The case for increasing regulation around cannabis edibles
Acceptable limits to THC content in a single cannabis edible varies from state to state, and not all products currently in the market are labeled with dosage information.
Cannabis legalization has generally been a runaway success for the public at large.
Medical legalization has brought natural medicine out of obscurity and into the spotlight – leading to vital health research on cannabidiol (CBD) and terpenes, as well as their impressive range of medicinal and therapeutic properties. Recreational legalization has invigorated the economies of several states, swinging open doors for new industries, businesses and product manufacturers all the while proving to significantly reduce violent crime.
There is an area of the new cannabis market that draws concern from legislators, however. A recent Colorado study for the Annals of Internal Medicine examined how emergency room doctors in the Denver area observed an increasing number of visits from cannabis-related crises over the last several years — of which a disproportionate number of patients had consumed cannabis edibles.
The study found that while emergency room visits from cannabis inhalation triggered gastrointestinal issues and nausea, the crises caused by edibles were much more severe. These included cardiovascular complications, extreme intoxication and acute psychiatric symptoms, even in patients with no prior record of psychiatric illness.
What causes such serious reactions to certain cannabis edibles? In this post, we distinguish the manufacturing practices surrounding edibles as opposed to cannabis grown in dispensaries for smoking or vaping, and why a more robust regulatory framework is needed for edibles in particular.
An Entirely Different Category of Cannabis Consumption
A popular argument among advocates for nationwide legalization is that it's virtually impossible for an individual to die from a cannabis overdose. While this is true, it's important to note that there are several key distinctions between ordinary forms of cannabis (flowers, concentrates etc) and edibles. The most important of these are:
Potency: Though they come in presentable forms such as brownies, chocolate bars and gummy bears, edibles can contain up to 180g of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive component in cannabis. For perspective, the recommended average dose for an adult is 10mg according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
Rate of Absorption: One of the most common causes of severe intoxication and side effects from the consumption of edibles is their considerably slower absorption rate compared to cannabis that is smoked or vaped. Instead of being absorbed in the lungs for a quicker, less intense high, edibles slowly break down in the stomach and make their way into the bloodstream. Those less experienced with edibles wind up consuming much more than the recommended dose, due to them not feeling any effect at first.
Lack of Regulation: State legislators are only just beginning to explore regulatory options specifically for edibles. As of this writing, the consensus for acceptable limits to THC content in a single cannabis edible varies from state to state, and not all products currently in the market are labeled with dosage information.
Healthy Standardization and Regulation Will Be Good For Business
While it's disappointing that lawmakers are only scrambling to regulate after a slew of tragic headlines, the establishment of manufacturing standards will ultimately be a welcome addition to the burgeoning cannabis industry. Serious manufacturers abiding consensus-backed dosage recommendations and applying clear dosage info on product packaging will likely prove to be a win-win for cannabis companies and public safety.
Eric Van Buskirk is the Founder of ClickStream, a content strategy agency (ClickStream.cc). He oversaw nine of the largest content marketing data studies of 2016 and 2017. The articles were done for Neil Patel and (NeilPatel.com) and Brian Dean. He’s also the publisher Of DopaSolution.com, a site about mental health. Van Buskirk’s an evangelist for website WC3 (World Wide Web Consortium) accessibility standards. He received his Master of Science degree from Boston University in mass communication and undergraduate degree from Skidmore College.