Justice

You've Probably Been Fooled About Pot Edibles

May 3rd 2015

By:
Thor Benson

In the past year and a half or so, there have been several reports of people dying because of highly potent cannabis edibles. Whether it be that they jumped out a window or they shot someone, it all sounds very similar to the drug war fear mongering of past decades. Consuming too much cannabis can alter your rationality quite a bit, as many enthusiasts know, but there is usually more at play than eating too many brownies when something as serious as a death occurs.

“Marijuana has not caused these deaths,” Art Way, the state director of Colorado's Drug Policy Alliance, told ATTN:. “You could say there's a correlation between edible use and these deaths, but marijuana itself did not cause these deaths … We need to distinguish between causation and correlation.” He said there are likely other factors at play, which could include anything from a serious mental illness to other substances involved. Way said during the time there have been three or four situations where edibles were somehow related to deaths “there have probably been nearly 200 deaths involving alcohol and prescription pills.”

Way didn't deny there are certain situations when it's dangerous to consume too much marijuana, such as when you drive, but he said that comes down to personal responsibility. “With the issue of potency, it's the same issue as beer versus alcohol,” Way said. “You don't have to drink as much hard alcohol to get the desired effect, and the same goes for marijuana. You simply do not have to smoke [or eat] that much when it comes to the potent marijuana.”

He said people know how many drinks they can have and still be able to drive properly, and they do things like eating a meal with their drinks to be safe. Recreational marijuana users need to consider the same precautionary habit, and many do, so that everyone is being responsible and not risking lives. Way said edible cannabis is an important tool for medical marijuana patients, because many rely on it. “Edibles began as a harm reduction tool, so people could have the benefits of THC and CBD without smoking,” he said. “Edibles began as a safety tool.”

Ron Kammerzell agrees. He's the senior director of enforcement at Colorado's Department of Revenue, which has been in charge of implementing Colorado's marijuana sales. “Edibles are just another delivery system for medical patients, and depending on whatever their debilitating medical condition is, in some cases they respond better to ingesting THC, rather than smoking it,” he told ATTN:. “In some cases, they have a condition that doesn't allow them to smoke it or vaporize it.” He also pointed out edibles offer many physiological effects that you can't get from smoking.

People from the Colorado's state government also sound wary of saying the reported deaths are directly linked to edibles. “There have been a number of reports over the last year and a half that have indicated, to some extent, marijuana edibles were at least a factor or a fact to consider in some [deaths],” Lewis Koski, director of Colorado's Marijuana Enforcement Division, told ATTN:. That being said, the government wants to make sure everyone is being as safe as possible, so the state government did implement policy changes when the reports started coming in.

Koski said they responded by putting together a diverse group from the community, including police, doctors, citizens and regulators, and looked at how to best handle edible cannabis in Colorado. They immediately noticed it was not clear on the edible cannabis products how much someone is supposed to consume to get the desired effect. Thus, they came up with a plan to consider 10mg of THC a single serving, and any item with more than 10mg has to be sectioned into servings and easily separable. “It made it a lot more intuitive for newer consumers of marijuana to be able to determine how much they were taking,” Koski said. Beyond that, members of the cannabis industry, the government, and the community started a campaign to educate people on how to safely consume marijuana.

So marijuana edibles may have been related to deaths in Colorado, but experts in the state don't seem to think they directly caused the deaths. It's almost never that black and white. Colorado has been the most successful of any state at putting together sensible marijuana laws, while facing tremendous scrutiny, and creating smart regulations like repackaging edibles to make them more straight forward is one significant step. As they say, the states are the laboratories of democracy.

Here is the Colorado Department of Transportation's marijuana PSA: