Help! Why Don’t Edibles Get Me High?

why dont edibles get me high
By Nick Congleton Updated March 8th

Medically reviewed by Dr. Brian Kessler, MD

Edibles are one of the most popular ways to use cannabis. They’re a convenient and discreet way to use cannabis that fuses the effects you’re looking for with food you enjoy. Plus, they provide a healthier alternative to smoking for many consumers. Sometimes, though, a consumer is expecting a relaxing night with their favorite edible only to end up feeling no effects.

It might sound odd, but it happens. Edibles aren’t metabolized in the body the same way smoking cannabis is. This leads to a different set of circumstances that can impact how edibles affect the consumer. It’s not uncommon for edibles to deliver more muted effects than anticipated, and there are signs and situations to look out for.

Keep scrolling to find out why edibles may not be working for you and what you can do about it.

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How Edibles Work

The cannabis plant produces natural compounds called cannabinoids. The two most common cannabinoids are CBD and THC. Both cannabinoids have reported medical benefits, and research suggests that those benefits are amplified when the two are combined. 

Cannabinoids interact with the body through receptors in nerve cells distributed throughout the body and brain. This system is known as the endocannabinoid system, and the body uses it to send signals and regulate certain internal processes. When someone uses cannabis, the plant’s cannabinoids (like THC) enter the bloodstream and bind to these receptors, altering the signals the body sends. This interaction is why people experience intoxicating effects when using THC-rich cannabis. It’s also why medical cannabis has shown promise in helping regulate different systems and conditions in the body.

When someone inhales cannabis, by smoking or vaping, the cannabinoids are converted from their inactive forms, THCA and CBDA, with heat and enter the bloodstream through the lungs.

Edibles are different. First, the cannabis needs to be heated before infusing the edibles. This process, known as decarboxylation, is how the cannabinoids are converted from THCA into psychoactive THC and CBDA into CBD. When the edible is consumed, the cannabinoids are processed by the liver before entering the bloodstream. The THC is metabolized into 11-hydroxy-THC, a much stronger cannabinoid. This process is why edibles take longer to take effect (and why they can have a significantly stronger effect once they do). 

Why Don’t Edibles Get Me High?

reasons edibles may not work for you

There are a lot of factors at play when making and using edibles. Some of those factors come from the edible products or the process used to make them. Others come from your body. As a result, it can be hard to pinpoint exactly why you aren’t feeling the expected effects from an edible, but there are a few common culprits.

Remember, edibles have a delayed onset time that can be anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours. The onset time could be affected by the formulation of the edibles, your metabolism, body composition, or other physiological factors. With edibles, it’s important to be patient. If you still don’t feel any effects after 2 hours, keep reading.

Next, it’s important to consider the dose of the edibles. It’s possible to not feel the effects of the edibles because the concentration of THC or CBD is too low. Some edibles are designed with very low dosage in mind, like a microdose. Or it could be that your tolerance is too high. If you’re a frequent cannabis user, especially if edibles are your go-to method, you may have built up a tolerance beyond the THC content of the edibles.

It’s also possible, especially if the edibles are homemade, that the amount of THC was miscalculated. You may have not used enough cannabis for your recipe size, or the cannabis used was too low in THC. If you were using a strain or product with a high concentration of CBD and very little or no THC, there’s a chance you won’t feel prominent effects from it. 

When you make edibles, never forget to decarb the flower first. Decarbing flower breaks down THCA, which doesn’t have any intoxicating effects, into THC, which does. If you make your own edibles without decarbing first, there will be minimal active THC in the edibles, and the finished dish may not have the effects you’re looking for. If you didn’t purchase your edibles from a legal dispensary, they may be mislabeled. Getting accurate information about the products you purchase is one reason it’s essential to purchase your cannabis from a licensed shop.

Edibles don’t last forever, either. How you store your cannabis plays a big role in how long the product – and the active cannabinoids it contains – will last. Aside from the typical food ingredients in edibles potentially spoiling over time, cannabinoids can break down too. 

If cannabinoids aren’t protected from heat and UV light, they start to break down. When THC breaks down, it can convert into CBN, a cannabinoid known more for its sleepy effects than a psychoactive high. So, if either your edibles or the flower used to make them is old and wasn’t stored properly, it’s possible that the actual amount of THC present is lower than anticipated, leaving you without the desired effects.

Another reason you may not feel the effects of an edible is if you’re already intoxicated. So, if you’ve been drinking alcohol or have already consumed cannabis the same day you decide to use edibles, it’s possible that the effects you’re already experiencing will mask the effects of the edibles. This is not a great idea because the effects of alcohol and cannabis can amplify one another, potentially leading to an unpleasant experience known as being crossfaded.

Why Don’t I Seem to Get as High from Edibles Anymore?

edibles tolerance

Your tolerance level can affect how you experience edibles. Over time, the body adapts to cannabis. As it does, more and more cannabis is required to produce the same results. There’s nothing wrong with building a tolerance; that’s the way the body naturally works. However, the higher your tolerance, the more cannabis you’ll need. That’s why some people look for ways to bring their tolerance down.

There are multiple strategies to lower your cannabis tolerance, but the simplest and most effective is to take a tolerance break. A tolerance break usually involves abstaining from cannabis altogether, but it can mean a reduction in cannabis use. Tolerance breaks can be as short as a couple of days or much longer.

If you don’t want to take a break or are a medical cannabis patient that can’t safely or comfortably abstain, there are still options. Certain strategies can help you to get the most out of cannabis or enhance the perceived effects, which may help reduce your required dosage (though you should speak with your doctor before adjusting your medical cannabis dose). 

Could It Be Your Liver?

edibles liver effect

In rare cases, it could be your liver preventing you from feeling the effects of edibles. Scientists aren’t exactly sure why, but some people have a specific liver enzyme that metabolizes cannabis differently, effectively making them immune to edibles. This rare variation only affects the body’s response to edibles since smoked cannabis isn’t metabolized in the liver. 

One study conducted on the metabolic process of THC found that there were clear differences in metabolite levels based on which liver enzymes the individual had.¹ The variations in liver enzymes are caused by genetics, and there aren’t currently any accepted ways to increase or decrease metabolic efficiency resulting from this enzyme variation. If edibles don’t work for you because of this genetic trait, it’s likely that they never will.

Edible Alternatives

edible alternatives

If edibles don’t work for you or you simply don’t enjoy the experience, there are plenty of other ways to use cannabis. Of course, there’s the obvious classic, smoking. Smoking affords its own variety of options and is fast-acting. Smoking is also easy to regulate. However, smoking does carry with it specific health risks to the throat and lungs.

Vaping is a lot like smoking. It’s also quick-acting, and there are tons of options for vaping cannabis. There are various vape liquids at different concentrations of both THC and CBD. Then, there are dry herb vaporizers that use dry cannabis flower like people would typically smoke. These devices vaporize the cannabinoids in the flower, providing a smoother, lower-temperature experience. 

While tinctures might look like they’re another edible option, that’s only partially true. While you can mix a tincture into a beverage and drink it, tinctures are traditionally meant to be dropped directly under the tongue. There, the skin is thin, and the cannabinoids can be absorbed directly into the bloodstream. Tinctures take a little longer than inhalation methods to feel the effects, but they tend to be faster-acting than traditional edibles. And unlike inhalation methods, like smoking and vaping, there’s no potential to harm the lungs. If you want a good middle ground between edibles and smoking, tinctures can offer the best of both worlds.

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When Edibles Don’t Get You High: FAQ

How long do edibles take to kick in?

How long edibles take to work will depend on the concentration of cannabinoids, the type of edibles, and a range of biological factors. Edibles can take anywhere between 30 minutes and 2 hours to take effect. Most people feel effects within the first hour or so. 

What is a safe THC limit for edibles?

There’s no set rule for how much THC to put into edibles. It will depend heavily on the individual, with factors like tolerance and metabolism playing a major role. It’s recommended that beginners start out with between 2.5mg and 10mg of THC. If you’re not experienced with cannabis, 2.5mg might be a better starting place to avoid consuming too strong a dose. Once you’re comfortable with your dose after several sessions, you can gradually increase it.

Are there foods or beverages I can take to enhance the high?

Yes. Certain foods and beverages have been linked to enhanced effects from THC. Chocolate, mango, and even coffee are thought to enhance the cannabinoid’s effects.

What is the shelf life of edibles?

The shelf life of edibles can vary wildly, typically correlating with the shelf life of a similar non-infused product. Your homemade brownies are only going to last a few days unless you freeze them. Some mass-produced gummies are designed to stay shelf-stable for over a year. If you’re buying edibles from your local dispensary, they should be labeled with an expiration date. 

THC can also deteriorate over time into the less psychoactive CBN (though this most often occurs after 12 months or longer). To maximize your edible shelf life, it’s always best to follow best storage practices with your cannabis.

How long do edibles show up in drug tests?

There are a lot of factors that can influence how long edibles will stay in your system to show up on a drug test. How often you use cannabis is a major factor: THC will clear out of infrequent users much faster than people who use cannabis daily. The concentration of THC will also play a factor as well: the more THC there is, the longer it sticks around in the body. Then, there are differences in each person’s body composition and metabolism. 

All of these factors can influence how long it takes the body to purge residual THC metabolites. That said, it’s always a good idea to stop using cannabis as long as possible before an upcoming drug screening.


¹ Gasse A, Vennemann M, Köhler H, Schürenkamp J. Toxicogenetic analysis of Δ9-THC-metabolizing enzymes. International Journal of Legal Medicine. 2020;134(6):2095-2103. doi:

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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