken down during the heating, or decarboxylation, process to yield the familiar psychoactive THC) does not convert to an equivalent amount of THC: rather, the conversion rate is 0.88. While many producers will do this conversion for you and note the potential amount of THC in a given strain on the packaging, some denote only the percentage of THCA present, which adds an extra step to the calculations.
Then there’s the inefficiency of butter and oil extraction. “For clients that normally extract into dairy butterfat, they discover they only extracted between 40 and 60 percent of the cannabinoids and terpenoids,” explains deCesare. Lena Davidson of Botanica, one of Washington state’s largest edibles producers, puts the estimate even lower, at close to 30 percent. Davidson adds that certain oils are even less effective at extraction: in general, butter and coconut oil are the most ideal extractors, while others like canola and vegetable oil retain even fewer cannabinoids.
Overall, “the only way to know for sure [how potent your homemade edible is] would be to have the butter analyzed so you know exactly how much THC is in it,” says deCesare. Davidson argues that even this testing has yielded inaccurate results for Botanica in the past. “We learned really early on that we couldn’t rely on a butter potency test,” she says, “and it was really painful to discover that.” Botanica has since shifted to testing individual products from every batch.
Calculating Edible Dosage
To figure out dosage, first multiply 1000 by the percent of THC in your bud to get mg of THC per gram of flower. Then, multiply the number of grams of flower going into the butter by the mg of THC per gram of bud to get the amount of THC per batch of butter.
After that, simply see how much butter the recipe requires, then divide that by the number of portions. In the end, you’ll know the mg of THC per portion. Let’s make a hypothetical batch of cannabis brownies to visualize the math a bit better. Say you get an eighth (3.5g) of some nice shake that has 20% THC, and use it to infuse one cup of butter.
How to Calculate Edible Dosage
- 1000 x .20 (20% THC) = 200 mg THC per gram of bud
- 200 x 3.5 grams = 700 mg in 1 cup of infused butter.
- The average brownie recipe calls for ½ a cup of butter
- Using ½ cup, making sure to stir it well for even homogenization, we’ll get a batch of brownies with 350 mg total
- If we divide the batch into 20 brownies (350/20), that’s 17.5 mg THC per brownie
Now you’ll know if your brownies are far too heavy a dose for your average consumer, or just right for seasoned weed eaters.