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A cannabis edible, also known as a cannabis-infused food or simply an edible, is a food product (either homemade or produced commercially) that contains cannabis extract as an active ingredient. Although edible may refer to either a food or a drink, a cannabis-infused drink may be referred to more specifically as a liquid edible or drinkable. Edibles are a way to consume cannabis. Cannabis edibles may affect people for a longer period of time than smoked cannabis.
Most edibles contain a significant amount of THC, which can induce a wide range of effects, including relaxation, euphoria, increased appetite, fatigue, and anxiety. THC-dominant edibles are consumed for recreational and medical purposes. Some edibles contain a negligible amount of THC and are instead dominant in other cannabinoids, most commonly cannabidiol (CBD). The main characteristic of cannabis edibles is that they take longer to affect users compared to smoked cannabis.
Modern interest in edibles is attributed to Alice B. Toklas and her eponymous 1954 cookbook.
The earliest mention of cannabis-infused food was as far back as 2000 B.C. in India. Known as one of the oldest cannabis traditions, Bhang - a cannabis infused drink made with yogurt, nuts, spices, rose water - is an official drink of Holi, highly celebrated and revered festivals celebrated by the people of Hindu community in India revering Shiva or Kali. The oil-solubility of cannabis extracts was also known to ancient Indians, with Sanskrit recipes requiring cannabis to be sautéed in ghee before mixing it with other ingredients.:7
Majoun (cannabis jam) is another early type of edible first created by the nomadic Berber tribes of North Africa sometime around the 11th century. The traditional Majoun recipe calls for cannabis extract, datura seeds, honey, nuts, kif (a mixture of kief), and sometimes dates and figs.
The first mention of edibles in Europe appeared in a cookbook titled De Honesta Voluptate et Valetudine, which translates to “On Honorable Pleasure and Health” written by Bartolomeo Platina in 1465.
The first cannabis edible recipe appeared in the United States in the early 1960s in a cookbook called The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook written by Alice B. Toklas. The recipe is called “Hashish Fudge” and was actually contributed by Alice’s good friend, Brion Gysin. Although it was omitted from the first American editions, Toklas' name and her "brownies" became synonymous with cannabis in the growing 1960s counterculture.
In some U.S. states that have legalized cannabis, edibles have experienced a dramatic rise in sales. However, there is growing concern about the danger edibles pose to children and inexperienced cannabis consumers. Calls to poison control have dramatically increased since 2008 due to dogs ingesting edibles. In Canada, cannabis-infused food products were legalized in October 2018, but regulatory restrictions and reduced consumer interest may inhibit innovation.
Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the main psychoactive compound found in cannabis and is responsible for the "high" feeling when consumed. However, cannabis does not naturally contain significant amounts of THC. Instead, tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) is found naturally in raw and live cannabis and is non-intoxicating. Over time, THCA slowly converts to THC through a process of decarboxylation, but can be sped up with exposure to high temperatures. When heated under conditions of 110°C, decarboxylation generally occurs in 30-45 minutes. When consumed orally, the liver breaks down and metabolizes THC into the more potent 11-hydroxy-THC.
Ingesting cannabis may produce effects that last longer and can be more intense than inhaling cannabis. Different edible formats of cannabinoids may affect the rate of cannabinoid digestion and metabolism, which vary among people. Generally, edible cannabis products are digested more slowly than occurs for aerosol products. Oral administration generally leads to two peaks of concentration, due to enterohepatic circulation. Common side effects of ingesting edibles include increased appetite, dry mouth, and bloodshot eyes.
Possible health effects
Cannabis edibles contain both delta 9 THC, which is responsible for the psychotropic properties of feeling relaxed and euphoric, and CBD, which may have effects without the psychoactive properties. Such effects may include analgesia, decreased inflammation, decreased spasticity, and anti-seizure effects. Cannabis edibles with CBD can decrease symptoms of psychosis and anxiety.  Edible oils, tinctures, pills, and gummies have been prescribed to people with cancer to potentially improve poor appetite, pain, or weight loss. Cannabis edibles may be effective for muscle spasms and pain.
Some users of cannabis have reported adverse effects, such as confusion, hallucinations, panic attacks, paranoia, and intense psychotic effects. Cannabis may cause short-term impairments in cognition, memory, alertness, coordination, and balance which can increase risk of falls, especially in older people, and make driving a car dangerous.
Overdoses may occur because the dosage of THC in edibles is impossible to determine without specialized lab equipment and it varies from product to product. Overdoses can cause behavioral impairments, such as paranoia, impaired mobility, and nausea. Other risks, as a result of regular long-term cannabis use, include harmful effects to brain development, heart function, memory and cognition, and psychiatric health.
Long-term recreational marijuana use can cause cognitive impairments and also lead to cannabis use disorder (CUD). Symptoms of CUD include lack of motivation, decreased concentration, and loss of interest in other activities, tolerance, and dependence.
The important base to all food edibles is that it has fat that has been infused with THC.In other words, any food that contains butter, oil, milk, or any fatty substance can be turned into an edible. Examples of cannabis-infused foods include baked goods, candy, potato chips, and more. One may not be able to distinguish between regular baked goods and those containing cannabinoids which tend to have a slightly green tinge and often emit a faint cannabis smell. A mild grassy or cannabis flavor might be detectable if sufficient cannabis quantities are used.:7
A cannabis-infused drink is a drink infused with THC and can be as potent as a cannabis-infused food.
In U.S. states that have legalized cannabis for recreational use, drinks were about 4% of the cannabis market in 2014 but had fallen to around 1.5% of the market in 2016. Cannabis infused drinks can come in the form of coffee, tea, soda, and alcohol.
Tinctures are potent, alcohol-based cannabis extracts. They are considered edibles as they are meant to be absorbed through the mouth and tongue. Tinctures are generally placed under the tongue using a dropper to allow it to be absorbed into the bloodstream. Tinctures can be added to any food or drink and provides more control over the cannabis dosage compared to cannabis-infused foods or drinks.
Dissolvable cannabinoid powder
Unlike traditional edibles which can take 90 minutes to take effect, cannabinoid powder can take effect in 20 minutes due to the powder's solubility, allowing the mouth, intestines, and liver to absorb the THC faster.
Cannabidiol (CBD) edibles are non-psychoactive and non-intoxicating and contain 0.03% THC. These type of edibles provide the medicinal benefits of cannabis without the psychoactive effects of THC.
One form of hash oil
Cannabis oil, or canna-oil. is a product that blends cannabis with any type of cooking oil. Cannabis oil can be used for baking but is more commonly blended to make sauces or dressings or cooked with food. Coconut oil is a common cooking oil, but other options are olive, avocado, and walnut oil.
Cannabis butter, or cannabutter, is unsalted butter blended with cannabis and water. Cleaned and dried buds are steeped in melted butter or oil in preparation for consumption. Cannabutter can be added to any baking recipe.
In 1996, California became the first state to legalize medicinal cannabis use. By 2016, cannabis use has become legalized in 24 states. Because cannabis is seen as an effective chronic pain reducer, it has been proposed as an alternative to opioids. Studies have shown that legalization of medical cannabis is associated with less opioid overdose deaths; however, further studies are needed to determine the nature of this relationship.
In 1970, the Controlled Substances Act classified marijuana as a Schedule I substance meaning that it is not currently accepted for medicinal use, has high potential for abuse, and has lack of accepted safety for use of the drug. Usually, this would mean cannabis cannot be dispensed or prescribed; however, state laws allow for cannabis use despite these regulations.
By 2021, the following states in the U.S. have legalized recreational marijuana: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, New Mexico, Oregon, South Dakota, Vermont, and Washington. Most states require some sort of labeling of the potential harmful effects of cannabis use and the nutrition facts of edible products.
On October 17, 2018, Canada became the first G7 nation to legalize recreational/adult-use cannabis with the Cannabis Act (the Act). That same day cannabis was removed from the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. The Act regulates retail cannabis, medical cannabis, and industrial hemp in Canada.
The adverse effects on health are most important when it is used in excessive quantities or with heavy frequency. A study funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse entitled "Tasty THC: Promises and Challenges of Cannabis Edibles" found that heavy, long-term cannabis use appeared to worsen brain development, and psychiatric and heart health. On the other hand, the study also discovered that cannabis edibles did not appear to affect pulmonary function nor increase risk for cancer which is one reason people choose cannabis edibles over smoking cannabis. The study concedes that over-consuming cannabis is not lethal; to date, there has never been a death related to the actual toxicity of cannabis. However, there has been one death involving cannabis edibles.
A safety concern with regards to cannabis edibles is overconsumption which is usually caused by the delayed effects of ingested cannabis. Because users do not feel the effects of cannabis edibles right away, users often eat more to compensate and end up consuming too much THC. As a result, cannabis edibles have caused the most healthcare visits as compared to other forms of cannabis consumption. Additionally, the amount of cannabis in any individual product can be highly variable which is another contributing factor to overconsumption. In addition, people can have very different responses to the same amount of THC with 2.5 mg being enough for some people to begin to feel effects while, for others, 50 mg is required.
High concentrations of THC have been shown to cause hallucinations, delusions, and anxiety in some people; for most, these symptoms only last as long as that person is intoxicated, but some people can be affected for several days. Cannabis use has been connected with increased use of other drugs, although this connection has never been shown to be causal.
Many edible cannabis products are packaged in a way which appeals to children. Cannabis edibles have been the main cause of health care visits relating to accidental cannabis consumption by children.
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