Photo illustration by Collin Slavey

Stoners Bake Snacks with Scientific Hacks

Finding more creative ways to use cannabis

Finding more creative ways to use cannabis

Edibles or cannabis-infused foods are a common way to consume marijuana. The process of making edibles, just like baking brownies, is a science. The primary psychoactive compound in marijuana is called cannabinoids. When making edibles, you infuse a fat with cannabinoids to activate the chemical.

Mark Wilson, a Humboldt State University professor with a Ph.D. in microbiology, genetics and toxicology explained that cannabinoids are fat soluble and don’t break down in water.

“Some substances are water soluble and some substances are fat soluble,” Wilson said. “THC is primarily composed of carbon-carbon bonds and carbon-hydrogen bonds, so it can’t interact well with water, but it can interact well with fats and oils.”

This characteristic of THC, tetrahydrocannabinol, limits what can be turned into an edible. THC can’t steep in hot water for weed tea. Marijuana would need to be steeped in hot milk instead, where the THC would break down and bond with the milk fats.

“Things that dissolve into our fat tend to remain in our system much longer. That is, they slowly diffuse into fat, and slowly diffuse out. The fat acts as a sort of absorption compartment. That makes it detectable in drug tests for weeks.”

Joseph Szewczak

Many people use butter as the main fatty ingredient in edibles. Dairy-based fats are a good option for infusing cannabinoids, but lactose-free alternatives are also solid options, including coconut and olive oil. Bacon fat can absorb cannabinoid infusions too, if you’re looking for a savory option.

Joseph Szewczak, an HSU professor who studies and teaches comparative physiology and physiological ecology explained the physical changes to the body when people eat cannabis-infused fats rather than smoking cannabis plants.

“Things that dissolve into our fat tend to remain in our system much longer,” Szewcxak said. “That is, they slowly diffuse into fat, and slowly diffuse out. The fat acts as a sort of absorption compartment. That makes it detectable in drug tests for weeks.”

Whether inhaled or eaten, the THC enters the blood stream and messes with brain-cell functions in a unique way. Since THC is shaped like a chemical in the brain, the brain recognizes the chemical and allows to alter normal brain function. That chemical usually tells brain neurons to rest, but THC forces the brain to keep firing, which leads to deep thoughts, increased creativity and anxiety.

In light of these effects, it’s important to understand what’s going to happen after eating an edible. First, since the body takes some time to digest edibles and since their THC is stored in fat, the high lasts longer. Second, the nature of THC and marijuana may lead to discomfort or anxiety, or may lead to creativity and fun, but that’s dependent on many factors.

Co-Director of the Humboldt Institute for Interdisciplinary Marijuana Research Josh Meisel is researching the significance of set and setting, or who you’re with and where you are, and how those things impact a high.

“People’s negative experiences may be influenced by edible use,” Meisel said. “But set and setting may be as influential or more influential than the psychoactive properties of the substance itself.”

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