The Rise of the Non-Inhalables Cannabis tinctures and edibles are moving on up


Cannabis tincturesNon-inhaled cannabis products are soaring in popularity. Sales are up 53 percent in Colorado this year, and whereas they almost used to be an afterthought in most dispensaries, edibles are now being given prime shelf display.

Cannabis cook books are all the rage with new ones coming out more frequently than cannabis cultivation guides. Although the Food Network has yet to run a show about cooking with cannabis, YouTube is overflowing with page after page of edible filled videos.

Although not in the rarified atmosphere that edibles have obtained, tinctures are also rising in popularity as way to introduce cannabinoids into the user’s system. Cannabis tinctures are generally taken sublingually, under the tongue, which means through rapid absorption directly into the bloodstream. Although some tinctures are glycerin or oil based, most are alcohol-based and should not be inhaled.

Edibles take at least 20 minutes or longer to take effect, whereas tinctures are just about as rapid as inhaling smoke or vapors. This ability to provide rapid symptomatic relief without smoking makes cannabis tinctures especially appealing to medical cannabis patients.

All cannabis cup contests and other cannabis exhibitions have awards and prizes for edibles and cannabis tinctures that rival the traditional flower categories in stature as well as in event-goers anticipation. Cooking competitions and tincture making workshops are all de rigueur now, and no cannabis event worth the name is without them.

“Different psychoactive metabolites are produced when edible cannabis is introduced through the digestive system unlike a tincture with its direct sublingual absorption of THC into the bloodstream.”

Edibles differ not only in the strains of cannabis used but how the cannabis is incorporated into the edible. Most edibles are made with cannabis oil, keif or hash rather than unadulterated flower as most people prefer just a hint of cannabis taste, if there has to be any taste at all. So although the line between an oil-based tincture and cannabis oil can be hazy, the effects are very different because the routes of administration are different.

Different psychoactive metabolites are produced when edible cannabis is introduced through the digestive system unlike a tincture with its direct sublingual absorption of THC into the bloodstream. With introduction through the digestive system, the liver converts THC into the more potent 11-hydroxy-THC, which is stronger with more sedative effects. This is the reason many find enjoying a properly dosed edible at bedtime superior to smoking for insomnia and nighttime pain relief.

Although cannabis tinctures can be and are extremely potent, administering with a dropper makes them easily quantifiable thereby reducing the likelihood of an “overdose.” With their rapid onset of effects, cannabis tinctures can be very accurate and precise in administration.

Most edibles are anything but accurate and precise. Even with THC content labeled on the package, inaccuracies abound especially if you have to break it up into smaller pieces to consume an amount of THC that will be pleasant. With cannabis entering the mainstream of commercial products due to the enactment of laws legalizing its use and production, stricter and codified regulations should reduce this concern.

Because of the dosing problems edibles can easily be used incorrectly and have gotten a mostly undeserved bad rap in the media. The most famous case of the incorrect use of an edible was by Maureen Dowd, columnist for The New York Times. Reporting on Colorado’s legalized recreational cannabis market, Ms. Dowd bought and ate a classic cannabis brownie.

Not having done her homework, and the store obviously not providing sufficient instructions about dosage and time to take effect, she ate way too much, way too soon. Her description of the hours she spent on her hotel bed “curled up in a hallucinatory state” was read by millions and went viral online. Although she would rather it wasn’t so, she is now better known for her bad cannabis “trip” story than her Pulitzer Prize winning series on the Monica Lewinsky scandal in the Clinton administration.

Edibles get a somewhat deserved bad rap because manufacturers make them into very attractive candies resembling gummies, candy bars and muffins letting anti-drug warriors claim they are being marketed to children. Although having cannabis laced candies look appealing to children is something of a problem, that doesn’t mean that adults should only be able to ingest candies that look repugnant.

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