7 Differences Between Smoking Weed and Eating Edibles

March 21, 2023

Now that so many states have legalized either medical or recreational marijuana, more Americans now have access to this amazing plant in all of its varieties. While smoking it either rolled into a joint or packed into a bowl or a bong are still popular, edibles are now available in most dispensaries. Whether you prefer gummy candies, luxurious chocolate, or cannabis-infused coffee, there’s likely an edible out there for you.

Before you rush out to buy a package of pot-infused brownies, it’s important to consider another way to get high: Vaping vs. Smoking Cannabis Vaping and smoking share a lot of similarities, so for the sake of this article, we’ll refer to both as ‘smoking.’ The debate between smoking and vaping is age-old, and one we won’t focus on here. 

We’re here to talk about the differences between smoking cannabis and eating it via edibles (yes, we’re counting THC seltzers as edibles).  

The way you ingest your marijuana can impact how you feel and how long the effects last. Depending on your own individual needs, you may have a preference regarding how you take your cannabis. So sit back, grab a notebook (or a joint) (or both), and enjoy some of the main differences between smoking cannabis and eating it!

1.  Onset and Duration

Smoking cannabis has a quick onset of effects, usually within minutes, but the effects wear off within a few hours. You have to re-smoke every couple of hours or so if you want a marathon high, but it can be good if you just want a little bit (like, a wake ‘n bake before your 11 o’clock meeting). 

Eating cannabis, on the other hand, has a slower onset, usually taking 30 minutes to two hours, but the effects can last much longer, sometimes up to six hours or more. This can be tricky for people who don’t know their tolerance yet--I’ve known people to take way too many edibles because they “don’t feel anything.” I’ve also accidentally woken up high the morning after a smoke sesh and had to find a way to get to calculus (no, I didn’t go). Knowing what to expect when trying edibles for the first time can help you avoid some of these common mistakes and set you up for a nice lengthy high.

2. Dosage Control

It is easier to control the dosage of cannabis when smoking it because the effects can be felt almost immediately, allowing the user to adjust the amount they consume. You can also stop as soon as you feel adequately blazed, and you won’t get any higher. It’s easy to monitor yourself after each puff and assess how you feel.  

With edibles, it can be harder to control the dosage because the onset of effects is slower and the strength can vary depending on the product. Like I said, a lot of newbies will say “I don’t feel anything yet” and wind up taking too much, which can lead to anxiety and paranoia

In most dispensaries, the amount of THC or CBD must be plainly marked on the packaging for all products, especially edibles. However, without independent lab testing of edibles, it can be difficult to determine exactly how much THC or CBD are in a serving of any particular edible. This can make it hard to trust how strong a product is. If you’re uncertain about trusting a pre-packaged product (try saying that three times fast), then consider making your own edibles

3. Intensity of Effects

Smoking cannabis can produce a more immediate high because the active compounds are absorbed into the bloodstream through the lungs. The effects vary from strain to strain, but they’re only as intense as the amount that you smoke. You can control the intensity of your high by adjusting how much you smoke. 

Eating cannabis, on the other hand, produces a slower and more gradual high that can be more intense, since it all hits your system at once, and it could last longer. Your liver is responsible for processing THC when you eat edibles, and the chemical reactions that take place there produce a MUCH stronger high

4. Availability 

Smoking is more widely available and accessible, especially considering you can even grow your own weed inside. Those who smoke for medicinal purposes, there can be some concern about the safety of smoking. Vaping is considered better for your lungs, but some people don’t want to inhale foreign substances at all. This means edibles are becoming more popular, especially in licensed dispensaries.

Edibles may be harder to find, but they’re rising in popularity. Because of the time it takes to make them (and the increasing demand for them), prices can be pretty high. If you can’t find the product you want, you could also make your own cannabutter. But if you don’t feel like cooking, there’s always good ol’ bud. 

5. Discretion

Smoking (even vaping) can leave a distinct odor that’s a dead giveaway to anyone even remotely familiar with it. If you’re at your straight-and-narrow Mom’s house, then you have to be really careful about when and where you smoke. Of course, you could do your best to educate her, but that can be tricky.

Edibles, on the other hand, are much more discrete. Some packaging is almost a dead ringer for the product it’s modeled after (which can negatively impact kidsso be careful where you leave them), which can fool people you don’t want to know about your weed consumption. They also have no odor, which is usually how people figure out you’re smoking. 

6. Potential for a Bad High  

Like we said before, it’s way easier to know how much weed you’re consuming when you smoke it. This can mitigate the potential for a green-out, but does have long-term effects. Smoking isn’t great for your lungs, plain and simple. If you consume cannabis every day, consider mixing it up from just regular old joints.

That being said, it’s way easier to ingest too much when you’re taking edibles. This makes them less beginner-friendly, since there’s more of a chance for a bad high. Properly dosing your edibles is key--if you do that, you should be all set!

7. And the most important of all; Health Impact

When it comes to smoking, it’s, well… smoking. Long-term smoking can have a pretty negative impact on your lungs, as we all know. While weed is proven to be better for you than cigarettes, it’s still not great for you. All things in moderation!

Edibles have less of an impact, although I’m sure research will someday show that heavy consumption may have a negative impact on your liver (like we said before, that’s where edibles are processed). Only time will tell on that, though. But for the time being, consuming THC edibles has way less health impact than smoking it. 

Choose the Method That Works Best for You

At the end of the day, it all comes down to choosing the method of consumption that works best for you. I have friends that swear by edibles, and friends that have sworn them off. It doesn’t matter how you consume your weed as long as you have a good time doing it. You know yourself best!

If you need quick pain or anxiety relief, then smoking/vaping may be best for you. But if you want a long-lasting, harder-hitting high, then consider edibles. The choice is yours, my friend! Stay happy, stay healthy, and (most importantly), stay toasty.