STARTING ON JUNE 2, anyone 21 and over in the state of Oregon can purchase edibles from our state's numerous cannabis dispensaries. These "low-dose" edibles have restrictions that our medical program does not. Recreational eats are limited to 15 milligrams of THC per serving. Oregon Medical Marijuana Program [OMMP] patients can continue to obtain edibles without a maximum THC content.
While this is cause for celebration, it's important to check yourself before you wreck yourself. And as my column this week illustrates [Cannabuzz, "My Bunk Is My Coffin"], accidentally overdoing it on edibles is far too easy to do. And it can result in some serious waking nightmares—although it does make for some pretty hilarious stories after the fact.
I'm pro edibles, and I've been making them for more than 20 years, both for fun with friends and for OMMP patients I have worked with, many with terminal or chronic conditions such as Parkinson's or multiple sclerosis. Having them available to anyone of age is a great thing—not everyone likes smoking or vaping, and not everyone can smoke or vape whenever or wherever they want. More significantly, edibles can serve to replace commonly prescribed drugs for pain, stress, and insomnia without the horrible, toxic effects of pharmaceuticals.
Edibles are also fun. But nothing will scare off a prospective user faster than a bad first experience. So let's go over everything you should probably know before starting your magical journey with cannabis edibles.
1. Eating is very different than smoking. This should be self-evident. (Well... if you're trying to freebase that special brownie with your dab rig, maybe not.) One of the things I've heard over and over in two decades of producing canna edibles is that new users—particularly those who smoke a lot—think the warnings don't apply to them. (In a surprise to no one, this type of attitude almost exclusively comes from men.)
Let's look at that enemy of the GOP—science!—to understand why eating works differently. Take a joint as an example: When you burn that fatty down, up to 60 percent of the THC you ingest gets into your blood plasma, which crosses the "blood-brain" barrier, leading to effects that come on in five to 10 minutes.
Now, compare that to an edible. When you orally ingest (that means "eat," wise guy) a cannabis-infused edible, the THC gets metabolized by the liver. "Delta-9 THC becomes 11-hydroxy THC, which passes the blood-brain barrier more rapidly and has more of a psychedelic effect than standard THC," said Understanding Marijuana author Mitch Earleywine, a professor of psychology at the State University of New York at Albany, in the Daily Beast.
2. Slow your roll and start low. Recently I gave a friend's brother a high-dose homemade cookie, along with my standard warning that he should start with a small piece—in this case, a piece no larger than a dime. The brother, standing six feet tall and weighing in at nearly 300 pounds, scoffed at this suggestion, rolling out the standard, "Dude, I smoke so much blah blah blah." He gobbled the entire thing in one sitting. Several hours later, he phoned his brother crying hysterically. "I'm so fucking hiiiiigh!" he wailed.
"Why are you crying?" his brother asked.
"Because I'm watching the Christmas edition of Shark Week!"
For edibles, it's going to take between 60 and 120 minutes to take full effect. So start with a low dose and wait two hours before eating more. You can always add, but you can't subtract from the equation.
Something else that can't be subtracted? That one time you ate too much weed and called your brother crying about the Christmas edition of Shark Week. That's a story that'll be told at family gatherings for years, big man.
3. Don't eat edibles on an empty stomach. Just as with alcohol, edible effects come on faster and stronger for those who consume on an empty stomach, and it rarely ends well. "Masticate before you recreate" isn't a common phrase, but it should be. And don't forget to have non-medicated foods on hand for when the effects start kicking in. You will get the munchies. And the only thing you shouldn't eat at that point is—that's right—more medicated treats. Try fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, bread, cheese, anything really. But you should try to avoid entire pizzas, pints of ice cream, and boxes of doughnuts. Not because they'll have an adverse effect on your high, but because they make you a stoner cliché.
4. You booze, you lose. That hoppy microbrew that goes perfectly with a freshly packed bowl of kush is one thing. But mixing alcohol with weed edibles can help you get in touch with your youth—namely, that special part of your youth when you got the spins and threw up 'til dawn. If that's your goal, by all means, wash down your magic fun cakes with a bottle of hootch. Just make sure you have a mop and Pine-Sol on hand to deal with the results.
5. Choose your setting carefully. First-time users should be smart about selecting when and where to eat their THC. I've lost many a member of my social circle while we were at a show, checking out a festival, or just having a nice dinner out. I've had many an overindulgent friend look at me helplessly and say, "I just can't deal with all... this," before asking for my help to call them a ride home. Paranoia and anxiety about being in public can come on fast. So try your first few inner-astronaut space travels within the safety of your own home, as your comfy couch, cable TV, and cuddly cats and dogs are unlikely to bring on any feelings stronger than the need for a nap.
(Unless you are watching the Christmas edition of Shark Week.)
6. Avoid driving, power tools, and firearms. C'mon, man. This is just common sense. Is getting high and using that skill saw in your workshop really how you want to spend your special stoney time? Just ask my friend who did this. His name's Lefty. Wave hi, Lefty! Oh, right. Okay, just nod, then, Lefty.
And safety aside, driving in Portland already sucks, so why would you make it any worse? "Let me just eat this pot brownie before my awesome commute home in standstill traffic," said no one ever.
I'm not pro- or anti-gun, but I'm absolutely anti-firearm-use-while-high. You aren't Hunter S. Thompson, bubba. Get real. You need to get high and shoot something? Fire up that PS4.
7. Kids and pets are a big NO. Not cool. At all. Ever. Place your cannabis edibles in a childproof container, and place it well out of reach. ALWAYS. And that goes for Fido, too. I've lost track of how many scary and expensive stories I've heard from pet owners that start with, "Well, I had them in some Tupperware, and I had only left them out for 20 minutes, and..." These stories inevitably end with, "I didn't start crying until I got the vet bill."
What's more, canna edibles are often made with chocolate, which can kill dogs. If you can't be responsible enough to secure the edibles with the similar thoroughness you would use to secure a firearm, you should not have edibles in the house.
8. You've eaten too much. Now what? Relax, Maureen Dowd. You aren't going to die. Going to the doctor is a waste of time and money, as the cannabis has entered your bloodstream, and unlike an overdose of pills, your stomach cannot be pumped to remove the edible.
It takes some extra expense and forethought, but it might be worth purchasing some high-CBD capsules or tincture as an insurance policy. As recent research has indicated, CBD may mitigate the effects of THC, and can potentially lessen your high. So it stands to reason that CBD could be used to soothe the panic and paranoia brought on by eating too much THC.
9. Assault with a deadly cookie. Giving someone an edible without their knowledge and consent is not cool. In my humble opinion, it's on par with assault. And despite Hollywood trafficking in countless terrible "ha ha, you just ate four ounces of weed" jokes, it's never funny. You have taken away someone's free choice, and as they have no idea what is happening, they may mistake being dosed for something far more serious.
I once knew a woman, a church deacon teetotaler, who unwittingly ate too many cookies and ended up at a hospital in New Orleans, calling for a priest to administer last rites as she was certain the effects of her consumption stemmed from a heart attack. No one should have to endure that.
10. Have fun! Okay, we've gotten through all the bad stuff. Here's the good part: Eating cannabis can be really enjoyable—and it can be as relaxing or as intense as you want. Just be careful, go slow, and don't overdo it. And yeah, maybe stock up on Kleenex if you're going to watch Shark Week.