Vaporizing cannabis offers many benefits from avoiding exposure to the hazards of smoking and conserving herb to better flavor and no telltale ganjaroma. One of the greatest perks of vaporizing is transforming herb that’s already been vaped (ABV) into therapeutic and psychoactive edibles. Edibles can be a panacea for medical patients who can’t tolerate inhaled cannabis, for people who need to be discrete or for those who simply can’t abide lighting up.
There isn’t much benefit just from eating harvested bud, though. It has to be “cooked” first. Marijuana produces tetrahydrocannbinolic acid (THCA), an acid with the carboloxylic group attached. The cannabinoids only become active once the carboxyl group is removed through heat, in a process called decarboxylation. When cannabis is smoked, the carboxyl group is released from the molecule as carbon dioxide and water vapor. Decarbing transforms the inactive THCA into psychoactive tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
Cannabis can also be decarbed for making edibles by heating it in an oven at low temperatures, so as not to vaporize the cannabinoids. People who use vaporizers can skip this step, since the process of vaporization heats cannabis enough to decarboxylate it, but not enough to combust. Although a lot of the cannabinoids are depleted during vaporization, enough remains that the ABV can be used to make surprisingly potent edibles.
Ellery Gardiner, better known online as Old Hippie, has been writing about edibles since 2010 on his website, Beyond Chronic.
“The best thing about ABV, besides the fact that you’ve already used the herb to get high, is that since you’ve vaporized it, a lot of the THC has been taken out,” Gardiner says. “This doesn’t sound like a great thing for recreational users, but it’s great for medical patients, for people who want more of a sedation and calming effect. There’s still plenty left to get high, but because THC is usually vaporized out before the CBD, you get a higher ratio of CBD to THC.”
CBD is thought to have antiemetic, anti-convulsant, anti-psychotic, anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, anti-tumoral and anxiolytic/anti-depressant properties. Edible cannabis is metabolized by the liver, which converts the THC into 11-Hydroxy-THC (11-Hydroxy-Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol), which passes the blood/brain barrier rapidly and is released through fat cells. That’s why the effects take longer to kick in and can last for many hours, compared with a couple hours or so when smoking or vaporizing. Also, 11-Hydroxy is more powerful than inhaled THC.
With edibles, patients don’t have to keep taking doses throughout the day, says Gardiner.
“If you smoke, it’s going to be done in two hours. If you take a capsule or eat an edible, it will take care of you for four to six hours, and it will be much more consistent over that time.”
Once it’s been vaporized, the brown, crunchy herb is essentially ready to eat.
“It’s already decarboxylated, so you can literally eat the stuff and get high,” Gardiner says. “The problem is, it tastes terrible.”
To improve the flavor and aid digestion, Gardiner combines ABV with fatty foods. Edibles work best when the body is digesting the fat, says Gardiner. If eaten with a meal infused with fatty substances, it will hit somewhere between 30 and 90 minutes like clockwork, Gardiner says.
“My classic suggestion is a cheeseburger. It’s enough food and fat and it will trigger all the right stuff,” he adds.
One of the simplest ways to consume ABV is in a Firecracker: ABV sprinkled on top of Nutella, spread on graham crackers, wrapped in aluminum foil and heated in an oven.
“People love Nutella and the taste works really well with weed,” Gardiner says. “I feel it works better if you heat it up. Heat will increase the speed of most chemical reactions, so any infusion that’s going on, the heat is going to help it.”
Another simple and inconspicuous way to consume ABV is to sprinkle it on pizza. In public, people will probably think you’re just sprinkling a little dried spice on your pizza.
“If you throw it in the microwave for 15 seconds, the pizza cheese gets infused with the THC,” Gardiner says. “You can empty an oregano bottle and put ABV in there, bring it to a pizza place and do it in public. Nobody’s going to notice it in a million years,” he says. “For the fun of it, I tossed a bunch of it in chicken pot pie, so I could say I had real pot in my pot pie.”
ABV can be made even more potent, with more predictable results when it’s extracted into oils. Cannabis dissolves into fats — the more fat the better. Coconut oil is very efficient for cannabis extraction, since it contains 92 percent saturated fat. Once it’s infused with ABV, the coconut canna-oil can be used just like any other oil in recipes or you can combine it with other foods, like chocolate.
Old Hippie likes making cannacaps from coconut canna-oil. Cannacaps — gelatin capsules filled with coconut oil — are a hedge against one of the major pitfalls of edibles: taking too much.
“Capsules with coconut oil are about the most consistent way of taking it,” Gardiner says. “You make a run of capsules, fill them up the same way, and they’re all going to be the same and will work the same way every time,” he says. “You can make a lot of capsules at once. You’ll have enough stuff for weeks and months, and they’re going to keep working the same way.”
However people consume edibles, Gardiner cautions them to go slow until they learn their optimal dose. By reducing as many variables as possible and keeping the ABV at around the same roast, it will become clear how much it takes to reach the perfect dose. With simple ABV, Gardiner says to start with a quarter teaspoon. With cannacaps, start with one. Then wait up to three hours to see if it’s working.
Adds Gardiner “One of my favorite mottos is: You can always eat more, but you can never eat less.”