This Halloween, many adults will skip the rolls of Smarties and the fun-sized Snickers in favor of candies that deliver more than just a sugar rush. Cannabis edibles are growing more and more popular among medical and recreational users in states where they’re legal—last year Colorado sold 4.8 million edible products. Unlike inhaled cannabis, which can hurt the lungs and has a strong flavor, edibles often taste just like regular treats. This is great news for your taste buds, but it has a downside: overdoing it on cannabis edibles is very easy.
In fact, the potential perils of not ingesting a safe amount of an edible was recently at the front and center of last week’s episode on the hit Showtime drama The Affair. But
the Hollywood account was not far off. According to a report by the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, the rate of marijuana-related hospitalizations jumped significantly after recreational sales began in Colorado in 2014, from 1,779 per 100,000 in 2013 to 2,277 in just the first six months of 2014 (stats for the whole year are not yet available). The Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center reported 95 instances of poisoning from THC-infused edibles in 2014, up from 19 in 2013.
That doesn’t mean that edibles are dangerous, just that you have to consume them carefully. To stay safe this Halloween, follow our 5 rules for enjoying edibles:
1) Go beyond brownies
Before medicinal and recreational cannabis legalization, the only edibles available to most people were brownies that someone had made by slow-cooking flowers in butter and straining the mix into the batter. These brownies tasted awful, and judging dosage was impossible.
But edibles have come a long way in the past few years. Sure, you can get a brownie, but you can also find all kinds of candies and gourmet snacks. A quick look at the menus of local dispensaries turned up gummy bears, hard candies, lollipops, chocolate bars, and even cotton candy. Auntie Dolores not only makes delicious brownies they also make delectable glazed pecans, chili lime peanuts, and cocoa sparkle cookies. You don’t have to compromise between effectiveness and taste anymore.
2) Read the label
Not all states require labeling, which is unfortunate for patients because it makes knowing what you’re eating more difficult. Even in easy-going states like California, though, individual companies are taking responsibility by voluntarily labeling their products.
Look for edibles that list the ingredients, lab-grade reagents and methods of extraction, and suggested dosage guidelines. If your edible isn’t labeled properly, you probably shouldn’t eat it.
3) Know your dosage
Maureen Dowd, an opinion columnist for the New York Times, wrote a notorious column about her accidental chocolate bar overdose in a Denver hotel room. She ended up curled up on the bed for eight hours, unable to even drink water or call room service.
“It took all night before it began to wear off, distressingly slowly,” she writes. “The next day, a medical consultant at an edibles plant where I was conducting an interview mentioned that candy bars like that are supposed to be cut into 16 pieces for novices; but that recommendation hadn’t been on the label.” (Colorado has subsequently tightened its rules for labeling.)
To avoid a night like hers, start with just a little nibble and give it time to take effect, sometimes up to 90 minutes. The standard recommended dose is 10mg, but as the First Time 5 campaign suggests, start with just 5mg and see how you feel.
“With edibles, it’s important to consume a small initial dose to gain a better understanding on how any given product is going to affect you,” Auntie Dolores explains. “After consuming your initial dose, wait an hour before deciding if you need more to reach your desired result. You can always eat more if necessary – don’t get carried away with your first edible dose!”
4) Keep non-medicated snacks on hand
A well-known side effect of cannabis consumption is increased appetite, and if you direct your hunger at more medicated munchies, you could run into trouble. After taking a small bite of a delicious medicated edible, stop and switch to something with no THC.
Overdosing on edibles isn’t dangerous in the way that overdosing on alcohol or prescription painkillers is—your life is not at risk. But you can end up awfully uncomfortable.
Common side effects of eating too much THC include increased heart rate, dizziness, nausea, and paranoia. If, like Maureen Dowd, you eat far too much, you may also experience disorientation, hallucinations, and feeling like you’re outside your body. Even if you don’t end up in the ER or the poison control center, you could have a very unenjoyable experience.
5) Keep it out of reach of children and pets
As we pointed out in our post about children and the risk of getting spiked Halloween candy, there have been zero reports of strangers handing out cannabis candies. But the rise in children hospitalized for eating cannabis edibles is real, and it’s mostly due to kids getting into their parents’ stash.
More and more states are passing requirements for cannabis edibles to make the package unappealing to children, or providing tamper-proof and child-proof packaging, but even if your cannabis candies are in a nondescript bag or container, kids or pets may try to eat them if they find them. Always keep your medicine where youngsters and animals can’t find it—locked up, preferably.
Keep these tips in mind, and you’ll be on track for a happy Halloween filled with tasty treats. Happy Halloween from United Patients Group!