How long do edibles last? and other useful information

How long do edibles last: a photo of green hard candies with pink light on them.

Edible cannabis continues to evolve, offering new flavors and product types to attract consumers from every demographic. Buying the right edible for you at the dispensary takes a specific skill set, but there is more to ingesting cannabis than picking out the perfect product. Many consumers aren’t sure of the dosage they need or how long it will take to kick in. Some also wonder how long edibles last.

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From storing edible products to understanding the lifecycle of effects–the process has nuance, which can feel overwhelming for newcomers. This guide to cannabis edibles will make a beginner feel more than ready to crack open that infused treat with the comfort of knowing what precautions to take to avoid overconsumption.

Finding your dose

Edible effects present differently in every person. Some need only 2 milligrams (mg) to reach their ideal experience, while others prefer 10 mg or more per experience. This range speaks to an individual’s tolerance and metabolism and shows the importance of understanding your dose before consuming.

As a budtender, I advised that people start with 2.5 mg at a time and wait up to two hours before consuming more. I chose this amount because edibles often come in 10 or 5 mg packages, so it’s easy to get 2.5 mg when cutting equally sized pieces. Your preferred dose may vary slightly between different products like a drink and brownie, always start slow when trying a new type of edible.

Storage systems

Store most edibles in a cool, dark place as cannabinoids degrade with light and heat. Additionally, follow the storage rules of the type of food purchased. For example, some baked goods would dry out in the refrigerator, but you should always refrigerate dairy-based products.

Follow guidelines both for cannabis and food to store edibles properly. It’s also essential to keep products out of little hands. Ensure children are safe by investing in a lockbox or specialty lockable furniture.

When will an edible kick in?

Myriad factors are at play when evaluating how long it takes to feel the effects of an infused product. A person’s metabolism, what they ate that day, and liver function can all play a role in how long an edible takes to kick in. According to a naturopath who spoke at a medical dispensary where I worked (and this educational pamphlet), edible effects can start anywhere from 15 minutes to two hours after ingestion.

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Products peak four hours after ingestion, so waiting two hours before consuming another dose is crucial. Consuming more milligrams before the effects kick in could lead to an escalating high for up to eight hours. For many, this would be uncomfortable. Mind the window, and if necessary, set a timer while figuring out your dose with a new edible product.

The science of the matter

Method of administration can play a role in the wait as well. When eating cannabis, delta-9-THC goes through the digestive system and the liver, a process that converts the familiar cannabinoid to 11-hydroxy-THC which creates a heavier effect than delta-9.

Many budtenders suggest taking the tincture, glycerin extracts, and other liquid products under your tongue (or sublingually) provides the fastest onset. A 1985 study for the American Journal of Cardiology investigated the bioavailability of sublingual nitroglycerin.

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For the study, 16 healthy male volunteers were given 25 picograms per milliliter (pg/ml) of nitroglycerin. Researchers used capillary gas chromatography to quantify plasma nitroglycerin concentrations. In this study, effects took ten minutes, one of many instances where sublingual administration led to higher bioavailability and faster onset of effects.

Technology is the final factor that may influence how long it takes an edible to kick in. Nanoemulsion, for example, is the process of suspending a liquid in another liquid to get a stable end product. In cannabis, this process creates a uniform infused ingredient that companies sell to manufacturers to make gummies, drinks, and other edibles. Nanoemulsions claim to be reliably dosed and stable with a quick onset of effects of around 15 to 20 minutes.

With the variances between how long it might take to feel an edible, always ask a budtender if they’ve tried the product. Get the inside scoop at the counter, the product could be made with a nanoemulsion or take a few hours to get going, and the budtender probably has the details.

How long do edibles last?

An educational pamphlet from the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction claims an edible can last anywhere from 12 to 24 hours, which I can corroborate based on personal experience. When I eat an edible to go to sleep, I wake up with what I call a “weed hangover,” but this could just be lingering effects. Whether it’s a weed hangover or a 24-hour edible, be mindful of whether you’re still feeling it before operating heavy machinery or any other possibly dangerous activity.

Many of us want to explore the bounty of edible products on dispensary shelves, but you’ve got to know the basics of cannabis edibles before jumping in. Knowing your dose and understanding the lifecycle of effects is an excellent way to avoid overconsumption. After all, a reliable edible experience is often an enjoyable one.

Cara Wietstock is Senior Content Producer of and has been working in the cannabis space since 2011. She has covered the cannabis business beat for Ganjapreneur and The Spokesman Review. You can find her living in Bellingham, Washington with her husband, son, and a small zoo of pets.