Everyone’s body (and endocannabinoid system) is slightly different, which is why it’s so difficult to answer the “what should my dose be?” question. The answer depends on a number of factors, including the strain you’re consuming, the consumption method you’re using, your tolerance, your size, and your metabolism. Let’s take a closer look at how these circumstances impact your cannabis experience.
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What impacts the cannabis consumption experience?
Each strain has its own unique cannabinoid profile as well as its own specific terpene profile. When these cannabinoids are consumed together, which contain varying amounts of not only THC or CBD, but trace quantities of any of the other 111 known cannabinoid compounds, along with that unique blend of terpenes, the consumer experiences what’s called the entourage effect. That’s why every strain feels and tastes slightly different, and why you might not experience a full therapeutic range of effects when using an isolate product, which contains just one isolated cannabinoid.
If you’re smoking in a comfortable, normal environment, you may experience cannabis completely differently than you would in a new or uncomfortable place. You probably know what this feels like if you’re used to smoking in your bedroom and suddenly decide to go to, say, a museum or art gallery when you’re high. Suddenly, your boots are a bit too loud and stomp down when you take each step, your breathing is weirdly recognizable, and you think everyone around you knows that you’re high. From your bedroom, you might not necessarily have the same feelings of paranoia, even with the same strain and dose, because your setting is a major contributor to your cannabis experience.
Your emotions also play a part in the cannabis consumption experience. You’ll likely experience the same strain of cannabis slightly differently if you’re going through a breakup vs. when you’re celebrating a new job, for example. The mindset you bring to the experience makes all the difference. If you consume before a brainstorm, you might feel ultra creative and productive for a long time, where if you smoke prior to a stressful call, it might completely blow your high.
Since everyone is slightly different, and everyone feels ingested cannabis differently, our experience actually comes back to our DNA. A gene called CYP2C9 is responsible for turning cannabinoids (among other things) into usable materials for the body. This gene and the enzyme it subsequently produces come in three variations: CYP2C9 AA, CYP2C9 AC and CYP2C9 CC. Folks with the AA variation usually have issues feeling the effects of ingested cannabis overall, as their genetic code coverts the cannabinoids into waste prior to hitting the bloodstream. The AC variation is somewhere in the middle, while folks with the CC variation feel the most impact from ingested cannabis.
Tolerance is when your body and brain get used to a compound and requires more of that substance to feel that initial effect. THC activates CB1 receptors in the brain. After repeated use, anywhere between a few consecutive days to a few weeks of use, the brain slows down CB1 activity and doesn’t give you the same punch for the same quantity of cannabinoids. You can easily give your mind and body a reset with a tolerance break, which after just two weeks, can return your receptors back to normal.
Methods of Consumption
You will generally feel the effects of inhaled cannabis within 2-10 minutes of consumption. It first hits the lungs, then the bloodstream, and it lasts, on average, about 1-3 hours.
When you eat your cannabis, in the form of edibles, capsules, or a swallowed tincture, it can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 3 hours to kick in. Although you usually feel most of the experience around the 2 hour mark, an edible high can last for a whole day, and can sometimes result in a mild groggy feeling the next day. Note that as cannabis moves through the liver, it is metabolized into 11 hydroxy THC, which can have varying effects on the individual. Due to the issues with oral consumption and the resulting first-pass metabolism involved, people who are not satisfied with oral consumption often seek sublingual, vaginal, or rectal methods of consumption.
Consuming cannabis sublingually is usually done with an alcohol or oil-based tincture. Many consumers opt for this method, which involves holding the product under the tongue for about a minute before swallowing, because it has an onset time of about 10-15 minutes and can last for a few hours.
Topical application of an infused cream, salve, balm, or oil, results in absorption through the body’s largest organ, the skin. When cannabinoids are applied topically, they don’t result in psychoactive effects, just localized relief in joints and muscles. However, be careful, as THC lotions, bath soaks and other topical applications can inadvertently make contact with mucous membranes and enter the bloodstream. There are also specific topicals, like transdermal patches, that have ingredients designed to penetrate the skin and enter the bloodstream
Vaginal or Rectal
Suppositories are an excellent method for delivering cannabinoids into the bloodsteam and providing localized therapy for the lower half of the body, without having to go through the digestive system. With a varying time of onset, from 15 minutes to an hour, the intensity of the effect is also related to placement, with further insertion often linked to more intense psychoactive effects.
Calculating Your Dose
Decarboxylation: Ardent technology gets you anywhere between 97-100% activation of your plant material. Check the label on your cannabis to determine the percentage of THCa present in your starting material. The acid molecule (the “a” of the THCa) is removed during decarboxylation, removing 13% of the molecule’s weight. To find the total amount of THC after decarboxylation, multiply the amount of THCa by .87%. Sometimes, in dispensary cannabis, the calculation if already done for you (in Washington DC, for example) so you may see a final THC number on the back of your flower, even though the flower actually contains THCa.
Once you know the total amount of THC that your plant has, move the decimal point one space to the right. That number is the amount of THC per gram. Check out our Dosing Guide for more information understanding the potency of your starting material.
With older methods of decarb such as the oven, toaster oven, and crock pot, you should account for about 30-40% additional loss in your final product due to the unstable heating conditions and environmental deterrents. Understandably, the outcome dose can become very unclear and inconsistent when decarbing and infusing outside of an Ardent device. Find test results on the different decarb methods and how they impact your final product dosage here.
Once you have decarbed in Nova or FX, you can place the decarbed flower right into your food, or use sublingually or smoke. You get the absolute most out of this “instant edible” method. If you do want to infuse, be sure to use a high fat oil or butter, or an alcohol. Cannabinoids bind best with fat and alcohol, so if you want to extract the maximum amount (90+%), make sure to choose the right medium. Check out our guides on infusing into oils and alcohol in our education section.