Fast-Acting THC: The Technology Improving the Future of EdiblesEdibles have always been notoriously slow acting, creating a barrier to market growth potential. But nanotechnology is changing all that with fast-acting THC.
While smoke inhalation remains the most popular method of cannabis consumption, the edibles cannabis market grew by more than 20% in 2020.
The year 2017 saw the emergence of rapid THC delivery products, and the debut of fast-acting products, like gummies and chocolates, have made brands, which are incorporating the technology, stand out amidst competition from similar products. This technology is reshaping the industry by reengineering metabolic pathways and meeting consumer demands for faster and stronger products.
TRADITION MEETS TECHNOLOGY CROSSROADS
Ingested cannabis, especially THC-rich marijuana products, traditionally takes a long time to produce psychotropic effects. According to an NIH study, the effects of orally consumed cannabis take between 30-90 minutes to set in, reaching their peak at between 2-3 hours, whereas the effects of inhaled cannabis sets in within a few seconds to minutes and reach the maximum effect at around 15-30 minutes. This experiential difference occurs because of the way that cannabinoids travel through the body and enter the bloodstream. Inhalation allows THC to enter the lungs through smoke or vapor, which travels directly into the bloodstream and brain, whereas edible cannabis must first enter the stomach, and then pass through the liver, where the THC is converted into an even more potent compound and is released into the rest of the body. But, frankly, no one wants to set aside several hours to enjoy a cannabis product without guaranteeing a pleasant and reproducible experience.
While the length of time that users are required to wait for a stronger ‘body high’ has resulted in lower oral rates, the interest in access to ingestion-specific effects has created an opportunity for innovation in how THC is delivered into the bloodstream.
The molecular weight of a THC molecule is 314.45 g/mol. Fast-acting edibles are made using a production process called nano-emulsification, which entails the breaking down of THC molecules into microscopic particles for easier absorption in the body during digestion. The particles then interact with each individual's endocannabinoid system, prompting higher absorption and bioavailability than unaltered THC particles, resulting in a compound that can start affecting the mind and body within just a few minutes.
This technology is just the first step to offering a more reliable experience for consumers. But individual cannabis companies are taking their own spin on the technology, creating proprietary manufacturing processes to improve their products, meet additional consumer demands, and give themselves a competitive edge over other brands and companies adopting the process.
INFINITE POSSIBILITIES EVERYWHERE
Nano-emulsification technology takes the guesswork out of the edibles market and eases consumer aversion to a long and possibly negative user experience. Now that manufacturers have a method to standardize the time it takes for consumers to experience the effects of THC, they can also more carefully control potency and integrate micro-particle cannabinoids into various edible products.
Here are a few examples of the kinds of products that this technology is already impacting.
Canopy Growth’s Wana brand and Azuca use technology that they call Thermodynamic Individual Molecular Encapsulation (TiME), which takes the nano-emulsified THC and encapsulates it in a thin water-soluble layer to bypass the liver during consumption so that the THC skips the metabolization of the Delta-9 to 11-Hydroxy-THC. The result is a fast-acting gummy that produces the same effect as smoking marijuana flower within 5-15 minutes.
Seltzer beverage brand, Hi5, prides itself on providing a quick and reliable experience with “euphoric and therapeutic effects” that takes the danger out of overconsuming due to delayed onset times, which is often experienced with other THC-infused brands. The brand’s release of its caffeine-infused Hi-5 Energy line earlier this summer, paired with simple fruit flavor offerings, echoes the company’s message of ‘giving consumers more control over their user experience’ in both low-calorie drinks and THC.
Chocolates & The Sharable Experience
Edibles company 1906, first launched with cannabis-infused, artisanal chocolates called ‘Go’ and ‘Pause.’ The brand’s proprietary ‘lipid microencapsulation’ process allows THC to reach the small intestine and release a higher concentration of the cannabinoid into the bloodstream by bypassing the stomach. With mood-forward product names and a clever marketing strategy, 1906 is creating space and a direct-to-market knowledgebase about fast-acting THC. The edibles company stays focused on dispensary employees, flower tenders, and small private party culture, promoting an inclusive and easy-to-share environment for small, single-dose edibles like fin-sized chocolates and mint-like tablets in the form of teardrops.
Applying nano-emulsification and complementary technologies in foods and beverages is increasing the industry's ability to hack cannabis’ metabolic interactions with the endocannabinoid system. And its implications aren’t just limited to THC. For other edible cannabis brands looking to break into the market, integrating rapid-delivery technology goes beyond slapping the buzzword ‘fast-acting’ on packages. Making edible cannabis more ubiquitous means cutting out the time and research consumers don’t want to deal with, and that means standardizing products through innovations that enhance user experience.