With the legalization of recreational marijuana use for adults 21 and older in Washington, different types of marijuana products are increasingly available to consumers. So, how does one know what to use and when? Let’s take a look at just one piece of this developing market: edibles.
Marijuana edibles are foods or drinks that can contain concentrated tetrahydrocannabinol, the intoxicating chemical in marijuana. These concentrates are made by extracting oils high in THC from the leaves and flowers of the marijuana plant.
Unlike smoking marijuana, which produces effects almost immediately and that peak within 10 to 15 minutes, the effects of edibles can take up to two hours to be felt and can remain intense for two hours or longer, depending on the individual, the amount consumed, and when the last meal was eaten. Plus, the effects of edibles are typically more intense than those produced by smoking marijuana, and there is an increased risk of consuming too much because of the delayed effects.
Consumers also should keep in mind that edibles can contain varying amounts of THC. Because of this, it is possible to accidentally overuse marijuana and become ill. State law limits the amount of THC in recreational marijuana edibles to no more than 10 milligrams per serving.
Edibles’ packaging must clearly state how many servings are in the package and how much THC is contained in each serving. Read the packaging carefully to determine the amount you can eat without getting sick from accidental overuse.
Accidental overuse of marijuana is on the rise in the state, leading to an increase in emergency room visits from people experiencing unpleasant effects, according to the Washington Poison Center. These symptoms can include:
• Extreme confusion, anxiety, panic or paranoia.
• Increased heart rate.
• Increased blood pressure.
• Hallucinations or delusions.
• Severe nausea and vomiting.
In addition, the Washington Poison Center is reporting a sharp increase in marijuana exposures in children between the ages of 1 and 12 in 2014. The Poison Center gets calls every week about kids who’ve eaten marijuana.
Because children’s biology is different than an adult’s, marijuana affects them differently. Initially, they are stimulated and may seem hyperactive, after which their bodies slow down, which is where the real danger lies.
Dr. William Hurley, former director of the Washington Poison Center and an emergency department doctor at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, reports seeing “kids that are comatose and, in about 10 percent of cases, they may stop breathing and need us to breathe for them.”
In these cases, the child would be put on a ventilator, because their heart and lungs have slowed down so much.
Edible products and packaging can look very appealing to children, who may mistake them for regular candy, cookies, brownies, sodas or other foods. Always store edibles away from ordinary foods. Keep all marijuana products out of reach of children and pets.
Because THC crosses the placental barrier and also gets into breast milk, pregnant and nursing women should not use marijuana.
While all of the risks to unborn and nursing children are unknown, scientists believe that a mother’s use of marijuana can result in lower birth weights. They also are investigating the potential for behavioral and developmental delays during the baby’s first few months that may persist into childhood and adolescence. For more information, go to tinyurl.com/m88wwd3.
If you do choose to use edibles or other marijuana products, please do so carefully. And remember, never use any marijuana product and drive.