Are Cannabis Edibles Safe?

Are Cannabis Edibles Safe?
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What you have to know about the safety of marijuana edibles.

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

Smoking marijuana “can create respiratory problems.” And so, vaporized cannabis is one alternative, as I’ve talked about before. But what about eating it?

“Vaping is likely less harmful than smoking,” and marijuana edibles are another alternative, but may carry increased risks to children and increased risk of overdosing. I’d add a third risk to that, and that’s pets. “Since the legalization of recreational marijuana in Colorado…, edibles comprise almost half of total cannabis sales,” and a “significant correlation” was found between the rise in use and the rise in marijuana toxicosis cases at veterinary hospitals, contributing, they think, to two dog deaths in the state.

Thankfully, “[t]here have been no reported deaths [among] children from marijuana exposure,” though some have ended up on life support—as an edible marijuana overdose can “lead to severe respiratory depression.” Colorado regional poison control cases did increase significantly after recreational pot became legal, and at a higher rate than the rest of the United States, which is one reason the American Academy of Pediatrics continues to oppose legalization.

In the very least, they shouldn’t be packaged like this. Some states have since banned selling marijuana-infused candy with that kind of imagery, but to play it safe, maybe we shouldn’t be making cannabis candy at all.

“To put this in perspective,” though, “the Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center” reported thousands of kids in Colorado “required treatment after accidentally ingesting [things like] cosmetics [and] vitamins,” compared to the relatively few cases involving marijuana edibles. And you want to talk about poisoning deaths? How about alcohol? Whereas deaths attributed to marijuana are few and far between, though, there have been a few.

The problem is that you may not feel an effect from edibles for an hour or two after consumption, and so, you don’t know how much to take, and may then over-consume after an hour since you haven’t felt anything yet. But it takes like three hours for cannabis compounds to peak in your bloodstream, compared to just like 10 minutes when you smoke it, and at least that first full hour to really feel much.

That’s what happened right after legalization in Colorado—a 19-year-old died after consuming a marijuana cookie. He had one piece, twiddled his thumbs for 30 to 60 minutes, didn’t feel anything, so ate the rest of the cookie. Two-and-a-half hours later, he jumped to his death off a fourth-floor balcony. A month later, a second guy apparently went psychotic and fatally shot his wife while she was calling 911 for help.

A common story for these kinds of cases was eating the recommended serving size, feeling nothing, and so, then deciding to eat the rest, ending up restrained in the psych ward complaining that they’re god or mutilating themselves because “friends wanted their energy back.”

The marijuana industry responded by basically blaming the victims, saying look, “No one buys a bottle of Jim Beam and thinks they should consume it all in one sitting.” Yeah, but people do expect to be able to eat a whole cookie. I mean, who eats just one-tenth of a cookie?

I mean, you look at other over-the-counter products, and there’s specific labeling as to dosing and warnings. “It seems odd…that edible cannabis…is not held to the same standard as a bottle of [Tylenol].” In 2016, Colorado Regulators did enact new rules for labeling edibles, including their THC content, right on the label. How accurate are those labels, though? We didn’t know, until…they were put to the test. “Of 75 products purchased, [involving] 47 different brands [of edibles], [only] 17% were accurately labeled.” Only about one in six came within 10% of the labeled value. “The greatest likelihood of obtaining [more-than-you-bargained-for] products was in Los Angeles,” whereas Seattle seemed to tend to over-inflate their labels.

It’s hard to study marijuana of any kind, due to illegality, but based on a hundred thousand tweets about edibles, most people, it seems expressed a “positive opinion,” for what it’s worth.

One unexpected benefit arose in a focus group of teens on marijuana edibles. Several students in high school, it seemed, were eager “to learn how to cook.”

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image credit: Dustin Kirkpatrick. Image has been modified.

Motion graphics by Avocado Video

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

Smoking marijuana “can create respiratory problems.” And so, vaporized cannabis is one alternative, as I’ve talked about before. But what about eating it?

“Vaping is likely less harmful than smoking,” and marijuana edibles are another alternative, but may carry increased risks to children and increased risk of overdosing. I’d add a third risk to that, and that’s pets. “Since the legalization of recreational marijuana in Colorado…, edibles comprise almost half of total cannabis sales,” and a “significant correlation” was found between the rise in use and the rise in marijuana toxicosis cases at veterinary hospitals, contributing, they think, to two dog deaths in the state.

Thankfully, “[t]here have been no reported deaths [among] children from marijuana exposure,” though some have ended up on life support—as an edible marijuana overdose can “lead to severe respiratory depression.” Colorado regional poison control cases did increase significantly after recreational pot became legal, and at a higher rate than the rest of the United States, which is one reason the American Academy of Pediatrics continues to oppose legalization.

In the very least, they shouldn’t be packaged like this. Some states have since banned selling marijuana-infused candy with that kind of imagery, but to play it safe, maybe we shouldn’t be making cannabis candy at all.

“To put this in perspective,” though, “the Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center” reported thousands of kids in Colorado “required treatment after accidentally ingesting [things like] cosmetics [and] vitamins,” compared to the relatively few cases involving marijuana edibles. And you want to talk about poisoning deaths? How about alcohol? Whereas deaths attributed to marijuana are few and far between, though, there have been a few.

The problem is that you may not feel an effect from edibles for an hour or two after consumption, and so, you don’t know how much to take, and may then over-consume after an hour since you haven’t felt anything yet. But it takes like three hours for cannabis compounds to peak in your bloodstream, compared to just like 10 minutes when you smoke it, and at least that first full hour to really feel much.

That’s what happened right after legalization in Colorado—a 19-year-old died after consuming a marijuana cookie. He had one piece, twiddled his thumbs for 30 to 60 minutes, didn’t feel anything, so ate the rest of the cookie. Two-and-a-half hours later, he jumped to his death off a fourth-floor balcony. A month later, a second guy apparently went psychotic and fatally shot his wife while she was calling 911 for help.

A common story for these kinds of cases was eating the recommended serving size, feeling nothing, and so, then deciding to eat the rest, ending up restrained in the psych ward complaining that they’re god or mutilating themselves because “friends wanted their energy back.”

The marijuana industry responded by basically blaming the victims, saying look, “No one buys a bottle of Jim Beam and thinks they should consume it all in one sitting.” Yeah, but people do expect to be able to eat a whole cookie. I mean, who eats just one-tenth of a cookie?

I mean, you look at other over-the-counter products, and there’s specific labeling as to dosing and warnings. “It seems odd…that edible cannabis…is not held to the same standard as a bottle of [Tylenol].” In 2016, Colorado Regulators did enact new rules for labeling edibles, including their THC content, right on the label. How accurate are those labels, though? We didn’t know, until…they were put to the test. “Of 75 products purchased, [involving] 47 different brands [of edibles], [only] 17% were accurately labeled.” Only about one in six came within 10% of the labeled value. “The greatest likelihood of obtaining [more-than-you-bargained-for] products was in Los Angeles,” whereas Seattle seemed to tend to over-inflate their labels.

It’s hard to study marijuana of any kind, due to illegality, but based on a hundred thousand tweets about edibles, most people, it seems expressed a “positive opinion,” for what it’s worth.

One unexpected benefit arose in a focus group of teens on marijuana edibles. Several students in high school, it seemed, were eager “to learn how to cook.”

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image credit: Dustin Kirkpatrick. Image has been modified.

Motion graphics by Avocado Video

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