Which form of consumption is right for you? Smoking vs. Eating.

Which form of consumption is right for you? Smoking vs. Eating.

People new to the world of cannabis often wonder if edibles and smoking offer the same experience or if one is better than the other.

If you ask your stoner friends, you’re likely to get a few different answers. The truth is that neither is inherently “better,” but there are definitely some differences that may make one or the other for your specific situation.

This article takes an unbiased look at the similarities and differences between edibles and smoking or vaping to help you decide which is right for you.


Weed buds and gummies

An edible is any product that’s ingested and contains at least one type of cannabinoid — THC, CBD, or D8, for example. 

Gummies are the most popular form of edibles, but they also come in several other forms. Most companies sell hard candies, drinks, and baked goods, like brownies.

All of these are considered edibles.

Some even extend the category to include drinks, too, such as cannabinoid-infused coffees, teas, honey, and shots.


Edibles and smoking or vaping appeal to different groups of cannabinoid users.

There are many differences between these groups, but the most important ones revolve around the potency of effects at a given dose, discreteness with use, and duration of effects.

Edibles take longer to kick in, but also last longer and tend to hit harder than smoking or vaping. The main advantage of edibles is that they’re discrete and don’t carry the same level of risk as smoking does.

Vaping and smoking kick in much faster but don’t tend to last as long as edibles. They’re better for people who want instant effects but don’t mind having to top-up an hour or two later to keep the effects going.

The downside of inhaled cannabis products like joints, bongs, dabbing, or vapes is that they aren’t very discrete. Smoking releases a plume of visible smoke and a distinct odor. Vaping is a little more discrete, but the smell is still easily detected when using them indoors.

Comparing some of the important differences between edibles and smoking or vaping.

Edibles Smoking/Vaping
How They Work Cannabinoids are typically processed in the liver and then enter the bloodstream to take effect. Cannabinoids enter the bloodstream through the small capillaries surrounding the alveoli in the lungs.
Effects Perceived as more intense and usually last longer Perceived as less intense and don’t last nearly as long as edibles
Effects Timeline Effects kick in within 30 minutes to 1 hour but can take as long as 3 hours; effects typically last 4-6 hours. Effects kick in within 5 to 15 minutes; effects typically last just 1-2 hours.
Safety Edibles are relatively safe, and no major downsides have been identified Smoking is considered the most dangerous way to consume cannabinoids; vaping is considered slightly healthier, but any inhalation could be hazardous
Dosing The recommended dose of 5-10 mg for beginners; increase in very small amounts The recommended dose of 1-2 hits for beginners; increase in 1-hit increments
Re-Dosing Wait at least 1-2 hours, but waiting 24 hours is highly recommended Wait about 15 minutes
Efficiency Very high Relatively low due to loss of some cannabinoids to combustion
Side Effects Anxiousness, paranoia, red eyes, dry mouth, the munchies, dizziness Anxiousness, paranoia, dry mouth, red eyes, the munchies, dizziness
Discreteness Very discrete. Just pop a gummy or two on the go without anybody noticing Smoking is not discrete at all, but vaping can be if you’re using products that don’t produce a thick white vapor


Edibles are processed by the liver after they’ve traveled through your digestive system. When you ingest something, it gets broken down in your stomach and intestines before being absorbed into your bloodstream. This means it takes a while before you feel the effects of an edible since you have to wait for your body to digest it.

By contrast, your lungs absorb the cannabinoids directly into the bloodstream when smoking or vaping, causing noticeable effects much sooner. This process is considerably faster than waiting for your body to digest an edible. Most users say they feel the effects of smoking or vaping within minutes.


A common claim among cannabinoid users is edibles are stronger than smoking. One possible explanation is that edibles last two to three times longer than smoking or vaping, so you feel the effects for longer, giving the impression of a more potent experience.

Another explanation for why some people think edibles are stronger is that it’s more difficult to control the dose when taking edibles than smoking or vaping. Because edibles take so long for the effects to kick in, it’s easier to take more, leading people to conclude they’re stronger.

The bottom line is that the overall strength and effects of consuming the same amount of cannabinoids do not differ based on the ingestion method. Consuming an edible will have the same effects and strength as smoking the same amount of cannabinoids, although the edible’s effects will last longer.


Woman vaping with a vape pen

Many people prefer smoking and vaping because they feel the effects immediately. Most smokers and vapers say they feel the effects within minutes, and nearly everyone will notice effects after 5–10 minutes. The effects of smoking and vaping cannabinoids usually last for 1–2 hours.

Taking edibles is like consuming a slow-release pill; you won’t feel the effects as quickly, but they last much longer. Most people say they begin to feel the effects after 30–60 minutes and that they last for up to 4–6 hours.

Some people say the effects of edibles can last even longer, although it’s hard to predict because the duration depends on several factors. The user’s body weight, age, and metabolism affect how quickly they’ll start to feel the effects and how long they’ll last.


Experts say that smoking and vaping are significantly more dangerous than consuming edibles. Smoking and vaping have been linked to lung cancer and throat cancer and may cause or hasten the development of diseases like emphysema.

Edibles don’t have any known major side effects apart from the common side effects of consuming cannabis (and the ingredients in edibles, like sugar). People concerned about their long-term health almost universally prefer edibles to smoke, especially if they’re frequent cannabinoid users.


The specific dose of any cannabinoid will be the same regardless of the consumption method. However, how you get that amount into your system varies between edibles and smoking/vaping.


Dosing edibles is difficult and requires care and attention to avoid taking more than intended. Some edibles are easier to dose than others, with gummies generally the easiest and most consistent. They can vary drastically between companies, so read and re-read labels before you take anything. Most companies label edibles in milligrams, making it easy to compare products.

Making your own edibles is a good idea if you’re worried about taking too much, although it’s still entirely possible even if you make them yourself. For example, the strength variation across a batch of brownies can be substantial, even if you’re careful and mix the batter well.

It is vital that you start slowly with edibles, even if you think you’re taking a small amount. The inherent variation most edibles have combined with difficult estimating doses means many people have bad experiences with edibles because they unknowingly consume far more cannabinoids than they meant to.


Smoking and vaping doses are generally easier to get right, although, paradoxically, it’s harder to know precisely how much THC or other cannabinoids you’re consuming. Most people measure smoking doses in puffs, which is imprecise but easy to take small amounts until you’re where you want to be.


One advantage edibles have over smoking is efficiency. Cannabinoids are somewhat fragile molecules that break down when subject to intense heat. Smoking involves combustion, which breaks down cannabinoids, meaning smokers lose potency. Vaping doesn’t use combustion but still has high temperatures, making it less destructive than smoking but not as good as edibles at preserving cannabinoid content.

Edibles are the best way to consume cannabinoids if you want to get the most out of the flower. Most processes for making edibles — even baking — don’t involve high enough temperatures to destroy cannabinoids.


The side effects of edibles and smoking or vaping are the same, assuming equivalent doses. Common side effects of cannabinoid use include anxiousness, paranoia, memory impairment, red eyes, and elevated heart rate.

Contrary to popular belief, edibles aren’t more likely to cause side effects because they’re stronger. Most people who experience side effects from edibles have miscalculated their dose and unintentionally taken too much.


Smoking and vaping are similar but not the same. There are more ways to smoke than there are to vape. Bongs, pipes, bowls, and rolling papers, including joints and blunts, give users many ways to use their hemp flower. This offers smokers options, each with pros and cons.

Vaping is much less flexible. Most people who vape use a vape pen that takes cartridges of liquid distillate, a highly concentrated form of the cannabinoid. Vape carts are convenient, portable, and simple to use but somewhat expensive. A less well-known vaping option is a dry herb vape. Dry herb vapes are also small and easy to carry, but use dried leaves instead of liquid cartridges.


Vaping vs Edibles

Whether edibles or smoking is better is a matter of personal preference. 

Some users prefer the fast-acting nature of smoking and vaping to edibles’ slower, longer-lasting experience.

Assuming you take the same amount of cannabinoids, the effects and strength of your experience won’t depend on the delivery method.

Edibles are better for people concerned about smoking’s links to lung cancer. There is ample evidence that smoking increases the odds of developing lung and other cancers, making edibles the healthier choice. However, edibles aren’t the best choice for beginners, and even experienced users need to be careful to avoid accidentally overdoing it.

The bottom line is that choosing edibles and smoking comes down to how you plan on using cannabinoids and how comfortable you are with smoking. Edibles are more efficient but volatile, and smoking and vaping are convenient but possibly risky.

Whichever you choose, make sure to start with a lower dose and monitor the effects. It’s easy to take more but impossible to take less after you’ve used too much.

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