What's the Difference Between Smoking Cannabis vs. Eating Edibles

What's the Difference Between Smoking Cannabis vs. Eating Edibles

Published on 5/15/21

When was the last time you thought about how consuming marijuana worked? Have you ever told stories about that one time on edibles where you got too high? Have you ever paused to think, why is that? We're going to break down eating weed vs smoking it, so you can decide once and for all which method is best for you and your health. 

Edibles vs. Flower

There is a debate as old as time about which method may be the best, most fun or the most potent way to get high. Each has its pros and cons, but we'll work through them below. 

Smoking Flower


Smoking marijuana has always been the more traditional route, as edibles and other consumption methods have just recently exploded in the past few years. When you consume weed via smoking it, the THC is acting fast. THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the cannabinoid that delivers the beloved, euphoric and sometimes overwhelming psychoactive effects that marijuana is famed for. 

When you smoke THC, it goes straight to the lungs, where it is then absorbed into your blood almost immediately. Inhaled THC reaches pretty high blood-oxygen levels quickly, as it reaches the brain in seconds. Post inhalation, an air-blood exchange happens in the alveoli in the lungs, and within 20 minutes the circulatory system is carrying THC molecules to every single tissue in the brain. As the THC molecules pass the brain-blood barrier, they fit snuggly into the receptors within the endocannabinoid system, which works with cannabinoids to keep homeostasis at bay. The CB1 receptor is patiently waiting for THC to bind to it, then all the magic can happen. 

Eating Marijuana

When you take an edible a very different reaction has to occur within the body and the process is much longer. When an edible is consumed, it must be absorbed through your stomach as it passes through the digestive tract. Then, it will be metabolized by your liver where it will be produced into another chemical, resulting in finally making its way to the bloodstream and into the brain. 

Within the liver, THC is transformed into 11-hydroxy-THC, which is a new compound that does a lot more than just plain old THC. There is often a misconception about edibles and certain reactions to them, with brushing it off to saying that it's just the way a certain person is metabolizing the cannabinoid. The issue isn't that weed is metabolized differently by people, it is that weed is metabolized to a different degree in different parts of the body than when consuming via smoking. 

Edible High vs Smoking High

Science has come a long way, and we have learned that these two consumption methods vary in many ways, whether it be potency or duration of high.



Everyone, whether we like to admit it or not, has the one edibles story where they became overwhelmingly stoned. What is the magic inside those weed rice crispy treats or lollipops that sent you to another planet? The question everyone wants to get answered is, are edibles more potent? 

Earlier, we discovered THC transforms into 11-hydroxy-THC -- the compound that is produced when THC (delta-9-THC) is metabolized through the liver. This metabolite is considered to be much more potent than its precursor. So, the answer is yes. Edibles are generally longer and more potent because the metabolizing process takes anywhere between 45 minutes and 3 hours. Due to the general higher potency as well, expect the high of an edible to also be longer, ranging anywhere from 4 to 6 hours. You'll feel that your edibles will generally leave you feeling more sedative, due to the reactivity. 


Even though edibles create a metabolite that is typically stronger than THC, that doesn't mean that you can't achieve the same high with smoking cannabis. There are many factors at play here, whether it be the quantity or quality of the bud you are consuming. 

However, as we now know that smoking weed hits you with the THC immediately, this fast absorption means that the duration of the high won't be as long. A typical high from smoking will last anywhere from 1 to 2 hours and the onset time is almost instant. 

Health Considerations When Looking at Consumption Methods


A Healthy Smoking Method?

When consuming cannabis, keep in mind that there is no single safe way to do so. Each method has its pros and cons. With this being said, there are definitely methods that are better than others. When it comes to smoking cannabis, keep in mind that it does contain a lot of the same toxins and carcinogens that are in tobacco. But, if you just love to smoke, look at these options below. 

Recently, there has been an onslaught of new stories against vaping cannabis concentrates. Yet some people claim that vaping cannabis flower is less harmful to your respiratory system than smoking. If you're wondering if a joint or a blunt is healthier, opt for the joint. It's the lesser of the two evils, and joint papers don't have the toxins blunt papers do. Alternatively, if you're okay with shelling out a little bit of cash, you can purchase a filter like MouthPeace to remove resins, toxins and tar to save your lungs.

What to Do Instead of Smoking Weed

With the explosion of the industry, there has been an influx of new technology on different consumption methods. These days we see edibles, sublingual, tinctures and topicals are ruling the market. These methods are huge especially within the medicinal community, where there are people who can't take the risk of the harshness of smoking. So, if you've been wondering, "are edibles healthier than smoking?". The answer is generally, yes because you aren't inhaling the toxins like you do when smoking. We still don't know the implications in the long term, and as it sits the biggest issue with consuming edibles is overconsumption, so be careful with those brownies. 

What is your favorite way to consume weed? Do you prefer one over the other? Let us know below. 

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