Cannabis-infused edibles have become the biggest craze. In newly legalized Oregon, edibles make up a quarter of all product sales. And last year in Colorado, the edibles market soared by a 125 percent increase from the previous year’s sales.
However, not all edibles are made the same. We use the catch-all term “infused” to describe these food items, but there are many ways to infuse them. Each method affects how the edible works in the body and on the brain.
Today, there are four primary products used to infuse edibles: carbon dioxide hash, butane hash, butter/cooking oil and raw cannabis oil. The first two are pure THC infusions, while the second two are whole-plant infusions. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages, and the type of infusion can affect the customer’s experience.
Pure THC: Carbon dioxide and butane hashes have become incredibly popular infusions over the past few years. For one, they’re relatively cost-effective compared to whole-plant infusions. They also allow for easier, more precise measurements of THC in the edible, so accuracy of reporting doses becomes far more reliable.
Both of these hashes are almost entirely THC. They may carry some terpenes, flavonoids and other cannabinoids present in the plant, but these are usually negligible. The extracts may churn out 60 to 90 percent THC.
When a customer ingests nearly pure THC, the psychoactive experience lacks the “entourage effect” that comes with whole-plant extracts. The entourage effect occurs when the entire plant’s biochemical contents—not just the THC—interact with the body. This is why certain strains may cause people to become sluggish and sleepy, while other strains will get people wired, alert and focused. THC alone doesn’t dictate whether a high is “up” or “down” but rather makes the high possible in the first place. The other cannabinoids (such as CBD, THC-V, CBG or CBN) and terpenes are largely responsible for the type of high customers experience.
Carbon dioxide and butane hashes may produce more consistent highs, which is why they’ve become the favorites of the recreational market. But the psychoactive effect produced by these edibles may cause some customers to experience jitteriness, anxiety or restlessness from eating too many.
Whole Plant: That leads us to the whole-plant infusions, which typically use butter or raw cannabis oil. Products infused with whole-plant extracts tend to be favorites of the medical market, although some companies offer these on the recreational side as well.
Whole-plant extracts contain as many biochemical compounds from the plant that can possibly be extracted. All cannabinoids, not just THC, are extracted from the plant material. Terpenes, flavonoids and other beneficial compounds will be present, too.
Customers who want the full medicinal or health benefits from their edibles should be steered toward foods made with whole-plant extracts. Additionally, those who have had bad experiences or no luck with carbon dioxide or butane hash-infused edibles may find relief with these whole-plant infusions.
The downside to whole-plant extracts is their inconsistency and cost. Butter and ethanol extractions (for making raw cannabis oil) are costly, time-consuming processes. Further, because the THC is mixed with other chemicals from the plant, the infusion may not evenly spread among the edible, causing some servings to have higher doses than others.
Whereas high-THC extracts can cause anxiety or the jitters, whole-plant extractions tend to provide smoother highs. However, too much of a whole-plant edible may cause extreme drowsiness in some customers, and anxiety or paranoia can still result.
Responsible use requires responsible sales. Dispensaries and rec stores tend to be the only places where many customers get educated about cannabis products.
How can you know what kinds of infusions were used to make the edibles you’re selling? Check the label. Most edibles will tell you what kind of infusion they contain right on the packaging. Look under “Ingredients,” and you should see “butane oil,” “cannabutter” or something similar listed among those ingredients.
If the package doesn’t tell you, you can always call the company to find out. Representatives for edibles companies are usually eager to speak with their clients, so don’t be shy.
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