AS MY POT COLUMNIST colleague Vince Sliwoski pointed out in his Ask a Pot Lawyer column last week, early recreational sales for cannabis edibles, extracts, and topicals will begin in Oregon on June 2. The edibles must stay at a low dose of 15 milligrams or less, while edibles sold to medical patients won't have a THC limit, just like at present.
Why the difference between recreational and medical users?
Safety is the prime motivator, because we can't have people eating edibles and acting in a manner psychologists and mental health professionals call "coconut bonkers in the dome."
Potential litigation also comes into play, as a recent lawsuit in Denver proves. On April 14, 2014, Richard Kirk purchased a "Karma Kandy Orange Ginger" edible, a Tootsie Roll-sized candy that contained 100 milligrams of THC. Within hours, his wife Kristine called 911, as Richard was "ranting about the end of the world and jumping in and out of windows," according to the Denver Post. Shortly thereafter, he shot and killed her. The partially eaten candy was later found in his home.
Kristine Kirk's parents and sister, who became legal guardians for the couple's three children, filed the lawsuit, which named both the company that manufactured the edible and the company that sold it to Kirk as defendants. The lawyers for the plaintiffs contended, "Edibles themselves are not the evil, it is the failure to warn, the failure to properly dose, the failure to tell the consumer how to safely use edibles, that is the evil." The two companies "negligently, recklessly, and purposefully concealed vital dosage and labelling information from their actual and prospective purchasers, including Kirk, in order to make a profit," the lawsuit stated. The suit moved Colorado in January 2015 to require that recreational edibles be portioned in increments of 10 milligrams or less of THC, or wrapped individually.
Let's be clear: This is a horrible tragedy. But just what size of a role did cannabis play? According to the Denver Post, a toxicology report from that night shows that Kirk had 2.3 nanometers of THC per milliliter of blood in his system. Colorado's limit for "high driving" is five nanometers per milliliter. The screening did not find evidence of any other drugs or alcohol in his system. Richard Kirk's attorneys are mounting a defense that contends that the cannabis may have "contributed to or triggered a psychotic break." In September 2015, his plea changed from "not guilty" to "not guilty by reason of insanity."
In 2014, Colorado's first year of recreational sales, edibles accounted for 45 percent of total sales of all cannabis products in the state. There have been two deaths associated with cannabis: Kristine's, and a 19-year-old who either fell or jumped from a hotel balcony after consuming 65 milligrams of THC in the form of a cookie—nearly six times the amount recommended by the edible's makers and staff members of the dispensary who sold it.
For comparison, you can purchase alcohol that is paint-strippingly strong and drink it until you expire, but your estate won't be able to successfully sue the liquor store or distiller.
It's important that medical patients have access to edibles as strong as they need. And as the opioid crisis in this country has shown us, there are no addictive properties in pot edibles, and people don't overdose from them, even though anyone who has eaten too much will tell you they felt like they were dying.
I've eaten edibles for medical and recreational use for more than 20 years. I've had what people deem "bad trips" numerous times, always because I overconsumed. I experienced effects such as the spins, vomiting, and passing out—not to mention saying numerous times to anyone in earshot, "I'm really, really high right now." But weed never caused me to harm either myself or anyone else. (Unless you count eating a dozen doughnuts in one sitting. That might have happened to, uh, a friend of mine.)
So on June 2, when 15-milligram edibles hit the streets, consume responsibly, and remind your friends to do the same. Don't eat and drive. Firearms are a bad choice when high. Keep away from children and pets. And mind your doughnut intake.