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The Differences Between Eating and Smoking Cannabis – What are They, What Causes Them?

Smoking and eating cannabis are two of the most common forms to ingest this psychoactive plant. However, that’s the end of the similarities between these two methods. While the way you take your weed might seem inconsequential, there are actually many differences between smoking weed and taking edibles.

Both of these methods present different ways to consume weed, metabolize it, and ultimately deliver it to your bloodstream. Understanding these differences between smoking cannabis and taking it orally can help a consumer decide which method is best for the experience they want.

Below, we’ve covered the major distinctions between these two methods in our guide to the differences between smoking and edibles.

The Basics of Smoking Weed

Smoking weed is the most common way for people to consume cannabis and has been for 3000 years. It’s one of the least complicated ways to get high – all you’ll need is some dried buds and some papers or a glass pipe. Some smokers even vaporize their weed, which can lead to smoother hits. Because weed buds are the least expensive product available in most dispensaries, smoking cannabis flower is one of the cheapest ways to get high.

Smoking

When you smoke weed, it’s absorbed by your lungs and sent directly into your bloodstream. As a result, you’ll feel its effects almost instantly. The high from weed sets in after as little as two minutes and can last for between 2 and 10 hours. Factors like your body weight, your personal metabolism, and how much you smoke can change the strength and duration of your high. Smoking cannabis is one of the fastest ways to get high.

While smoking weed is simple and cheap, it’s also the least healthy way to consume cannabis. Firing up a joint or bong will release chemicals like tar and carcinogens that you’ll inhale along with THC. In fact, burning cannabis produces seven known carcinogens that aren’t present in weed’s natural form. Combusting weed is also somewhat wasteful, as it destroys many of the natural cannabinoids present in weed plants.

Vaping

Vaping cannabis is similar to smoking – a user heats cannabis flower and inhales THC and other cannabinoids into their lungs. However, there’s one key difference between vaping and smoking: vaping doesn’t involve combustion. As a result, vaping weed isn’t as hazardous to a smoker’s health. It eliminates the carcinogens from the equation and doesn’t destroy cannabinoids as combustion does. Vaping weed also imparts more of its flavour than smoking does.

With recent advances in vaping technology, vaporizers have turned from table-top accessories that require their own power outlet to small pens that fit easily into your pocket. Additionally, many vaporizers are equipped for concentrates. That way, users can get even higher without having to worry about burning any plant matter.

How Eating Cannabis Works

Brownies, chocolate bars, soda – there are countless ways to consume cannabis orally. Eating cannabis is the second-most popular way to take THC among potheads. It’s easy to see why: edibles offer several benefits. For example, it’s easy, low-key, and not intimidating for newer enthusiasts. In spite of its popularity, cannabis edibles only recently became legal to purchase in Canada along with a slew of other manufactured weed products like hash. In contrast, marijuana flower, the most popular smokable, has been legal in Canada since 2018.

Those aren’t the only differences, though. Eating cannabis will result in several differences in the high you experience. Edible cannabis takes longer to affect a user, but once they hit, the high is much stronger. It’s common for a few gummies to get you higher for longer than a few massive bong rips. When you take an edible, it’ll kick in after around half an hour and last for up to 24 hours.

Many cannabis edibles are made with high amounts of fats like MCT or coconut oil. Eating a meal high in fats has been shown to increase the effects of cannabinoids regardless of whether they’re ingested orally or smoked.

This is because when you eat cannabis, it’s absorbed through a completely different bodily process than smoking it. Taking an edible means that it’s absorbed by the stomach and sent to the liver. Then, the liver metabolizes the THC in the edible to a compound called 11-hydroxy-THC. This organic compound is much better at passing through the blood-brain barrier and results in significantly more powerful highs.

Decarboxylation

Smoking weed does more than increasing its effectiveness. Cannabis needs to go through a process called decarboxylation before it can get you high. Known more commonly as “heat activation,” if cannabis isn’t exposed to heat, it won’t have any psychoactive effects. The act of smoking or vaping cannabis flower decarboxylates it, so smokers don’t need to worry about this.


Decarboxylation begins when marijuana is exposed to temperatures around 105 degrees Celsius (220 degrees Fahrenheit) for 30 minutes. It takes more time for the process to complete. If weed experiences higher temperatures than this, it may degrade terpenes and other cannabinoids.

The vast majority of commercially-available edibles are already decarboxylated. That’s because most edibles are made from extracts, and their creator decarboxylates them sometime during the extraction process. As a result, you won’t have to worry about doing this yourself if you buy an edible from a store.

Buds and Brownies Without Breaking the Bank

There’s no “right” way to consume cannabis. Both smoking marijuana and edibles way have their own benefits and are better for certain situations. For a high that kicks in quickly and lasts for a few hours, smoking is probably your best bet. If you want a long-lasting, powerful high, an edible might be the right choice. If you’re worried about carcinogens or other harmful compounds, vaping might be right for you.


Regardless of how you choose to take THC, we’ve got your back. At BudStars, we offer high-grade cannabis flower, extracts, and edibles shipped directly to your door. Check out our complete inventory in our online store and see what tickles your fancy.