There are usually two reasons someone goes online and searches for information on how long a marijuana high lasts: Either you want to stay high for as long as you can, or you’re looking to sober up from your high as quickly as possible. Unfortunately those are both questions with a wide array of variables, and trying to determine how long your high will last depends on quite a few factors. Let’s dive in.
(note: This article focuses on how long the high from cannabis lasts; if you’re looking for information on how to properly store your weed to make it last on the shelf, see our article “What’s the Best Way to Store Weed?“)
The Four Main Factors
For determining how long a cannabis high will last there are four important metrics we’ll be discussing in this article: Body Type, Dosage Amount, Dosage Form, and Tolerance. Let’s go over them one by one.
Body Type: Your Body, THC & You
The shape and internal makeup of your body are not only important to determining how long your weed high will last but can also be some of the factors most difficult (if not impossible) to change.
While your individual size, shape and body weight will absolutely effect the length of your high, it’s hard to say exactly how much without knowing your body in very precise detail. Two individuals of the exact same height, weight and gender can have very different metabolisms, cardiovascular rates, and even genetics, all of which have various degrees of influence on how long your marijuana high will last.
What ultimately determines how long you’ll be high after using cannabis is how long the THC molecules last in your bloodstream before being turned into waste products by your endocannabinoid system. The route said THC takes to get to your bloodstream is also very important, but we’ll cover that in a minute – For now, let’s focus on the metabolic system.
Metabolism Makes the Difference
Metabolism is, put simply, the process of using things we take into our body. When we eat or drink (or smoke, or dab, or…) our body takes the substances we’re ingesting and begins breaking them down into less complex, more usable forms – An eaten peanut is broken down into protein chains and carbohydrates by our digestive system, which are then carted off to cells and receptors through-out the body to provide nutrition and energy. THC and cannabis are no different.
Once marijuana enters the system it is ready to be processed by our endocannabinoid system; again, dosage form matters, but ultimately the THC molecules are destined for the blood-brain barrier, where they will bind to our own natural cannabinoid receptors, getting us high.
Because nothing lasts forever our metabolic system will eventually remove these THC molecules from the receptors they’ve bonded to and will begin processing them into THC-COOH, an inert cannabinoid that is considered a waste product. THC-COOH is usually expelled from the body via the usual channels (sweat, urine, etc.) or otherwise stored in fat cells located in the body (this is why skinny people occasionally have an easier time passing drug tests – see our article “How Long do Edibles Stay In Your System?” for more on that topic).
The speed of your metabolism determines how long active THC molecules persist in your bloodstream; thus, your metabolism determines how long your cannabis high will last. Metabolic rates vary widely from individual to individual, and can often be as influenced by our genetics as anything other variables – Slight variations in our personal genetic makeup can make metabolic systems faster in some processes and slower in others, and either being too fast or too slow can both have detrimental effects on the length of your high.
So, really, all of this is to say that while your metabolism plays a huge part in how long your high lasts, it’s also hard to accurately measure – Determining how long your weed high will last if you’re an athlete vs how long it’ll last if you’re a couch potato can be difficult to figure out. Even then, we can make some educated guesses about the average person, which we’ll talk about those toward the end of our article.
Dosage Amount: How Much Did You Take?
A simple question but an important one – How much THC you take will absolutely effect how long your high lasts, though maybe not as much as you might think.
We use this metaphor elsewhere on the site but think about your metabolic and digestive system as a highway (cliché, we know, but effective): Objects taken in are broken down into usable molecules by your digestive system and then sent down the metabolic highway to be processed. The more objects in this system, the more likely traffic will get backed up and take longer to get to their destination.
Unfortunately, just sitting still on the highway and waiting it’s turn to break through the traffic congestion doesn’t mean the molecule will stay as-is forever. Just as an idling car can still run out of gas or battery power, metabolites in the body can begin to break down things such as THC molecules before they even head off toward the brain. This means the THC you just ingested may turn to THC-COOH before it even has the chance to get you high.
This tends to apply more to marijuana edibles than smoked or vaporized cannabis, but still holds true for all forms of marijuana consumption – Eventually, if you smoke enough in one sitting, your system will be saturated to the point of being unable to process additional THC taken in. And since molecules can’t just queue up and eternally wait? The metaphorical car might just break down on the highway.
That doesn’t mean that the amount of cannabis taken has no effect – If you only smoke a single puff off the bowl or take a little tiny corner of an edible brownie you’ll definitely feel high for less time than if you scarf down an entire tray of marijuana cupcakes, and the individual THC content of the cannabis you’re smoking or edible you’re eating also has a large role to play. But there is a point where additional THC at a single time won’t extend your high, and from there you’re better off making your weed stretch over a longer amount of time than trying to consume/smoke it all at once.
Tolerance: How Much Do You Smoke?
When it comes to marijuana are you a seasoned pro? Or are you a special occasion type? Perhaps somewhat surprisingly these things have very little effect on how long your high actually lasts; they do, however, have a noticeable effect on how long you think your high is lasting.
Again with the highway metaphor, once THC is in your system it’s headed down the metabolic road; how long it lasts once there is totally up to your metabolism’s overall speed, but having a higher marijuana tolerance doesn’t make your metabolism work any faster.
Just because you may not “feel” super high doesn’t mean you aren’t high at all – Seasoned marijuana smokers will start to feel the peak effects of weed taper off and diminish more quickly than someone who rarely takes cannabis at all, but only because they’re already used to the sensations of being high. If you don’t get high very often you’ll notice the feeling of the high more acutely than someone who, for example, busts out the dab rig four times a day.
What this means is just because you don’t feel high that doesn’t mean you’re in the clear, and the usual medical warnings about things such as “operating heavy machinery” still apply.
Dosage Form: Eating, Smoking, Vaping or Tincture?
Alongside your metabolic rate your method of cannabis intake has a huge influence on all aspects of your high, from how long it lasts to how long the come up process can take.
The biggest difference depends on whether or not the THC passes through your digestive tract first. We talk about this at length in other articles on our site but the basic concept is this: When someone eats THC it changes form in the digestive tract, from Delta 9 (D9 or Δ9 THC) to 11-Hydroxy (11-OH) THC.
11-OH-THC has a different molecular structure, and has a much easier time passing through the blood-brain barrier than the related Delta 9 THC. This makes more of the 11-OH-THC available to our bodies than a similar amount of D9 THC. However the process of turning D9 THC into 11-OH-THC takes time, giving edibles their notoriously long onset period.
THC that passes directly into the bloodstream, rather than going through the digestive tract first, reaches the brain much quicker, making it’s effects noticeable almost instantly. Smoking and vaporizing marijuana are both fairly immediate; vaping has a slightly faster come up period but typically only by a few seconds worth of time.
Tinctures, a cannabis concentrate of THC (typically suspended in alcohol), can go both ways – Marijuana tinctures held under the tongue or along the gums will have some of their THC absorbed directly into the bloodstream (thanks to the numerous surface-level veins in those areas of the mouth), while tinctures that are swallowed quickly will mostly be processed by the digestive system.
Onset time for absorbing THC into the bloodstream with a tincture is a bit longer than smoking (upwards of two minutes for some individuals), while ingestion is about the same as for any other given cannabis edible – Anywhere from 45m to several hours.
So… How Long Does a Cannabis High Last?
In case it hasn’t been clear from all the above, we’ve been avoiding directly answering this question because… well, it depends. On a lot of things. It’s near impossible to say precisely how long your high will last because every factor we’ve listed out above has at least some impact on your experience.
What we can do is make some rough generalizations, and while these will not hold true for every person in every situation, you can use them as a pretty good guideline for what to expect.
- If eating a cannabis edible, expect your onset period to be anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 hours, and expect to be high for anywhere from 4 hours up to 8 (also, see our article “How Long do Cannabis Edibles Last?” for a more in-depth discussion).
- If smoking or vaporizing weed, expect your onset period to be in the matter of seconds, and expect the bulk of your high to last from 1 to 2 hours.
- If using marijuana tinctures, expect an onset period of up to 2 minutes, and expect your high to last 4 to 8 hours.
Again, this is all highly subjective to the individual and your experiences may vary, but we think these are fairly reliable estimates for most people. Happy smoking!