For generations in every corner of the Earth, countless elixirs have come as syrups that go down easy and provide relief from what ails you, a powerful high, and oftentimes both. The same principle applies to THC syrup, a unique and potent way of ingesting cannabis.
But what is THC syrup? First, let’s look at what it isn’t.
THC syrup is not ‘lean’
Lean, Barre, Purple Drank, Sizzurp, Texas Tea, call it what you want. For the past 20 years, Codeine and promethazine cough syrup has been popular across the United States — and before that in the South — and possibly the most mentioned drug in Hip Hop.
With its roots in the blues clubs of Houston in the 1960s, drinking lean (often mixed in a styrofoam cup with Sprite and Jolly Ranchers) creates a powerfully intoxicating, euphoric effect that can slow down the whole world and have you sitting sideways, with your speech slurred and your body leaned over, hence the name. It has featured in the sound of countless hip hop artists, and has been linked to the untimely deaths of some of those same musicians.
THC syrup doesn’t cause the same level of intoxication — or danger — as lean. It does not contain any opiates whatsoever. That doesn’t mean you don’t need to be careful. Like any edible, you’ll want to start slow, with a small dose the first time. It also is not related to THC lean, which is just codeine and promethazine syrup infused with THC.
THC syrup may also be confused with cannabis simple syrup, which is made by infusing simple syrup with weed. THC simple syrup is a great way to sweeten — and add THC to — cold drinks like iced coffee, or to add a little kick to a cocktail. Cannabis simple syrup is easy to make and very effective, but we’ll save that for another article.
So, what exactly is THC syrup?
This liquid marijuana is made by infusing vegetable glycerine with cannabis concentrate or oil and adding sugar or other sweeteners. There are countless recipes for THC syrup online, and many of them vow to create a syrup that mimics the viscosity and sugary sweetness of cough syrups — just without that medicine flavor.
You can also purchase it at dispensaries in legal cannabis states, though it can be expensive and hard to find.
What can you use THC syrup for?
You may be wondering, if you already have some premium flour, THC gummies, and a pipe or some papers within arms reach, why bother with THC syrup?
THC syrup is popular with users because it has the same effects as marijuana edibles, but with an onset time that users say can be far quicker. While a hash brownie or a THC gummy can take well over an hour to kick in, the internet is abound with people swearing they can feel the effects of THC syrup in around a half hour, possibly even sooner, although there is no scientific evidence of rapid onset.
Like any edible or tincture, THC syrup can be an alternative to smoking or simply more discrete.
These cannabis syrups don’t contain THC, but they could still be worth a try:
I Am Joy: CB2 Activating Terpene Syrup
- USA farm-grown certified USDA organic hemp oil
- Independent lab certified
- May help ease pain, stress, anxiety, depression, inflammation
Nature’s Script CBD Syrup Fruit Punch
- Delivers the benefits of CBD in liquid form
- 100mg premium hemp extract
- Additional high-quality botanicals to encourage wellness
Hemp Bombs CBD Syrup Fruit Punch
- Formulated for maximum relaxation
- 300 mg of CBD per bottle
- Can be mixed with a beverage or taken on its own
Why did it become so popular?
There are a number of reasons for the popularity of THC syrup. Namely, it can produce the full-body intoxicating high of edibles.
The cannabis syrup industry may also be piggybacking on the popularity of lean in Hip Hop and pop culture.
At least one manufacturer puts “lean” directly in the title of their product.
Another company, Cannavis, relies on Hip Hop imagery in its marketing strategy. Its main homepage prominently features a photograph of a young Black man in a red NY Yankees fitted pouring tropical punch flavored THC syrup into a soft drink bottle, almost as if he was mixing up some purple Sprite. Cannavis also states on its about page that THC syrup is “typically mixed with a beverage.” (The company did not reply to an email inquiring about its marketing approach.)
Companies marketing weed syrup — especially those calling it “lean” — appear to be targeting people interested in the look and vibe of lean without the risks or high price.
How THC syrup is different than smoking
Edibles in general are popular because they produce a high that is different than smoking or vaping. When smoking cannabis, the THC enters the bloodstream almost immediately. That produces a very rapid onset. With edibles, the THC travels through the digestive tract to the liver, which metabolizes it into 11-hydroxy-THC. This is not the only reason why edibles take longer to kick in, but it’s why they produce a different high than smoking.
Studies have shown that 11-hydroxy-THC is stronger than THC. Anyone who has taken edibles, especially a larger dose, can tell you that the experience lasts longer and can be more intense. It often produces both a strong body high and a powerful cerebral effect.
If mixed into a soft drink, THC syrup can create a cannabis beverage of sorts, although THC syrups can vary in terms of consistency.
Cannabis beverages can also have a long onset time like standard edibles — well over an hour. This is improving as the industry invests more time and effort (read: money and research) into producing rapid onset beverages.
Is it safe?
First things first. THC syrup is not dangerous in the same way that lean is. However, like with lean, it’s relatively easy to take too much if you’ve poured the bottle into a soft drink. Like any cannabis products, unwanted side effects can occur with too high a dose.
Another potential problem is if you’ve mixed your liquid cannabis with alcohol, such as a hard liquor. This can create a highly intoxicating, slowed down effect that could actually resemble some of the sensation of lean. Mixing THC syrup with liquor can make one feel queasy or produce a high that is too strong.
According to Tal Lupo, a product developer in the Israeli cannabis industry, some forms of THC syrups may seem new. Actually, he explains, they “resemble century old cannabis tinctures that were given at pharmacies.”
New technologies might also be changing the way that cannabis syrups and beverages effect us. Micro and nano-emulsification processes may create a “novel cannabinoid pharmacology profile that leads to a different user sensorial experience. More pharmacological research is needed so we can learn about cannabis beverages’ metabolism and predict the onset, strength, and length of the effect,” Lupo said.
Mixing THC syrup with alcohol “can really produce severe adverse effects,” Luo added, referencing a study from 2013 which asserted that “simultaneous alcohol and marijuana use raises significant concern due to the potential for additive or interactive psychopharmacological effects.”
The bottom line with weed syrup? Don’t mix it with alcohol and start with a low dose until you figure out what’s right for you.
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