As the first state to legalize recreational marijuana, Colorado anticipated the seemingly non threatening drug to generate more government revenue, but they didn’t anticipate serious repercussions for their actions.
Coloradans recently heard reports of edibles, marijuana infused foods, causing a man to shoot and kill his wife after experiencing severe hallucinations of the the apocalypse, and a 19-year-old to jump off a building after demonstrating erratic speech and hostile behavior.
The high resulting from marijuana consumption is different today than the 1970s due to an increased concentration of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in modern hemp plant hybrids.
“It’s not necessarily that THC makes it bad or good, but it is an entirely different substance,” school counselor Annie Egan said. “It’s like apples and oranges, what that drug does, but then you throw edibles into the mix, any kind of false sense of safety goes totally out the window. It’s not even apples and oranges. It’s Fritos and a salad.”
THC composed 0.74 percent of marijuana leaves, or cannabis, in 1975, but manipulation of the plant and different varieties make THC levels 12.3 percent, according to Danielle Ramo, University of California, San Francisco Department of Psychiatry Assistant Professor, who specializes in teen and young adult substance abuse.
Marijuana brownies, one of the variety of foods that can be laced with the drug, may seem harmless. They don’t smell or look different than conventional treats, but eating too many has more side effects than a stomach ache.
“It doesn’t have to be in a weird container, and there is nothing ‘off’ about it,” Egan said. “It is a totally innocuous food item, and you have no idea how much you’re getting.”
There are no regulated or suggested serving sizes of edibles. Packaged items in cannabis dispensaries or by Colorado vendors do not always indicate how much cannabis one is consuming, and often do not specify that edibles take 30 to 60 minutes to process in the body, with the effects lasting up to 12 hours.
New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd chronicled this problem in one of her pieces, “Don’t Harsh Our Mellow, Dude.”
“What could go wrong with a bite or two?” Dowd began. “Everything, as it turned out.”
While smoking marijuana has immediate effects, edibles take longer to process, leading to more severe side effects, including lack of energy, confusion, abnormal muscle movements, breathing problems and anxiety, according to Muir Wood Adolescent and Family Services.
This is what Dowd experienced in her hotel room after consuming the edible.
“I barely made it from the desk to the bed, where I lay curled up in a hallucinatory state for the next eight hours,” Dowd wrote.
Some edibles can have five to 10 mg of THC, a relatively light dosage, while others can be anywhere up to 500 mg.
“My friend gave me a 500 mg bar, and it wasn’t working after a few minutes, and since I didn’t know how it worked, I took some more,” one high school Bay Area student, who asked to remain anonymous to protect their identity, said. “After a few hours it all hit me at once, and I entered a state of panic. Then I went back home, and I slept for 17 hours. My grandma had to come in and check my pulse because I was asleep for so long.”
The previous illusion that marijuana is safe is gone, according to Egan.
“Edibles are probably the scariest thing that has happened to marijuana in recent past,” Egan said. “People go to emergency rooms for that. It is not totally safe and peaceful land which is the reputation. It is so different now.”