Edible Cannabis in a Changing Landscape

by Traci Knight

 The status of cannabis for both medicine and recreation is enjoying rapid growth. Medical marijuana is legal in twenty states and the district of Columbia. With the advent of recreational marijuana laws in the states of Washington and Colorado, and the growing prevalence of medical marijuana dispensaries throughout the country, alternate delivery systems to smoking have emerged. Infusing cannabis in edible form is creating a whole new cottage industry, raising questions about potency, safety, efficacy, and legality.


Is Cannabis a Superfood?

There are many indicators that consuming raw cannabis is extremely healthy. In this form, there is little, if any bioavailable THC delivered to the physiological cannabis receptor sites, therefore no high is experienced. Raw cannabis contains essential fatty acids, including rare Gamma Linolenic Acid. Hemp seeds are also widely recognized for health benefits. Hemp is considered a complete vegetarian protein, is high in fiber, and full of vitamins and minerals. Many people could benefit from incorporating it into their diets.

Things change when making cannabis into medicinal food and drink. When cooking marijuana into foods it is necessary to decarboxylate the plant matter first. This involves heating it at a low temperature to activate the cannabinoids before infusing it into either fat or alcohol. The process of decarboxylation and infusion results in concentrated amounts of the drug which is then baked into food. The end result are highly potent edible products which are processed in a way that depletes the natural vitamins of the food and increases it’s ability to deliver a high. While raw cannabis juice or salads may be a superfood, marijuana sweet treats are not. They do however, still have health benefits.


The Dangers of Food Infusion

The primary consideration when consuming edible marijuana is one of potency. The effect of the drug is far different when eaten, something that many people are not initially aware of. Just as Pulitzer Prize journalist Maureen Dowd laments the lack of consumer education about edibles and how they affected her personally in her recent op-ed piece in The New York Times, new questions emerge about the safety of these food around children. This is especially concerning since the average high from eating marijuana infused food is 8 to 12 hours and can be much more intense than smoking it, even for experienced users. As a result, Oregon has outlawed all sweet style marijuana foods and requires child proof packaging on edibles sold in medical marijuana dispensaries. It is also ruled that packaging must include strict instruction and clear dosages, which cap at 100 mg for recreational use and allow for 25 mg incremental dosing, so that people can gradually take more after feeling the effects of the initial amount.



Creating Balance in a New System

Colorado’s approach to recreational marijuana legalization was to speed full throttle ahead. While Washington State’s tortoise pace has aggravated some proponents of the new law, it now seems to be a bit wiser. Although the process has been relatively smooth, Colorado has had a number of problems with edible forms of the drug. While Colorado has 34 retail marijuana product manufacturers, it is looking like Washington will not be selling edibles for recreational use to start. There is and will continue to be edible cannabis in the dispensaries, as it tends to be a preferred ingestion method for many medicinal users.

With so many infused confections becoming available, product branding is in full effect. Entrepreneurs do not have as many funding options since marijuana is still illegal under federal law. Many producers are keeping it small or seeking venture capitalists to help fund business. Licensing fees and health department requirements are required in Washington State, although so far few purveyors have come above board to legitimize their operations. That is all poised to change as medical and recreation laws spread through the states and eventually challenge federal law.











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Categories: Cannabis

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