It’s high time to try edible cannabis products that could help with everything from sleep problems to chronic pain 

By Sarah Cottrell

In 2016, Maine voters decided it was high time to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. Since then, a thriving cottage industry of edible marijuana products has bloomed. 

For many fans of edibles, the health benefits of cannabis are so great that they’ve added various forms of it, from beauty products to candies, to their regular health routines. Studies have shown that the therapeutic effects of cannabis edibles are so significant that cancer patients have experienced relief from pain and chemo-induced nausea. Edibles have also helped those living with chronic pain and multiple sclerosis find relief from symptoms. 

“Often new customers come in with questions,” said Angela Kirk, who with her husband Derek owns and operates AK Edibles Craft Cannabis in Hampden. Kirk said they enjoy educating people about their products and the variety of options available. “We like to be a knowledgeable source for those looking for anything from pain management to better sleep,” she said.

The Kirks opened their medical marijuana storefront in June 2022. They were inspired to launch their company after hearing stories from Angela’s parents, who own their own store, about the incredible benefits of medical marijuana and how this natural, organic alternative has helped so many people heal and recover from health problems. 

The Kirk family is unique in the edibles industry because they source their own products by growing the cannabis themselves, right here in Maine. The family farm has more than 300 acres, where they have the space to do everything onsite, from growing and harvesting the marijuana plants to producing a full line of products, including tinctures, gummies, candy bars, and capsule pills. 

“We grow right from the seed,” Angela said. “We then prepare the marijuana buds we’ve harvested and grind specific flower strains into kief, which is the pure and clean collection of loose cannabis trichomes.” 

By growing their own cannabis, the Kirks have become experts in developing unique strains and creating edible products to help their clients with specific ailments such as sleep problems, struggles with appetite, and pain management. 

Using a mesh screen, they collect the kief by sifting the cannabis flower. The process they use is hands-on, allowing them to ensure that they collect the highest quality parts of their harvest. 

“Kief is the most highly concentrated portion of the marijuana plant, which is what we strictly use in our edibles,” she said. From there, they create blends of tinctures, lotions, and edibles like chocolate bars, which come in a variety of craft flavors, and lots of fun candies. 

Cannabis can be eaten raw, but there would be no real effect. For example, some people swear by drinking fresh, loose-leaf cannabis tea to help with asthma symptoms, but there is no THC or CBD present in loose leaf tea. But to benefit from THC and CBD, the compounds tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) and cannabidiolic acid (CBDA) must first be heated, which is why cannabis is most often smoked or baked into foods. 

“When people think marijuana, they think of smoking,” Angela said. “And, yes, you can consume by inhaling, but our storefront serves as an alternative for individuals who do not wish to smoke.”

While smoking cannabis has always been a popular choice, it goes against the grain for those seeking to use cannabis in a more health-conscious manner. According to a 15-year study published in “Radiology,” chest CT scans of cannabis smokers showed increased rates of lung diseases, including emphysema. 

Eating cannabis may be a safer alternative to smoking, and still offer benefits like reducing symptoms for people with chronic pain and anxiety. The Anxiety & Depression Association of America reports that 40 million American adults (19.1% of the U.S. adult population) are affected by anxiety. A study from the University of Washington showed that for those with anxiety disorders, consuming cannabis had short-term positive effects on reducing anxiety, stress, and depression. 

Edibles have grown in popularity over the past decade. According to U.S. market analysts, legal cannabis, including edibles, will rake in more than $70 billion by 2027. As the recreational and medical use of marijuana becomes more accepted in the mainstream, many people are turning to edibles because they are more discreet (there is no odor from smoking), and the effects are often longer lasting than by inhaling. But the edibles market has exploded so much in recent years that it can be confusing for new customers to know where to start or how to choose a product.

In-person consultations are the best way for customers to find what they are looking for when it comes to edibles, Angela recommended. Experts can guide new customers toward the correct dosage and cannabis strain to match their health concerns.

“We are always happy to help new patients that come to our place,” Angela said. “AK Edibles is a safe space, where we encourage everyone to share their story and needs. That way, we can best help them find the right organic products that won’t leave them feeling the side effects of the inhale, which is becoming less popular in our industry every day.”

Researchers are still learning all the ways cannabis can aid in different health concerns, from physical to mental and emotional, but there are myriad anecdotal stories from those who swear by edibles to relieve their health complaints. 

It is important to note that while edible cannabis may be legal in many parts of the U.S., including Maine, it is not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and researchers are still learning how cannabis products affect your organs. Since cannabis is not regulated, it can be difficult to find a reliable source for how to dose edibles properly. This may be why cannabis experts advise people to start at a very low dose and work their way up slowly. 

AK Edibles’ website suggests that first-time cannabis users start with a low dose of 2.5 mg THC edibles for mild relief of pain and anxiety symptoms. On the other end of the dose scale, AK Edibles lists 50 mg of THC as their highest dose that would cause “seriously impaired coordination and perception.” 

Asking experts in the field can help you get started and discover the right products specific to your needs.