As more states switch from medicinal only to recreational cannabis usage and as millennial consumers seek healthier ways to imbibe, such as edibles, cannabis companies are increasingly looking at edibles as the next growth area within the booming cannabis market.
A Deloitte report on the Canadian cannabis industry estimated smoking revenues at $5 billion in 2019 but the edibles sector, once legalized and established, at between $12 and $22 billion.
It is a common misconception that you can only “activate” the psychoactive cannabinoid in cannabis, THC, through heating it. Sufficient raw cannabis plant consumption will deliver THC to your body, even hemp contains traces of THC.
The truth is, heat causes chemical reactions within the plant. When smoking, combustion causes the conversion of other cannabinoids into THC by burning off some of the molecules. It also creates by-products such as carcinogens. When cannabis is cooked, or heated, a similar process occurs on a smaller scale.
Smoking cannabis delivers THC directly to the bloodstream, carrying it to the brain. Once there, it bonds to receptors causing the traditional symptoms of recreational cannabis use. This direct method means effects are felt in a very short period of time.
However, when you digest cannabis, it is absorbed by the gut and processed by the liver. Not only processing THC but creating a more potent cannabinoid with the same properties, 11-OH-THC. These cannabinoids then enter the bloodstream and get to the brain. Overall this process takes longer, but also lasts longer.
Ingesting the same amount of weed provides a longer, healthier, more intense, high than smoking.
Weed edibles companies provide a way for consumers to maximize their experience while minimizing their consumption but they also work under two sets of regulation, those pertaining to cannabis and those pertaining to food production.
THC, is lipophilic, meaning it bonds with lipids, or fats, rather than being soluble in water. This means producing edibles requires a bonding agent such as butter or oil attaching to the cannabis prior to cooking. This is why the dominant form of black market edible has been butter infused, homemade brownies or cookies.
Legalization and access to more appropriate manufacturing environments have enabled weed edibles companies to explore new areas such as Baked Bros THC gummy bears, CBD luxury confections from Lord Jones, or more savory endeavors such as chips by LOL edibles.
Due to the long onset period and the difficulty in correctly administering a specified dose, edibles are primarily for recreational cannabis use, rather than medical usage. Additionally, most practitioners are disinclined to prescribe buttery cookies or sugary sweets to patients.
As millennials continue to dominate the cannabis market with their desires for clean, organic, healthy cannabis, cannabis companies will increasingly focus on non-carcinogenic methods of delivery like edibles that match those desires. With an equally health focused demographic Generation Z, slowly entering the marketplace, demand for healthy edibles will continue to grow, and will, in all likelihood, become the norm.