Smoking vs. Edibles: What’s the Difference? 

smoking vs edibles marijuana flower bud and gummy edibles

Most people think the difference between smoking weed and consuming cannabis edibles comes down to personal preference. However, that’s only part of the story. There are distinct differences in the way marijuana interacts with the body when you inhale it versus when you eat it. Depending on the effect you are going for, there are advantages and disadvantages of smoking vs. edibles when choosing one form of cannabis consumption over the other.

Evolution of Smoking and the History of Edibles

Most people consider smoking or inhaling marijuana as the traditional way to consume the potent flowers of the cannabis plant. However, cannabis-laced edibles were popular in the United States as far back as the 1800s when people would add cannabis tinctures to candies and sell them as medicinal aids.

Edibles are foods, confections, or beverages infused with cannabis. As states across the nation moved to legalize adult-use cannabis, the cannabis industry began looking for new and innovative products to offer their new client base. Although many people were familiar with the long-standing tradition of smoking joints to get high, those new to cannabis consumption were looking for ways to consume cannabis that didn’t include smoking or the potent “skunky” smell associated with joints.

Edibles meet both goals: no smoke and no smell. Further, by expanding the range of profitable products to sell to consumers, they entice a new and curious customer base to the cannabis industry.


Smoking marijuana is what most people consider the “traditional” method for consuming weed. Smoking marijuana can be as simple as crumbling flower between your fingers and dumping it into specific paper to roll a joint. It can also be as complicated as selecting the perfect strain, grinding it in a specialized grinder, and gently placing it in a decorative glass bong for consumption.

As marijuana gained more widespread acceptance and legalization spread across the U.S., marijuana products expanded, and technology evolved, giving people more consumption options. Instead of the classic joint, people can now choose to get their weed fix via an electronic vaping device. A cannabis vape device heats a cartridge containing marijuana concentrate, creating a vapor you can inhale.

Traditional weed smoking tends to give you the potent smell and flavor of the actual cannabis flower. Vaping offers people the option of inhaling weed in a variety of smooth flavors with little odor.


The only limit to cannabis edibles is your imagination. There is a vast range of edible products on the market, including:

• Candy
• Chocolates
• Beverages
• Cookies
• Brownies
• Pastries

You can also find cannabis in savory edibles and sauces. While edibles come in several varieties and doses, they are more labor-intensive. You cannot add flower to your favorite cookie recipe and get a delicious and effective weed edible. To get the therapeutic effects of marijuana, the first step in the edible creation process is decarboxylation. Smokers know you don’t get high by touching marijuana. You need to heat it and inhale the smoke or vapor. Heat is the key ingredient. The same is true for edibles. You must heat the flower to activate its THC and CBD chemical compounds.

The process isn’t over yet. The decarbed flower needs to be infused into a base ingredient. Cannabinoids like THC and CBD are lipophilic, which means they need fats to dissolve and interact with the human body. When you smoke marijuana, the active compounds move directly from the lungs to the bloodstream and then the brain. When you eat marijuana, your digestive system does all the work. It can’t digest cannabis compounds and make them bioavailable without fat. Flower must be infused into substances like oil, butter, or milk to create an edible that the body can use. Once you have a base infusion, you can add it to a recipe and make delicious edible treats.

Differences in Potency and Effects

marijuana flower bud in a jar and flower edibles

When you heat flower and smoke it, either through traditional means or using a vape pen, you get an almost instant high effect. Inhaling marijuana sends the chemical compounds to your lungs and then straight into the bloodstream. The compounds quickly reach the brain, binding with specific receptors and triggering a euphoric high. It typically only takes two to ten minutes to feel the effects of marijuana when you smoke it. These effects can last anywhere from one to three hours, depending on the dose and potency of the marijuana strain.

When you eat an edible, the marijuana must move through your digestive system before getting into the bloodstream. Digestion is a much longer process, meaning it can take anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes to feel the full effects of the weed. Depending on whether you’ve eaten a big meal recently and the dose and potency of the edible, it can take up to two hours in some cases to feel the therapeutic effects. Although it takes longer to feel the full effects of cannabis when consuming edibles, the effects last longer, up to 24 hours in some cases. Why? Because the liver metabolizes THC, transforming it into 11-hydroxy-THC. This form of THC is much more potent and longer-lasting.

Pros and Cons

As with any product, there are pros and cons to smoking vs. eating cannabis edibles. Consuming an edible is more socially acceptable and may be a better option when you want to relax with friends in mixed company, such as those uncomfortable with traditional marijuana use. Edibles are also an excellent option for those with medical conditions like asthma or concerns about inhaling substances into their lungs.

Consuming edibles also gives you more intense and long-lasting marijuana effects. However, consuming an edible may be the wrong choice when performing a job or activity that needs your full attention and clear-headedness shortly after consumption. They can also be dangerous because they look like regular candy, so you must be mindful of keeping them out of reach of children. If you are inexperienced in taking edibles, dosing can be tricky.

Smoking and vaping are terrific choices when you want a quick buzz that won’t impair you all day long. There is also a fun, social aspect to consuming a joint or bong with close friends.

Where to Get Cannabis in D.C.

Need more help understanding the difference when it comes to smoking cannabis vs. consuming cannabis edibles? Do you want to explore smoking and edible cannabis products? The knowledgeable team at Fast Slice can help. We are D.C.’s premier weed delivery and curbside pick-up service.

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