How long is a joint good for
For a seemingly simple question, there are a lot of variables to consider when it comes to how long a joint will stay in one’s system.
It’s important to start by quantifying the amount of cannabis that constitutes a joint. As a unit of measurement, a joint has no definitive volume. This is why extravagant innovations like the tulip are just as much a joint as a pencil-thin doobie cobbled together from shake. In an effort to ensure consistency, this article will operate on the premise that a joint is equivalent to one gram of cannabis flower — though we’re well aware that pre-rolls often include only a half-gram of flower.
In addition, we need to define this unit of measurement by how much THC is in a typical gram. Again, a myriad of factors determine this number on a case-by-case basis, including a given strain’s potency and freshness. Raw cannabis flower is typically considered to contain 10 to 30 percent THC. Thus, 1000mg of cannabis (aka a gram) contains, on average, 100-300mg of THC. We’ll split the difference and call it 200mg of THC for this explainer.
Frequency of use is another important factor in this equation.
Those who regularly consume cannabis should, in general, anticipate THC remaining in their system for a longer period of time when compared with a first-time user. That’s because THC is a lipid-soluble chemical, which means it binds to fat in our body rather than being expelled directly (like alcohol). Thus, factors like increased body fat, improper hydration, or a slow metabolism may all increase the amount of time it takes for THC to work its way out of our systems.
For this article’s purposes, let’s assume someone with no THC in their system has smoked a one-gram joint. What happens next?
Gallery — The World’s Shittiest Blunts:
Smoking cannabis is the quickest method of consumption in terms of the time it takes for THC to hit our bloodstream. By inhaling pot, THC first enters our bodies via the lungs, which absorb the cannabinoid (along with any and all other cannabinoids contained within the strain in question). From there, it hits the bloodstream, where it is ultimately delivered to our brains. That’s where the real magic happens.
Once we’ve stopped feeling high, however, the THC in our systems doesn’t miraculously disappear. Instead, the half-life of THC is typically thought to be somewhere from 20 hours to 10 days, with the higher end of this range applying to heavy users. In relation to the human body, “half-life” refers to the time required for half the amount of a substance introduced to our systems to be eliminated naturally.
Using our baseline of a gram of cannabis containing 200mg of THC – and our premise that the person in question does not have any THC in their system prior to consumption – we can get even more specific. (In reality, we wouldn’t consume every single milligram of THC from a joint since much of it is lost through smoke wisping off the doob between puffs. But let’s keep things simple and just go with that 200mg value.)
For simplicity’s sake, if our first-time smoker consumes 200mg of THC, that means they’ll have roughly half the original amount of THC (100mg) left in their system a day later. Continuing this line of logic, the smoker will have a quarter of the original amount of THC (50mg) in their system 48 hours after consumption. That number is halved again at the three-day mark, and so on.
At this point, it’s time to discuss how we test for THC. There are four main types of testing currently employed to detect THC: blood tests, saliva tests, urine tests, and hair follicle tests. Each one is effective for different lengths of time. Hair follicle analysis, for example, can test positive for THC up to 90 days after consumption. Blood and saliva tests, meanwhile, are both only practical in detecting THC for up to 24 hours following usage. That said, some blood tests will detect THC up to 72 hours after consumption.
Interestingly, these tests are not actually looking for THC but for its metabolites – the metabolic byproducts that accumulate in our fat reserves, which are then released from the fat cells over a period of time.
The baseline for all these various testing methods is the threshold of THC required to produce a positive finding. Simply put, there is a minimum amount of metabolites necessary for a test to catch THC in our bodies. The standard cut-off is 50 ng/mL of THC, though some tests are able to detect THC at a level of 20 ng/mL. If we consider the testing threshold of 50 ng/mL of THC as our baseline, we can establish a general idea of how long a joint remains in our system.
Considering all of the above information, a first-time or infrequent consumer smoking a joint with one gram of cannabis in it that contains 200mg of THC should fall below the testable threshold for THC within three to eight days after last consumption. Of course, every number is best viewed as a general benchmark. As scientific practices continue to evolve, we may reach a day when a more accurate means of determining this information is available, but for now, these figures are the best we’ve got.
Here are the facts on how long a joint’s worth of THC will remain in your body.
How Long Does a Cannabis High Last?
A cannabis high can last anywhere from 2 to 10 hours, depending on a range of factors.
- how much you consume
- how much tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) it contains
- your body weight and body fat percentage
- your metabolism
- whether or not you’ve eaten
- your tolerance
Cannabis contains more than 113 chemical compounds called cannabinoids. Delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is one of those cannabinoids, and it’s the ingredient responsible for making you feel high.
Here’s a closer look at the timeline of a delta-9 THC high and tips for cutting things short.
How quickly you feel the effects mostly depends on your method of use:
- Smoking or vaping. You can begin to feel the effects of cannabis within 2 to 10 minutes. It kicks in quickly because it enters your bloodstream via your lungs within minutes of inhaling it.
- Eating. Your digestive system metabolizes pot when you eat it, which can take a while. Edibles usually kick in within 30 to 60 minutes, but can sometimes take as long as 2 hours.
- Dabbing. With this method, a highly concentrated form of marijuana is smoked through a special pipe. Dabs have a higher THC content than other forms of cannabis, so the high kicks in almost instantly.
How long the effects last can vary greatly depending on the dose and potency. The more you use and the higher the THC content, the longer the effects will stick around.
How you consume cannabis also affects when the effects peak and how long they last.
Here’s a breakdown, according to Drugs and Me, a site by the Mental Health Education Foundation:
- Smoking or vaping. The effects peak around 10 minutes after consumption and typically last 1 to 3 hours, though they can linger for up to 8 hours.
- Eating. The effects of edibles usually peak around 2 hours after consumption and can last up to 24 hours.
- Dabbing. Similar to smoking, the effects of dabbing usually last 1 to 3 hours. If using a high THC concentrate, you could feel the effects for an entire day.
Cannabis hits everyone differently, so while your high may only last for a couple of hours, you could potentially feel the comedown or aftereffects for several hours or through the next day. It’s best to go low and slow if you’re new to cannabis.
If you need to cut things short, there are a few things you can try.
Keep in mind that these tips are designed to reduce the effects, not eliminate them altogether. That means you’ll likely still experience lingering effects, including a reduced reaction time, so you’ll still want to avoid driving.
Here are a few pointers based on anecdotal evidence and some research:
- Take a nap. Sleeping can help you relax if your high has you feeling anxious or paranoid. It also gives your body time to process and eliminate the cannabis. You’ll likely wake up feeling refreshed and more alert after a few winks.
- Try some black pepper. There’s some evidence that caryophyllene, a compound in peppercorn, increases the sedative effects of THC, which could calm you. Just take a container of black pepper and have a sniff without inhaling it. Chewing on a couple of whole peppercorns also works.
- Eat some pine nuts. Some research shows that pinene, a compound in pine nuts, has a calming effect and improves clarity. Skip this method if you have a tree nut allergy, though.
- Try some CBD. Yep, it may sound counterintuitive, but CBD may counteract the effects of THC. Like THC, cannabidiol (CBD) is a cannabinoid. The difference is the receptors in your brain that they interact with. THC causes the high you get from cannabis, but CBD has a calming effect that may help dull your high.
- Have some lemon peel. Lemons, especially the peel, contain compounds that have a calming effect. In theory, ingesting some lemon peel could counteract some of the psychoactive effects of THC and help you come down. Try steeping some in hot water for a few minutes, then remove them and take some sips.
If you’re looking for a longer-lasting high, consider sticking with edibles. They take longer to kick in, but the effects will hang around longer, which can be a big help if you’re using cannabis for medical purposes.
You could also re-dose or try a higher THC strain for a longer high, but know that you’ll also have to deal with more intense effects. For a seasoned consumer, this is probably not a big deal, but a newbie may find the effects of a bigger dose to be a bit much.
There are some anecdotal methods for extending your high on the Internet, like eating mango, but there’s no evidence to back any of these.
Some websites recommend drinking alcohol with cannabis to extend your high, but it isn’t the best idea.
Drinking before using cannabis — even just one drink — can heighten the effects of THC. This combo can cause some folks to “green out” and experience some pretty unpleasant symptoms, including:
- increased impairment
This combo doesn’t work great in the other direction, either. Using cannabis before drinking can minimize the effects of alcohol, meaning you’ll feel less drunk than you are. This makes it easy to get overly intoxicated.
Plus, using cannabis and alcohol together may increase your risk of dependence on one or both substances.
Find out how long it takes for weed’s effects to kick in and how long they last. We’ve also got tips for cutting things short or extending them.