How Long Does It Take to Feel the Benefits of Cannabis?

Julia Granowicz
Julia Granowicz - Content Writer

May 16 2021 - 4 min read

If you’ve never used medical marijuana before you’re probably wondering how long it should take before you start to find relief. The effects and benefits of cannabis are often surprisingly quick to be noticed but this depends greatly on your method of consumption and the type of cannabis being consumed. Today we’re going to explore these differences between CBD, THC, and the many ways that you can choose to medicate with cannabis.

Understand the Different Effects of CBD and THC

First, before we can get into how long the effects take to be noticeable, we need to talk about what the effects of cannabis are in the first place. This will vary greatly from strain to strain, if you switch between hemp and medical marijuana products, or if you are choosing a high CBD or a high THC product and more.

But most importantly, you need to know the different effects of the two most common cannabinoids: CBD and THC.

Cannabinoid Guide - Psychoactive & Non-Psychoactive THC, THCV, CBD, CBC, CBG, CBN

The Effects of CBD

Unlike THC, it may be harder to notice any immediate effects of CBD since it is non-intoxicating. The more immediate effects often lay in pain relief, reduced inflammation and has even been shown to stop seizures. On the other hand, you may not see a noticeable difference in your levels of anxiety or depression after only a single dose. In these cases, don’t be discouraged, keep up your CBD use and you will notice a difference over the following weeks and months. Noted side effects include dry eyes and mouth, fatigue, and changes in appetite and weight.

The Effects of THC

One of the reasons that many recreational users enjoy marijuana is for the “high” associated with THC and while the euphoric release of dopamine is enjoyable for most people, it is also medicinal for many suffering from anxiety and depression.

On the other hand, some will find themselves feeling paranoid, anxious, or afraid, in which case CBD is the better alternative. THC is also known to reduce inflammation and have pain relieving effects much like CBD. Noted side-effects include dry eyes and mouth, fatigue, confusion, distorted sense of time, heightened senses (brighter colors/sounds) and slowed down motor skills.  THC is also particularly useful for treating insomnia, chronic pain and replacing opioids. Adding a little bit of THC to CBD – even non-psychoactive amounts – can improve CBD’s efficacy via the entourage effect.

Structure of delta-8 THC, delta-9 THC, cannabidiol (CBD) and cannabinol (CBN)
Howlett, Allyn & Barth, Francis & Bonner, T. & Cabral, G. & Casellas, Pierre & Devane, William & Felder, Christian & Herkenham, Miles & Mackie, Ken & Martin, B & Mechoulam, Raphael & Pertwee, Roger. (2002). International Union of Pharmacology. XXVII. ‘Classification of Cannabinoid Receptors.’ Pharmacological reviews. 54. 161-202. 10.1124/pr.54.2.161.

Slow and Steady Wins the Race with Medical Marijuana Dosage

As with most medications, there is no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to dosage for medical marijuana. The truth is that most people find what works for them through experimentation (which is always safest under the supervision of your physician or another healthcare professional).

When you’re new to using medical marijuana and you don’t know what to expect, the best advice is start low and go slow. Start with a lower dosage – one or two puffs off a joint or vape or a 5-milligram dose of edibles – then wait to see if that was enough for you.

If you’re not feeling the effects, then you can always take more but taking too much initially can cause an uncomfortable experience you won’t likely forget. But how long should you wait before taking another dose? That answer depends on the method you’re using to medicate.

dosing cannabis

Smoking and Vaping Offer Rapid Relief

People looking for the most fast-acting relief often choose to go for old-fashion smoking or the more modern cousin vaping. Either of these methods is likely to have you feeling the effects of medical marijuana within minutes of your first puffs, making it an excellent way to regulate your usage.

Topicals and Tinctures Are Fast Acting

An option for people that are looking for fast-acting relief but aren’t so open to the idea of smoking or vaping is to turn to topicals and tinctures. Topicals are great for pain and inflammation and often work within 30 minutes. Tinctures can be taken orally or used topically and can take 30 minutes to an hour to take effect in most cases.

Expect an Hour or More for Edibles to Take Effect

Compared to the relief in minutes that you can see with smoking or vaping it may seem like an hour is a long time to wait. Though cannabis edibles do take a while to take effect, you are likely to feel the effects more intensely and for a longer period using this method of medicating.  Be extra careful when it comes to dosing edibles, as the effects are considerably stronger than other ingestion methods.

Microdosing; cannabis events; cannabis edibles; marijuana edibles
Sava Salons – a picture of lots of lovely edibles.

How Long-Term Medical Cannabis Use Builds Long-Term Benefits

Not all the benefits of medical marijuana use are apparent right away – especially when you’re medicating with CBD. Some things just take time to see the impact, like reduced seizures, reduced overall pain, improved overall mood, improved sleep patterns and many similar benefits.

CBD specifically may take anywhere from a week to a month to get to a point where you are really noticing a difference in the way you feel day to day. Don’t let the lack of immediate relief discourage you. If you are using a quality product and staying consistent, you should see the results you are looking for even if it takes some time.

Another factor is building tolerance. Now, building too much tolerance to THC can prove costly, but building just enough tolerance can help patients get the benefits they’re seeking from medical cannabis whilst at the same time reducing the chances of a negative experience.

How to Get Access to Medical Marijuana Legally

If you are considering medical marijuana as an option for yourself or a family member then Leafwell can help guide you through the process of connecting with a physician and getting your card. Even if you are looking for CBD products it is always safest to seek treatment under a licensed medical professional who can help you find the right method of medicating and dosage for your unique situation.

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Written by
Julia Granowicz
Julia Granowicz

Julia Granowicz-Johnson is a freelance writer from Florida with a passion for the cannabis industry. Since 2015 she's covered legalization news and educated medical marijuana patients, caregivers and their families through her work.

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