FACTS vs. FICTION: Can I overdose on cannabis edibles?
On September 20th, the Chicago Division of the DEA tweeted out this question/answer/warning:
IS EATING MARIJUANA MORE DANGEROUS THAN SMOKING MARIJUANA? YES! There is high potential for overdose from #marijuana #edibles.
The tweet also links* to the latest press release from the Agency , frighteningly titled DRUG ALERT: MARIJUANA EDIBLES
(*sorry, we are not going to link to the DEA here!)
The article begins by roughly defining what cannabis edibles are. To be fair, they stay uncharacteristically accurate here, describing how THC can be infused into almost any type of food and pretty much leaving it at that.
But then it quickly goes off the rails…
The release goes on to make four dire warnings about eating weed, so we will take them on, one by one, to see how accurate this article really is.
CLAIM: The effects from smoking marijuana only takes minutes. Edibles, however, take between 1-3 hours because food is absorbed into the bloodstream through the liver. Because it takes longer, the user may end up consuming longer amounts of the drug while thinking the drug isn't working.
FACTS: There are so many variables in play when it comes to consuming edibles. Everything from the height/weight of the person eating them, to their own experience or tolerance level with cannabis, to their personal metabolism rate, to their diet leading up to the edible, to what sort of hash was used to make the edible, to the food that it is delivered in all make a difference in its onset.
It is entirely possible to consume a gel cap full of hash oil on an empty stomach and feel the effects almost immediately. We wouldn’t recommend that, but ”1-3 hours” can be both vague and inaccurate.
As for that last sentence of theirs, we’re not sure if it is even English, or Earthling.
CLAIM: The amount of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, is very difficult to measure and is often unknown in these food products.
FACTS: That can certainly be true, which is all the more reason to get cannabis off of the list of federally banned controlled substances altogether. Legalize it and regulate it nationwide and the market will choke out those who cannot produce a safe and superior product.
We are already seeing the California Bureau of Cannabis Control, as neutered as they are, drop the hammer on cannabis products, like edibles, that cannot pass stringent quality control, packaging/labeling requirements, and laboratory testing.
CLAIM: If the user has other medications in his or her system, their body may metabolize different amounts of THC, causing THC levels in the bloodstream to dangerously increase five-fold.
FACTS: As the great Cassandra said in Wayne’s World, “…and if a frog had wings he wouldn’t bump his ass when he hops”. As for the “five-fold” number, they provide zero sources for it so put that in a brownie and eat it instead – see which one makes you feel better.
CLAIM: Overdose symptoms from eating marijuana are often more severe than symptoms of an overdose from smoking marijuana.
FACTS: Ok. So what defines an overdose when smoking marijuana? Surely they’ll tell us, right? How can we know what “more severe” means if they don’t even give us a baseline to begin with?
Oh wait, a handy link on the page is titled TRUE STORIES – let’s look there.
TRUE STORIES is a series of three pages, with 10 personal photos and profiles per page, highlighting a drug related horror story that somehow negatively impacted, or even ended, the life of the 30 or so adolescents featured.
Of those 30, exactly zero are attributed to eating weed.
Of those 30, zero are chalked up to smoking weed.
And what’s up with this entire website anyway?
One of the last hurdles to true cannabis reform is a very weak argument that to oppose cannabis is to protect “the kids”.
In places where cannabis is legalized, companies in the industry are often falsely accused of marketing their products to kids simply because they have a cartoonish logo or a simple shape. Cannabis edibles get this bad rap more often than most forms of cannabis with unsubstantiated claims that they knowingly trick kids into trying their products.
If there is any doubt that this DEA-fueled website is catering directly to kids, the final paragraph begins by asking if marijuana edibles are frequently used, and then goes on to only cite questionable statistics concerning high school seniors.
Forget the fact that Target literally places aisles of alcohol less than a bean bag toss from the kids’ toys, or that Disneyland now serves booze, that is perfectly fine.
The top two “Related Stories” that the site links to at the bottom are one article about a man falling to his death after eating weed, and another about a guy jumping to his death after eating weed.
The entire website is fat on fiction, so, what are the facts on overdosing on cannabis edibles?
First and foremost, cannabis is not anti-gravity, nor will it make you anti-gravity, so we’re not ready to blame the plant for those yahoos.
But seriously, yes you absolutely can overdose on edibles.
The reason the DEA and all prohibitionists start getting really vague when talking about cannabis overdoses is because, like the effects that cause them, they vary greatly from user to user. But what they always have in common is the best sleep you’ve ever had followed by no lasting or damaging side effects whatsoever.
The worst case scenarios are usually filled with deep mental introspection which can be incredibly intense for a novice or first time user. Visits to the hospital are rare and typically pointless. A stomach pump sounds infinitely worse than the worst edibles trip which always wears off over time.
Regardless of your experience level with edibles, we highly recommend making your own or finding properly labeled and accurately dosed products from reputable companies. If you are just starting out, it’s best to start off slowly in 5mg doses with at least one hour in between each dose.
Your set and setting are also vitally important to enjoying your experience. Too much THC before a PTA meeting can either be hilarious or nightmarish so it’s probably best not to flip that coin. But when used to relax after a long day, to relieve persistent aches and pains, and to turn the lights out on insomnia, eating marijuana may be the best all-natural remedy.
Having some other food in your belly before the weed arrives is generally a good idea and mixing edibles with prescription medications could be a bad idea – another reason to start slow with cannabis consumption, closely monitoring your own reactions.
SInce the “active” ingredient in a cannabis edible is…CANNABIS… you should also know what form of cannabis was used to make the edible. Some manufacturers use solvent-free water/bubble hash, others use more potent and often faster-acting butane extracted hash oil. Lots of edibles in today’s market are made with cannabis distillate, a stripped down extract that is often high in “potency” but can lack the full spectrum “entourage effect” that the whole plant provides.
You should know all of the ingredients in any type of food you plan to eat, no matter how good it looks or how baked it promises to get you - particularly if you have specific food allergies.
These are personal responsibility issues that should not be blamed on chewing on a plant.
If you follow these tips, and ignore the fearmongering and fake news being peddled by the DEA, you can maximize the benefits and enjoyment that are possible with proper cannabis consumption.