Pharmacokinetic profile of oral cannabis in humans: Blood and oral fluid disposition and relation to pharmacodynamic outcomes

Ryan Vandrey, Evan S. Herrmann, John M. Mitchell, George E. Bigelow, Ronald Flegel, Charles LoDico, Edward J. Cone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Most research on cannabis pharmacokinetics has evaluated inhaled cannabis, but oral ("edible") preparations comprise an increasing segment of the cannabis market. To assess oral cannabis pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics, healthy adults (N = 6 per dose) were administered cannabis brownies containing 10, 25 or 50 mg 9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Whole blood and oral fluid specimens were obtained at baseline and then for 9 days post-exposure; 6 days in a residential research setting and 3 days as outpatients. Measures of subjective, cardiovascular and performance effects were obtained at baseline and for 8 h post-ingestion. The mean Cmax for THC in whole blood was 1, 3.5 and 3.3 ng/mL for the 10, 25 and 50 mg THC doses, respectively. The mean maximum concentration (Cmax) and mean time to maximum concentration (Tmax) of 11-OH-THC in whole blood were similar to THC. Cmax blood concentrations of THCCOOH were generally higher than THC and had longer Tmax values. The mean Tmax for THC in oral fluid occurred immediately following oral dose administration, and appear to reflect local topical residue rather than systemic bioavailbility. Mean Cmax oral fluid concentrations of THCCOOH were lower than THC, erratic over time and mean Tmax occurred at longer times than THC. The window of THC detection ranged from 0 to 22 h for whole blood (limit of quantitation (LOQ) = 0.5 ng/mL) and 1.9 to 22 h for oral fluid (LOQ = 1.0 ng/mL). Subjective drug and cognitive performance effects were generally dose dependent, peaked at 1.5-3 h post-administration, and lasted 6-8 h. Whole blood cannabinoid concentrations were significantly correlated with subjective drug effects. Correlations between blood cannabinoids and cognitive performance measures, and between oral fluid and all pharmacodynamic outcomes were either non-significant or not orderly by dose. Quantitative levels of cannabinoids in whole blood and oral fluid were low compared with levels observed following inhalation of cannabis. The route of administration is important for interpretation of cannabinoid toxicology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)83-99
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of analytical toxicology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Toxicology
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis
  • Chemical Health and Safety


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