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Friday November 26, 2021

By Erin Hiatt

Reviewed By Mohammad Ashori, M.D.

someone blowing out smoke while consuming cannabis Health/Science

While the cannabis industry has grown very adept at creating high potency weed strains and innovative consumption methods like dabbing to incite intense highs, consumers still seek hacks to enhance their cannabis consumption experience. One such hack - also popular in the world of alcohol consumption -  is consuming cannabis on an empty stomach to make the effects more potent.. 

But will that make you higher? Let’s take a look.

Studies on Edible Absorption

What does the science say about the high experience in relation to consuming on an empty stomach? Short answer: Not much. Ongoing federal cannabis prohibition means that reputable research into this theory is basically nonexistent, leaving us to rely on anecdotal reports and user experiences. What we do know dates back to 1999 when studies from McCallum RW and the Professor of Pot looked into how the THC cannabinoid interacts with a person’s digestive system.

In the Professor of Pot study, they found that THC can slow down an individual’s digestive capabilities by 50 percent, whereas the McCallum study showed that THC is indeed ingested faster on an empty stomach, but that the number of cannabinoids absorbed was higher among consumers who used on a full tummy.

What this boils down to is that, yes - using cannabis on an empty stomach changes the amount of time it takes to process cannabinoids like THC and CBD, but gives no indication as to whether or not it will get you higher.

Anecdotal Evidence

One thing we know for sure is that how you feel on pot is an experience distinct to the individual. Your comforting high-potency dab might be my worst nightmare, and vice versa for edibles. So we have to look at what consumers are saying among themselves to try to get to the bottom of whether consuming on an empty stomach will get you higher. 

Someone holding their stomach
Many people experience a stomach ache when consuming on an empty stomach. photo credit

A couple of common themes emerge. A lot of people don’t enjoy smoking on an empty stomach because it makes them feel nauseous or gives them a hard and fast case of the munchies. Others on Quora said that consuming on an empty stomach made their hearts race, another said it made them feel anxious, and another said they passed out after taking some bong hits following a three-day fast (don’t do that). Others said an empty stomach made no difference whatsoever.

Does What I Eat Make a Difference?

If you have an empty stomach and you decide to chow down on an edible, that may produce a more intense high with a quicker onset. This idea is attributed to a recommendation that the oral THC capsule dronabinol be taken on an empty stomach. However, there is also research that shows increasing the consumption of foods high in fat can increase the absorption of CBD - known to moderate the high delivered by THC.

Holding these two studies side-by-side, it begs the question: does the type of fat in your stomach play a role in how high you’ll get? We know that cannabinoids are lipophilic, meaning they combine with or dissolve in lipids or fats, and the bioavailability of THC delivered in an edible can differ, depending on the fat in which the THC is carried (think coconut oil vs. an alcohol-based tincture).

In other words, if you have a belly full of fats, you’re giving those cannabinoids something to grab onto. 

Fat molecules are absorbed through certain fat channels in the gut lining and with it any other lipophilic molecules, such as cannabinoids.

Smoking weed on an empty stomach probably won’t make you any higher because you are inhaling cannabinoids into your lungs and bypassing the stomach entirely. Depending on the fats in your stomach, you may get higher in a technical sense, but you’re unlikely to notice a difference. However, if your blood sugar is rather low due to major hunger and you consume cannabis on an empty stomach it’s likely that you’ll send those sugars crashing even lower. This will result in a rather unpleasant high.

What Kind of High Are You Looking For?

Before consuming pot on an empty stomach, you may want to take into account your consumption methods, tolerance, and experience as a consumer. If you are a connoisseur and have a good sense of how your body responds to pot, you may have fewer of the negative experiences some consumers have experienced. 

Someone eating an edible
When consuming edibles on an empty stomach, one can expect a quicker onset.

If you are new to the weed world, you are more likely to have a quality experience with a bit of food in your belly.


As it stands now, there is too little research to know if consuming cannabis on an empty stomach will make you higher, and what we do have is mixed, leaving us to rely on anecdotes from other consumers who have described a range of experiences. There’s a good chance that a connection exists between stomach contents and what your high is like, but details are scarce beyond that.


Erin Hiatt Erin Hiatt

Erin Hiatt is a New York City-based writer who has been covering the cannabis industry for more than six years. Her work - which has appeared in Hemp Connoisseur Magazine, PotGuide, Civilized, Vice, Freedom Leaf, MERRY JANE, Alternet, and CannaInvestor - covers a broad range of topics, including cannabis policy and law, CBD, hemp law and applications, science and technology, beauty, and psychedelics.

Erin's work and industry insights have been featured on the podcasts The Let's Go Eat Show, In the Know 420, and she has appeared as a featured panelist on the topic of hemp media. Erin has interviewed top industry experts such as Dr. Carl Hart, Ethan Nadelmann, Amanda Feilding, Mark A.R. Kleiman, Dr. James Fadiman, and culture icons Governor Jesse Ventura, and author Tom Robbins. You can follow her work on LinkedInWordpress, @erinhiatt on Twitter, and @erinisred on Instagram.

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Expert Medical Reviewer

Mohammad Ashori, M.D. Mohammad Ashori, M.D.

Mohammad Ashori, M.D. is a board-certified physician practicing in Los Angeles, CA. He attended UCLA medical school and completed his family medicine residency at UCLA as well. His career started out at a large HMO at Kaiser Permanente which he left in 2016 to work on the then-burgeoning field of telehealth. Since then he has worked with numerous healthcare startups focusing on patient education, empowerment, and access. He is passionate about the science of clinical medicine but doesn't like to stray too far from one-on-one clinical care. As of 2021, he is practicing in various urgent care in the Los Angeles area.

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