Legalization 2.0 is Here

Got questions about the new formats? Learn the science behind cannabis edibles, extracts, and topicals so you can stay in control of your experience.

Cannabis edibles, extracts and topicals will be legal in Canada as of October 17, 2019. It’s time to get ready. 

Got Questions About the New Formats? 

You’ve come to the right place. The new legal products will bring a totally different experience. If you’re used to smoking and vaping dry flower, you might be surprised by the way these new formats affect your body and mind. Read on to learn what’s different about edibles, extracts, and topicals and how to incorporate them into your lifestyle safely.

How Do You Use the New Cannabis Formats Safely?

With a little help from cannabis science, you’ll know what to expect and can stay in control of your consumption. Always look to trustworthy, and preferably referenced, information sources. Find out how the consumption methods work, how quickly they come on, how long they last, and how intense their effects tend to be. Once you’ve absorbed the basic safety guidelines, you can make a plan to enjoy edibles, extracts, and topicals with confidence.

Meet the New Formats 


- Food and drinks that contain cannabis extractions
- Can contain THC, CBD, or a combination
- Take up to 90 minutes to kick in1
- Can last 6 hours or longer2
- Make THC more potent3


Learn More: How Edibles Affect the Body



- Highly concentrated forms of THC or CBD
- Tend to be inhaled with vaporizer devices
- Quick acting, effects hit within minutes4
- Much more potent than dry flower5
- Can last several hours6




- THC or CBD extracts blended into products that are absorbed through the skin
- Can be found in lotions, creams, roll-ons, patches, lubricants, and other products
- Provide localized anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving action7 8
- Do not produce a “high” 


Start Low, Go Slow

Start Low and Go Slow with Edibles and Extracts 

Start Low

With edibles, you need to rethink your dosage of THC. Where dried cannabis is considered a low, medium, or high-dose based on the concentration (%) of THC in the flower, edibles are measured by micrograms (mg) of THC. Even for users who are experienced with dry flower, edibles should be started at a low dose because our metabolism makes THC more potent as we digest it.


- Low potency dry flower: Under 10% THC

- Medium potency dry flower: 10–20% THC

- High potency dry flower: Over 20% THC


- Microdose edible: 1.25–5 mg THC

- Low dose edible: under 10 mg THC

- Medium dose edible: 10–20 mg THC

- High dose edible: over 20mg THC


With extracts, consumers usually find the potency surprisingly high. This makes sense, since the extraction process by definition produces a highly concentrated liquid and can be anywhere from 15–25 times more potent than commercial dried cannabis. Starting low with extracts can use any strategy that reduces your dose of THC. You can use a concentrate with only CBD distillate, a combination of THC and CBD, or a THC-only distillate. If you’re trying a vape pen for the first time, take one inhalation at a time and give yourself a good 15–20 minutes to feel the effects before you take another. A short, shallow inhale will typically bring less THC into your system than a long, deep one9. Like any inhaled method, extracts can leave you impaired for anywhere from 3 to 24 hours10 11.

Go Slow 

With edibles, the slow process of metabolism means that edibles take a long time to kick in and their effects last for much longer than inhaled cannabis. This is a benefit for people looking for long-lasting relief, but a problem for people who expect quick results. People who take edibles are more likely to accidentally over-consume, often because they take a second dose before the first one has kicked in12. When you take an edible, it can take anywhere from 30 to 90 minutes start to feel the effects13. Always start with a low dose and wait 1-2 hours to judge how it makes you feel. 

Consuming Responsibly: Keeping the Roads, Your Kids and Yourself Safe

Drive Safe 

By any method of consumption, studies have found that if you consume cannabis before driving, you’ll be at least twice as likely to get involved in an accident14. Depending on how much THC is in your cannabis and how it enters your body, your driving ability could be impaired for up to 24 hours or more15. Always save your THC consumption for days when you have nowhere to go, or plan for someone sober to get you there safely.


Learn More: The Science of Cannabis and Driving 

Don’t Mix Cannabis with Alcohol

Alcohol makes it easier for THC to bind with the receptors in your brain and body. That means that when you take THC with alcohol, you get substantially stronger effects. Drivers who mix cannabis and alcohol are far more likely to cause an accident16. Even if you stay home, drinking with your cannabis will make you more likely to get overwhelmingly high. If you want to enjoy your cannabis in safety, keep your intoxicants separate. 

Protect Kids and Pets 

Although there are no human deaths on record that were caused directly by THC, a small number of pets have died from THC poisoning17. Children are also at risk of serious complications from THC toxicity, including rare instances of seizures, comas, and suppressed breathing18. The risks are highest with edibles and extracts. Always keep your cannabis locked up out of reach of children and pets, and make sure to label edibles so they don’t get consumed by accident.


Learn More: How to Consume Cannabis Responsibly

Protect Yourself 

The biggest surprise for most consumers is how much more potent edibles and extracts can be compared to dried cannabis. By definition, extracts are highly concentrated, so a little goes a long way.

If you overdo it by inhaling THC, your body should clear the substance within a few hours. However, if you go overboard on edibles, you’re in for a much longer, rather uncomfortable high. Edible THC is processed through your liver; this makes it at least three times more potent and will last much longer in your body19. The best way to avoid an overwhelming high is to go extra low and super slow with edibles and extracts.


Learn More: What to Do When You Get Too High 


Edibles and Extracts

Cannabinoids – the Star Players of Edibles, Extracts and Topicals 

Whole cannabis flower contains hundreds of active compounds that are known for working together to produce an “entourage effect.” However, edibles, extracts, and topicals are made by removing only the most powerful compounds from the plant, the cannabinoids THC and CBD. Some products, called “Full Spectrum” or “Broad Spectrum” have some of the other active substances added back in, such as specific terpenes. But in general, people use concentrated formats to maximize the effects from THC and CBD. 



- Produces a “high”
- Relieves pain20
- Improves sleep21
- Reduces nausea and increases appetite22


Learn More: The Medical Applications of THC



- Does not produce a “high”
- Reduces inflammation and pain23
- Reduces anxiety24


Learn More: The Medical Applications of CBD


[1] Huestis MA. Human Cannabinoid Pharmacokinetics. Chemistry & biodiversity. 2007;4(8):1770-1804.

[2] Huestis MA. Human Cannabinoid Pharmacokinetics. Chemistry & biodiversity. 2007;4(8):1770-1804.

[3] Lemberger L, Martz R, Rodda B, Foney R, Rowe H. Comparative pharmacology of Delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol and its metabolite, 11-OH-Delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol. J Clin Invest. 1973;52(10):2411-7.

[4] Huestis MA, Henningfield JE, Cone EJ. Blood cannabinoids. I. Absorption of THC and formation of 11-OH-THC and THCCOOH during and after smoking marijuana. J Anal Toxicol. 1992;16(5):276-282.

[5] Loflin M, Earleywine M. A new method of cannabis ingestion: the dangers of dabs? Addict Behav. 2014;39(10):1430-3.

[6] Huestis MA, Henningfield JE, Cone EJ. Blood cannabinoids. I. Absorption of THC and formation of 11-OH-THC and THCCOOH during and after smoking marijuana. J Anal Toxicol. 1992;16(5):276-282.

[7] Chelliah M.P., Zinn Z., Khuu P., Teng J.M.C. Self-initiated use of topical cannabidiol oil for epidermolysis bullosa. Pediatr. Dermatol. 2018;35:224–227.

[8] Bruni N, et al. Cannabinoid Delivery Systems for Pain and Inflammation Treatment. Molecules. 2018;23(10):2478.

[9] Perez-Reyes M. Marijuana smoking: factors that influence the bioavailability of tetrahydrocannabinol. NIDA Res Monogr. 1990;99:42-62.

[10] Huestis MA, Henningfield JE, Cone EJ. Blood cannabinoids. I. Absorption of THC and formation of 11-OH-THC and THCCOOH during and after smoking marijuana. J Anal Toxicol. 1992;16(5):276-282.

[11] Yesavage JA, Leirer VO, Denari M, Hollister LE. Carry-over effects of marijuana intoxication on aircraft pilot performance: a preliminary report. Am J Psychiatry. 1985;142(11):1325-9.

[12] Barrus DG, et al. Tasty THC: Promises and Challenges of Cannabis Edibles. Methods Rep RTI Press. 2016.

[13] Huestis MA. Human Cannabinoid Pharmacokinetics. Chemistry & biodiversity. 2007;4(8):1770-1804.

[14] Hartman RL, Huestis MA. Cannabis effects on driving skills. Clinical Chemistry. 2013;59:478+.

[15] Stephen J, et al. Acute and residual effects of marijuana: Profiles of plasma THC levels, physiological, subjective, and performance measures. Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behaviour. 1990;37(3):561-565.

[16] Hartman RL, Huestis MA. Cannabis Effects on Driving Skills. Clinical Chemistry. 2013;59:478-492.

[17] Fitzgerald KT, Bronstein AC, Newquist KL. Marijuana poisoning. Top Companion Anim Med. 2013;28(1):8-12.

[18] Claudet I, et al. Unintentional Cannabis Intoxication in Toddlers. Pediatrics. 2017;140(3) Epub 2017 Aug 14

[19] Lemberger L, et al. Comparative Pharmacology of Δ9-Tetrahydrocannabinol and its Metabolite, 11-OH-Δ9-Tetrahydrocannabinol. J Clin Invest. 1973;52(10):2411-2417.

[20] Hill KP, et al. Cannabis and Pain: A Clinical Review. Cannabis Cannabinoid Res. 2017;2(1):96-104.

[21] Babson KA, Sottile J, Morabito D. Cannabis, Cannabinoids, and Sleep: a Review of the Literature. Curr Psychiatry Rep. 2017;19(4):23.

[22] Parker LA, Rock EM, Limebeer CL. Regulation of nausea and vomiting by cannabinoids. BR J Pharmacol. 2011;163(7):1411-1422.

[23] Bruni N, et al. Cannabinoid Delivery Systems for Pain and Inflammation Treatment. Molecules. 2018;23(10):2478.

[24] Blessing EM, Steenkamp MM, Manzanares J, Marmar CR. Cannabidiol as a Potential Treatment for Anxiety Disorders. Neurotherapeutics. 2015;12(4):825-836.