As more and more people choose to eat recreational marijuana rather than smoke it, there are increasing reports of individuals getting sick or experiencing severe side effects after eating too much pot too quickly. And according to a recent report from The Associated Press, there have been two deaths linked to edible marijuana in Colorado since Jan. 1, when the sale of recreational pot became legal in the state.
In response, the state has assembled a new task force of lawmakers and industry leaders who now are re-examining regulations related to edibles to see if new guidelines can be enacted to curb the problem of unintentional overconsumption.
Edible is a term used to describe marijuana that has been concentrated and infused into food or drink products. Because tetrahydroncannabinol, the primary intoxicant in marijuana, takes longer to reach the brain when the chemical is absorbed through the gastrointestinal tract rather than the lungs, it makes sense that edibles can create dose-control problems and an increase in negative side effects, especially for new or inexperienced users.
The legalization of recreational marijuana in Colorado is a national experiment, and as such, constant and consistent scrutiny of the state’s laws governing the new industry is expected and necessary. As edible marijuana products become a more popular way to indulge in recreational pot, additional rules to ensure safe and responsible consumption are needed.
Currently, the state limits the amount of THC in edible pot products to 10 mg per serving with as many as 10 servings allowed per package, which means a small piece of candy could contain a maximum of 100 mg of THC. Identifying exact potency in products remains somewhat of a puzzle because the quality and strength of marijuana varies widely, but a general industry rule of thumb equates 10 mg of THC with a medium-sized joint.
The limits on THC in edible pot products seem reasonable, but different, more detailed packaging is definitely needed. As one member of the new task force stated, “We need to make it easy for the consumer to understand what the product is that they’re taking to ensure their safety.”
Some of the ideas currently being discussed include requiring edible products to be easily broken into 10 mg pieces like a perforated chocolate bar, mandating that edibles only be sold in individually wrapped single-dose servings of 10 mg or less or incorporating a new labeling system that labels the potency of edible products like ski mountains rate their slopes — green dots for less potent products and black diamonds for products containing higher levels of THC.
All of these ideas have some merit, and like alcohol, the marijuana industry should be required to provide clearly labeled products that help consumers make educated decisions on responsible use. Now that recreational pot is legal, it’s vitally important that products are packaged with warning labels and recommended dosages for the health and safety of consumers.
We’d also like to see better testing of marijuana products to ensure correct packaging. This testing needs to be done in a certified laboratory through an independent regulatory agency like the FDA.
There also is an argument to be made for marijuana industry leaders to launch an educational campaign about the differences of smoking pot and consuming edible products. The information could be delivered in a clever ad campaign aimed at tourists or first-time users.
Ultimately, it falls back on individual responsibility. Those who choose to use recreational marijuana need to educate themselves on its effects and exercise control to protect themselves and others.