By mid-October 2019, Canadians will have access to new forms of legal cannabis—including edibles. The release of these products was delayed one year after the first phase of legalization, partly because edibles are notoriously hard to manufacture and dose. Health Canada just finished a consultation process to guide how they regulate these products, and they’ve promised to release the legislation no later than October 17, 2019.
One major issue around regulating edibles is the delayed onset of effects. Where smoking or vaping tend to hit home within about 20 minutes, edibles can take as long as two hours. That makes it easy to reach for another infused gummy too soon. Hoping to help consumers resist the temptation and follow the recommended “low and slow” approach, the current proposal suggests that commercial edibles be packaged in individually wrapped, single-serving sized items with a relatively low dose, “no more than 10 milligrams of THC.”
While you wait for the opportunity to buy safe, regulated infused goodies, it’s currently legal for you to make your own. However, whether you’re experienced with recipes and dosages or are a canna-cooking newbie, it’s easy to end up with more intensity than you bargained for. The following tips from experienced infusers can help you control the complicated effects of edible consumption.
For people who make their own homemade edibles, dosing considerations are nothing new. Chris, 35, started taking edibles to deal with pain and help him sleep. “[Edibles] would take away my pain better than any other method,” he says. But soon Chris found that store-bought product was too expensive for the amount that he needed to sleep well and function the next day. "That's when I wrote up my own recipe,” he says.
Over time, Chris developed a system that worked well for him to create his own infused oils. He uses them to both cook with and to vaporize on their own. Like with regular cooking, choosing which oil to use was part of the discovery process—olive oil was handy and easy to manage, but ultimately, he decided on coconut oil for its mild flavour and ability to be used in a wider variety of food, both sweet and savoury.
Chris starts with a 20% THC strain of flower and cooks it down with the coconut oil, sometimes in a slow cooker. Then he waits for it to cool and strains out the plant matter using cheesecloth until only the infused oil remains.
As he was developing his recipe, he started out small in terms of dosage. One of his happy discoveries was a clever container that helped him manage his dosage over time. “After I strain (the oil), I put it into gel capsules,” he says. Chris buys the empty capsules in varying sizes with their volume marked on the side. That way, when he uses the homemade pills later on, he knows precisely how much THC he’s getting.
“There’s anywhere from 50 to 100 milligrams of THC in a batch of oil I’ve made,” Chris says. When he’s ready to cook, he pierces a capsule to add the measured dosage he wants to the item he’s making, anything from baked goods to pasta sauce. “Using the capsules is an extra step, but it’s the easiest way I found to make sure I’m not going overboard,” he says. “One heavy pour can make me too lethargic, so this measurement method has really worked for me.”
On the other side of the spectrum, Heather, 23, is a bit more liberal with the techniques that work for her. During the day, she microdoses CBD (i.e., takes small doses of oil), which she finds helps her with anxiety without quelling productivity. But for weekends or special evenings, she likes to take it up a level with edibles.
“When I need more of a kick or to really chill out, I prefer edibles,” she says. “Microdosing non-intoxicating CBD is great when I need to be functional because I can’t really feel any altering effects so I can still go to work and live my life. Edibles are a treat for when I want to feel high.”
Unlike Chris, Heather prefers a stronger dose in her infused foods. She cooks cannabis flower into butter on most occasions, since she prefers the way it tastes in baked goods. Her favourite recipes are sweets like brownies, which mask the strong flavour of cannabis. One step Heather is careful not to miss is decarboxylating. It’s a method of putting cannabis flower in the oven first to activate the THC before infusing it into butter or oil. Surprisingly, there is minimal THC available in raw cannabis. It takes heat to turn the raw, non-intoxicating compound THCA into the THC you’re looking for. This “decarb” process occurs naturally when cannabis is smoked or vaped, but for edibles, pre-heating the flower is a separate step that increases the potency of the infusion. Heather’s routine makes the effects of her “canna-butter” stronger in whatever she’s making.
For both Chris and Heather, one of the best parts about edibles is that they’re more fun to eat and to create. “There’s something soothing about baking,” says Heather. “The whole thing is a ritual.”
With patience, experimentation, and helpful advice from canna-cooking veterans, you can start now to explore homemade edibles and see if this consumption method is right for you.