Guide to Cannabis Edibles and Making Your Own Cannabutter

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Krondike Ice Cream Bars, Kif Kat Candy and BENJamin’s Banilla Wafers may seem like simple riffs on foods that satisfy marijuana munchies, but they are, in fact, brand names for marijuana edible products.  They can be found on dispensary shelves with flavored popcorn, honey, cake pops, cookies and brownies -- some even advertising themselves to be “gluten free.'

The attraction to edibles is multi-faceted, with discretion being a major attraction. Eating a cookie and using a cannabis-infused creamer in your coffee attract far less attention than smoking a joint or hiding your tabletop vaporizer from the dorm monitors.

Healthier than Smoking or Vaping

Many people, especially those using medical marijuana, are interested in edibles because they bypass the issues related to smoking or vaping with solvent-processed butane hash oil (BHO).

Absorption

Cannabis edibles are digested and metabolized by the liver – which means it takes more time to produce results than smoking or vaping. The user’s metabolism plays a part, as well---those with a fast metabolism report feeling effects within an hour, while those with sluggish metabolisms and extra weight may need to wait two hours or more for results.

By the same token, when the liver metabolizes Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), it is converted to 11-hydroxy-THC, an active metabolite that is effective in crossing the blood-brain barrier, resulting in a more intense “high.”

Potency

Most marijuana edibles are made with highly concentrated forms of cannabis, including hash oil, infused oil or cannabis-infused butter. While the effects of edibles may take longer to manifest than inhaled counterparts, the results can be more intense. Cannabis edibles on an empty stomach are metabolized more quickly than when eaten after a full meal, which is recommended.  Unlike alcohol, food--especially fatty foods--can increase the effects of an edible cannabis dose rather than dilute it.

Dosing

Eating 10- to 25mg of THC is the usual “dose” per serving. In Colorado, a “dose” is considered to be 10mg of THC – but based on metabolism, individuals may react differently to the same dose.  But those using edible marijuana for medical purposes find benefits beyond the dose of THC. Those new to cannabis, especially edibles, are encouraged to begin with a test dose of 5mg, with a wait of at least two hours before ingesting more.

The high can last from four to six hours, or longer with higher doses. Keep in mind that everyone's metabolism is different, and your weight and fitness will play a role in how your body reacts to edible pot foods. Patients who use cannabis instead of pharmaceuticals to manage pain can grow to tolerate fairly high daily doses of THC – but it takes time and experimentation to find the right combination.

THC, CBD and CBN

As medical marijuana edibles become more popular, states are becoming more stringent about testing and labeling. Currently, most labeling requirements focus on THC content, but many manufacturers have begun to provide a broader range of cannabinoid content breakdowns so patients can choose products best suited to the symptoms they are treating.

  • Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is responsible for the psychoactive effects of marijuana. It is also believed to provide both pain and stress relief, among other benefits.
  • Cannabidiol (CBD) is the second most abundant cannabinoid in cannabis. It’s appetite suppressant qualities are thought to counteract some of the effects of THC like the “munchies.”
  • Cannabinol (CBN), with its sedative effects, is an excellent sleep-aid. Though research is ongoing and indicating additional medical benefits to CBN use, many users find that an edible marijuana snack at bedtime helps with restlessness and insomnia.

Cooking Notes

Cannabinoids are fat-soluble and bond with substances containing high levels of fat--the most well-known mechanism for infusion is butter. Some cannabis chefs prefer vegan alternatives, like olive or coconut oils, but the process of making “cannabutter” is the same.

Identify the percentage of THC in the strain you are cooking with – most strains are about 10 percent, although some “high end” strains can have more than 20 percent THC. For the purposes of this recipe, we are working with a 10 percent THC ratio.

  • 1 gram of marijuana bud is 1000 mg of dry weight.
    • Working with a 10 percent ratio, 1 gram of marijuana flower will have about 100 mg of THC
    • The standard dose in an edible marijuana serving is 10 mg
    • 1 gram of average marijuana bud will yield 10 regular servings at 10mg each (or 20 “beginner” servings at 5mg each) of cannabis edibles.
  • 1 ounce of marijuana bud is 28,350 grams of dry weight
    • 1 ounce will yield about 2,835 mg of THC
    • 1 ounce will yield 283.5, 10mg servings.

 Cannabutter Recipe

 Equipment

  • Grinder
  • Heavy, medium-size saucepan with tight-fitting lid
  • Fine mesh strainer/sieve
  •  Heatproof Glass Bowl (for strained butter)

 Ingredients

  • 1 Quart Water
  • 4 Sticks of Butter (1 pound=16 ounces=2 Cups)
  • 1 Ounce Ground Cannabis Bud

 Directions

Finely grind the cannabis bud. Bring the water to boil in a medium saucepan.  When boiling, add the butter, allowing it to melt completely.  Add the cannabis and lower the heat to a simmer, checking periodically, for about three hours.

Fit the strainer over the glass bowl. Strain the marijuana mixture into the bowl, allowing it to drain completely through the strainer.  Cool for about an hour, then transfer bowl to the refrigerator until the butter solidifies and rises to the top.  Run a knife around the edge of the bowl and lift the butter off.  Transfer the cannabutter to clean containers and refrigerate for up to one month or freeze up to six months. 

Cannabutter Notes:

A batch of cannabutter made with 1 pound of butter to one ounce of cannabis will have 283.5, 10mg servings, or 71 servings per stick (1/2 C) of butter.

A Betty Crocker Brownie Mix calls for 1/2 C Oil. If you substitute 1/4 C Cannabutter and 1/4 C regular butter, the entire batch will have about 355mg of THC, or 35.5 servings. If you bake your mix in a 9 x 13 pan, and cut it into 36 brownies, each brownie will be roughly one serving at 10mg THC.

Pay Attention to Labels and Dosing

Because there is no federal oversight on edible cannabis dosing and packaging, it is challenging to know the active ingredient contents of most products.  Do some research on the manufacturer of any edible products you buy, and be sure of the THC content of the bud you buy for making your own cannabutter edibles.

Take it slow. The most common complaint about cannabis edibles is that patients overdose---they don’t feel the effects quickly so they eat another cookie or brownie, which often results in an uncomfortable “high.”

Label Your Edibles Appropriately

Make sure that your cannabis edibles are labeled appropriately so that unsuspecting snackers don’t eat three or four cookies or brownies without realizing they contain marijuana. And always make sure your edibles are not accessible to children.