On Wednesday, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd grabbed headlines with her description of an edibles meltdown, saying “For an hour, I felt nothing […] But then I felt a scary shudder go through my body and brain. I barely made it from the desk to the bed, where I lay curled up in a hallucinatory state for the next eight hours.”
As someone who has judged literally hundreds of cannabis-infused edibles, I can sympathize. Eating an overdose of THC can be scary, even for seasoned smokers. Before legal medical marijuana and the revolution in lab testing, it was extremely difficult for a novice to determine the potency of a home baked batch of brownies, but now we have candy bars with the THC content listed in milligrams. Legalization has made cannabis foods much safer, but it’s also introducing them to a whole new audience, many of whom have no idea what to expect.
So here’s the scoop: Eating 10 – 25 milligrams of THC will make your muscles relax, and waves of bliss will blanket your body. Giggling and silliness are common. You will feel relaxed and cozy, and get the best “super sleep” of your life. The high can last from four to six hours, or longer with higher doses. Keep in mind that everyone’s metabolism is different, and your weight and fitness will play a role in how your body reacts to edible pot foods. Pain patients seeking to replace pharmaceuticals can grow to tolerate daily doses of THC in the hundreds of milligrams.
Colorado has put together a task force to pursue new edibles regulations, aimed at avoiding accidental ingestion by children and limiting amounts that can be purchased. As the great legal cannabis experiment continues, industry and government will need to work together to ensure consumers are properly educated about how much THC they should be eating. Mandating budtender training, passing out brochures with common sense safety and dosage tips, and effective, fact-based public service campaigns will go a long way towards ensuring that first-time pot tasters have enjoyable edibles experiences instead of visiting emergency rooms.
Dowd’s panic attack was due to her ignorance about the basics of edibles safety, and her rookie mistakes could have been avoided with five minutes of Googling. To help other cannabis virgins avoid making those same mistakes, we’ve compiled our 10 Commandments of Edible Cannabis Safety:
1. Thou shalt go low and slow
Start with a low dose of 10 milligrams of THC and wait two hours before consuming any more cannabis. Your digestive system processes pot slowly, especially if you’ve already eaten a substantial meal. Once inside your liver, THC is converted into another chemical called 11-hydroxy-THC, which is actually more potent, explaining the intensity of an edibles high.
2. Thou shalt label homemade pot foods
If you prefer to create your own cannabis-infused foods at home, be sure to always label items to prevent accidental ingestion by a roommate, neighbor, friend, babysitter, house-guest, family member, etc.
3. Thou shalt not mix with alcohol
Combining edibles with alcohol should only be attempted by those who have mastered both substances. Smoking a jay while rocking a beer is a completely different vibe than scarfing a pot brownie when you’re already wasted. Keep in mind that a few glasses of Chardonnay will magnify the effects of pot chocolate significantly, causing nausea and dizziness, aka “the spins.”
4. Thou shalt eat a proper dinner
Edibles are much more intense when consumed on an empty stomach. Be sure to eat a solid, nutritious meal before taking your THC dose.
5. Thou shalt not drive or operate heavy machinery
Save the cannabis until you’re at home, ready to relax and rejuvenate.
6. Thou shalt keep away from children
Store your edibles in a locking cabinet or box. At an appropriate age, educate any minors about the effects of edibles and make sure they understand these substances are for adult use only.
7. Thou shalt have unmedicated snacks on hand
Don’t let yourself get too stoned from sheer hunger. If you’re eating pot chocolate, keep some regular chocolate on hand if you need to taste more deliciousness.
8. Thou shalt keep CBD capsules on hand
CBD, another important cannabinoid with healing properties, is known for it’s confounding effect on THC. Meaning that CBD can lessen the paranoid, panicky feelings that come on after ingesting too much THC. Keep some CBD-rich cannabis on hand for smoking, as well as high-CBD capsules, as antidotes that will take the edge off and return balance to your high.
9. Thou shalt remain calm
If you do happen to overindulge on pot-laden treats, remember that you will recover just fine. Retreat to a safe place where you can lay down, and most likely you will drift off to sleep for 10 or 12 hours. Upon waking, you will feel incredibly rested, if not a little groggy.
10. Thou shalt never prank!
Never prank people by giving them infused foods without their knowledge, as such actions are criminally irresponsible. Ingesting pot food without expecting its effects is scary and dangerous.