Edibles vs Vape: Pros & Cons (and Which is Right for You)

edibles vs vaping cannabis
By Nick Congleton Updated March 8th

Fact-checked by Deb Tharp

As the cannabis market grows and more states move to legalize both medical and recreational cannabis, people are exploring different ways to benefit from the plant. The hazards of smoking anything are well-documented, leading people to look for an alternative. Vaping and edibles have both emerged as popular options.

Neither option is perfect, and each has its own advantages and disadvantages. Even still, both can be great and provide multiple ways to enjoy cannabis and find relief. Either can be better for you depending on your situation or your goals in using cannabis.

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5 Important Differences Between Edibles and Vaping Cannabis

There are clear differences between vaping and edibles. Edibles are food items meant to be eaten, while vaping involves inhaling vaporized plant material from a concentrate or dry herb vaporizer. There are differences in how long these take to feel the effects, how long they last, and how available they are in each state’s market, among other things.

1. How They Work

Edibles vs Vaping Cannabis

The way edibles and inhaled cannabis – like vaping – are processed in the body differs greatly. When someone eats an edible, the cannabinoids contained in the product are metabolized in the liver before they enter the bloodstream and act on cannabinoid receptors throughout the body. This additional metabolization delays the onset of the edible’s effects and the release of cannabinoids, making the effects last longer.

In contrast, inhaling cannabis takes effect much more quickly. That’s because the cannabinoids are absorbed directly through the lungs and straight into the bloodstream, which is why people who smoke or vape feel the effects more quickly.

2. The Effects

Edibles and Vaping marijuana

The effects of inhaling cannabis can be felt nearly immediately. Because inhaling either smoke or, in this case, vapor delivers cannabinoids directly into the bloodstream through the lungs, the cannabinoids bind to receptors in the brain quickly, producing euphoria and other sensations. Generally, the effects of inhaling cannabis can be felt for about 2-3 hours, depending on the person. Vaping a second time “resets the clock,” so to speak.

Edibles take much longer. It isn’t uncommon for edibles to take anywhere from 30 minutes to 4 hours to take effect. How long will depend on factors like the user’s individual biology. With edibles, there’s an extra step before cannabinoids enter the bloodstream. They’re metabolized in the liver first, and delta-9 THC is converted into 11-OH-THC, a more complex cannabinoid with a more intoxicating effect. Not only is the effect of 11-OH-THC more powerful, but it also takes the body longer to break it down. As a result, people commonly feel the effects of edibles 6-12 hours later.

3. Dosing & Redosing 

Edibles and Vaping weed

Dosing edibles are fairly straightforward. Edibles purchased from a state-licensed dispensary will be equally dosed and labeled to know exactly how much cannabis you’re using at once. 

Edibles will come in a variety of concentrations. New cannabis users and those unfamiliar with edibles should start with a low dose of between 5 mg and 10 mg of THC. Some new users may want to go lower and start with 2.5 mg. Known as microdosing, smaller doses allow users to get the benefits of cannabis while avoiding the high and any possible unpleasant effects. For more accurate dosing, try an edible calculator

Dosing with a vape isn’t nearly as exact. A number of factors will determine how much of an effect you get, including the strength of the product, how much you inhale, and your body chemistry. It’s generally recommended that people new to cannabis take 1-2 hits from the vape to start. See how you feel from there. Within a few minutes to half an hour, you should have a good idea of how much of an effect you’ll feel. 

From there, you can take a hit when you feel the effects wear off to maintain the sensation. As you become more accustomed to cannabis, you can gradually increase the amount. With time, you can also explore more options to make the most of your cannabis experience.

4. Efficiency

Edibles and Vaping

Edibles are quite possibly the most efficient way to use cannabis because none of the cannabinoids are lost. When someone inhales cannabis, some of the cannabinoids are lost to the heat needed to create the smoke or vapor, and the body isn’t able to absorb the rest through the lungs. 

With an edible, all of the cannabinoids are preserved and enter the body. It should be noted that some dispensary-purchased edibles, like many concentrates, isolate THC into a distillate. For full-spectrum edibles that retain a strain’s full complement of cannabinoids and terpenes, be sure to ask your budtender or try cooking your own edibles at home.

Edibles also last longer and are more readily absorbed by the body. It requires fewer edibles to get the same effect as inhaled cannabis.

Vaping might not be the most efficient way to use cannabis in terms of overall cannabinoid content, but it works best for getting the effects fast. Smoking and vaping are about equal in their ability to deliver cannabinoids to the body as quickly as possible for immediate effects.

Relying on edibles exclusively might get costly, especially if you need high milligram dosages. But vaping isn’t without its costs, either. Vaping comes with a substantial upfront cost for the vaporizing device. Then, the vape cartridges can also be costly, depending on the concentration, but can last for a while. If you opt for dry herb vaporizing, the cost can be even lower because those vaporizers just use cannabis flower and can work with a relatively small amount.

5. Discreetness

Edibles and Vaping discreetness

Both edibles and vaping can be discreet, but edibles have the edge. You can use your edibles in private and no one will know that you’re feeling the effects hours later. Even if someone sees you eat an edible, it appears the same as any other food.

Depending on which products you use, vaping can be discreet too. Not all vaporizers produce gigantic plumes of white vapor. You can pick one that emits much less. You can also choose vapes that don’t have the telltale smell of cannabis. This way, even if someone does see you vaping, they won’t know what you’re vaping. 

Never use cannabis while driving. That’s dangerous and illegal everywhere.

Are Edibles Safer Than Vaping? 

Are Edibles Safer Than Vaping

Vaping carries many of the same risks as smoking. Inhaling any hot air has the potential to cause irritation in the lungs and throat. Plus, there are ingredients in some vape liquids, especially artificially flavored ones and illicit products not sold in licensed dispensaries, which may cause additional lung irritation and damage. 

Edibles don’t carry any of the same risks. In fact, they’re considered a healthier option than smoking or vaping. There aren’t any known major side effects of edibles other than those associated with cannabis. 

There are some effects associated with the ingredients of edibles, like sugar. It’s also easy to overconsume edibles, which can lead to unpleasant experiences like greening out. This is why it’s important to start with a low dose and be patient for it to take effect.

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Final Thoughts 

Are edibles better than vaping? That’s entirely up to you and what you want to get out of your cannabis experience. Edibles are generally longer lasting, but they take longer to take effect and have greater potential for overuse. Edibles also have the benefit of being nearly entirely discreet. Of course, there are also plenty of edible types beyond the standard gummies and brownies, making them a flexible option.

However, vaping is more flexible. It’s easy to manage dosages, and the effects can be felt nearly immediately. Vaping also offers a wide range of different cartridges.

While these are both fantastic options for using cannabis, and they’re right for some people, they aren’t the best for everyone, and there are plenty more options to explore.

The information in this article and any included images or charts are for educational purposes only. This information is neither a substitute for, nor does it replace, professional legal advice or medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about laws, regulations, or your health, you should always consult with an attorney, physician or other licensed professional.

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