Village Bloomery has been in cannabis retail since 2015 and has roots in medical cannabis, health, and education, so dosing is a topic where we bring a lot of insight.
As people who love cannabis, we always do our best to support both new and experienced consumers to find their “sweet spot”. One of the most common questions we are asked is: “How much should I take?”
Our endocannabinoid systems are unique, and that means cannabis effects can vary widely from person to person. There are no hard and fast rules: for example, we’ve met high tolerance smokers who have a very low edible tolerance and vice versa. Getting the dose right with edibles is especially important because the effects can last for several hours.
For a first-time consumer, having a positive cannabis experience is a big factor in deciding whether “this is for me”. A common shared experience is a friend who asks: “Do you want a pot cookie? They’re pretty strong. I just eat half.” So, you do, and an hour or two later you realize that half the cookie was way too strong for you! This has been enough to turn many consumers off cannabis for a lifetime.
These experiences can be avoided if you take the time to get to know yourself. First, know the number one mantra: Start low and go slow. This applies across all product types including edibles (capsules, gummies, and chocolates), flower, vape cartridges, tincture oils, and concentrates. Let’s start with edibles.
How much should you take?
Tolerances can vary widely and are not based on body weight, sex or experience. Some consumers need 100+mg to get their desired effect, while some are fine with a microdose. If you’re brand new, we recommend starting with a micro dose, which is about 2-2.5mg THC. Most consumers can safely take this amount and have a positive experience, while some consumers may not even feel this dose. Know yourself! There is no pressure to take big doses. (Note: our experience is that many homemade cookies can contain 50-100mg THC, so it’s not unusual for that half a cookie to be 10-20 microdoses!)
Tolerances can vary widely and are not based on body weight, sex or experience.
If you don’t feel the microdose, don’t take more right away. We recommend waiting a good five to six hours before dosing again. There’s a “stacking effect” where the second dose can add to the first and lead to a stronger effect than you wanted. Take your starting dose three times before increasing your dose—sometimes it takes this long for your system to adjust and let you know what it’s feeling.
After you’ve taken that dose three times and you want to increase your dose, we don’t recommend doubling. A safe increase is 50% or less of your starting dose. This is hard to do with capsules, but easier with gummies or edible oils.
How long will it take to feel it?
Depending on you, it can take as little as 30 minutes and up to two hours to begin to feel a cannabis edible, and two or three hours more to feel the full effect. The effects can linger up to 24 hours depending on your dose and your metabolism. With gummies, because there is cannabinoid uptake in your mucus membranes, some folks begin to feel the effects in as little as five to 10 minutes. Here’s a technique we learned from Dr. Terry Roycroft that helps you figure out how long it takes you to feel your edible:
1. Start a timer.
2. Take an edible on an empty stomach with a cup of milk or milk alternative (the fat helps metabolize the cannabinoids).
3. Have a second cup of milk 20 minutes later to “flush” stomach contents into the intestines.
4. Pay attention to how you feel. Note the onset of “feelings” and note the time.
5. Self-monitor as you go and decide when you’ve reached the “peak” of your high. You’ll usually realize you’ve peaked when you feel the effects subsiding. Check the time.
Now you’ve got a good idea of how your body reacts and can avoid that common pitfall where you take a second dose, then start feeling the first one and realize the second dose wasn’t necessary.
Whether it’s dried flower/pre-roll, vape pen or concentrates, inhaling is the quickest way to feel the effects of cannabis. It’s common to feel the effects within a couple of minutes, and within 10-20 minutes you’ve reached the peak of the experience. The peak can last 20 minutes to an hour before beginning to taper off. The effects of smoking can last from 2-8 hours depending on how much you’ve consumed.
When you’re new to inhaling, start with lower THC products, in the 14-20% range. Products with high CBD content are also good options as the effects are usually very mellow and gentle.
How much should you take?
The efficacy of inhaled cannabis smoke or vapour is very high, meaning a small amount is often enough to feel an effect. If you’re a new consumer, often a single inhalation is enough to test the effects and your tolerance for them.
This begs the question: how big is an inhalation? A lung filling “toke” can be way too much—I personally don’t recommend the Cheech and Chong style toke! A cigarette-style draw and inhale is a more conservative approach, gives you a gentler introduction to the plant, and avoids the potential to cough up a lung which is not attractive!
So, take a pull, put it out, and wait at least 20-30 minutes to see how you feel. Because of the relatively quick onset and offset of inhaling, after this initial period it’s usually fine to take a bit more, depending on how you feel. After you’ve become more comfortable with your response to inhaling various products, you’ll figure out your tolerance and be able to determine what a good dose is for you.
An interesting nuance to the experience is that the affects you feel vary depending on how much you take. For example, a flower that gives you an energetic or creative lift after a few pulls could be very spacey or sedative after a few more pulls. Or a flower that causes anxiety or edginess after a few pulls could become comfortable and cozy after a few more.
Inhalable concentrates often have 70-90% THC with 4-10% terpenes and are considered a product for more advanced consumers. We recommend the same approach as testing flowers, but due to the high potency, consciously take smaller inhalations when you’re starting out. Some vape pens are set up to limit an inhalation to 2.5mg so they can be safely used by newbies, but always remember the mantra: Start low and go slow.
We hope this helps you give advice to consumers about potency, cannabinoids, terpenes, and modality to help them enjoy cannabis in a healthy, balanced lifestyle.
In the next issue of Cannabis Retailer, I’ll talk about dosing for edible oils, CBD, and other cannabinoids, and what to do if you realize you’ve taken too big a dose.