Popcorn. Brownies and cookies. Animal-shaped gummy candies. What could be wrong with enjoying a few of these treats for an afternoon or evening snack? Nothing…as long as you know whether they are “medibles” (marijuana edibles). Not knowing whether your snack is a medible or not knowing how to use medibles can spell disaster.
The active ingredient in medibles is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC, the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana). If you’ve never smoked or eaten pot but are in a position to legally try it, or if you keep such products in the house or are intending to give them as gifts, there are a few things you must know for your safety and the safety of others.
I reached out to Rachel O’Bryan, JD, attorney and founding member of Smart Colorado, a citizen-led nonprofit organization that advocates for strict regulation of marijuana products, to get her insights on what people should know about marijuana edibles before they take that first bite.
DRUGS DISGUISED AS SNACKS
Medibles generally range from baked goods and candies to beverages. Because the amount of THC can vary, it’s easy to ingest more than you intended. Even small amounts can deliver an intense high since these products are made with concentrated marijuana oil (almost pure THC) derived from today’s marijuana that is cultivated to be two to seven times stronger than it was back in the 1970s.
The strength of the marijuana edible is one problem. Another is that, because of several variables, such as body weight and composition, when and what you last ate or drank and the fat and carbohydrate mix in the product, there’s no way of knowing when you’ll feel the “hit.” It may be several hours after you’ve eaten the medible. This delay leads many people—particularly the inexperienced—to do something called “stacking.” This is when a person eats one serving of a medible, feels nothing and eats another and perhaps another until multiple servings of THC hit his or her system at once. “The result can be unpleasant at best, causing nausea, nonstop vomiting, agitation, paranoia and increased heart and pulse rate,” O’Bryan said. “At worst, stacking medibles can be disastrous, resulting in acute psychosis and hallucinations.” Children who ingest these products may experience difficulty walking, extreme sleepiness and respiratory problems that require immediate medical care.
HIDING IN PLAIN SIGHT
Both Colorado and Washington State, where recreational marijuana use is now legal, require that medible packaging list the total milligrams of THC, the serving size and the number of servings. In Colorado, the packaging also has to carry a warning that the product is for adults age 21 and older and should be kept out of reach of children. This may all be very useful for inexperienced users who actually bother to read labels and follow directions, but what happens once medible treats are removed from their packaging? It’s then impossible to tell whether that piece of cake, batch of cookies or pair of chocolate bon bons on a counter, in the fridge or even left behind in a hotel room contain THC. Instances of unintended ingestion by adults, children and pets are becoming an increasingly serious problem where medibles are available, said O’Bryan. So how to do it right, as they say?
SAFE AND SECURE
For those planning on adding medibles to their pantry or fridge, here are important safety guidelines—after all, marijuana is a drug and, like alcohol and pharmaceutical and naturopathic drugs, it needs to be stored carefully and used responsibly.
For one, it should go without saying that the medible should be stored in its wrapper or otherwise labeled as a marijuana edible unless you are absolutely, positively sure no one is going to mistakenly eat your treat.
Store medibles in a place where kids and pets can’t get to them, and if your medibles require refrigeration, consider buying a separate small refrigerator to keep them apart from regular foods. Folks keep wine in wine refrigerators and alcohol in liquor cabinets, don’t they? So why shouldn’t pot edibles be kept in a space exclusively dedicated to their safe storage?
Visitors? Party guests? If you intend to serve food laced with marijuana, don’t display them on the same table or counter as other foods. Instead, keep them separate and clearly labeled to prevent accidental ingestion. Even if you and your friends are experienced users and are convinced that marijuana is perfectly safe, know that it is not safe for everyone. So, again, err on the side of caution and provide full disclosure to guests about what’s on the menu to avoid a potentially calamitous situation.
As for vacationers to Colorado and Washington State who are thinking of bringing back a “grass” gummie bear as a souvenir from their trip out west, they should probably think again, warned O’Bryan. “The bottom line is that these products remain illegal in most states.” Transporting marijuana products out of Colorado or Washington State can put you at risk for federal or state charges. And that would definitely qualify as a “bad trip!”