Marijuana and hashish-infused edibles are back in vogue. The culinary phenomenon was portrayed with great humor in the 1968 cult film starring Peter Sellers, I Love You, Alice B. Toklas. Now psychedelic edibles are on sale legally in Colorado, and they are causing some consternation for state regulators.
Of course, Colorado cannot rely on either the investigative expertise of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the regulatory savvy of the Food and Drug Administration because marijuana is illegal at the federal level. As a result, the state is having a difficult time regulating the assorted brownies, chai mints, chocolate truffles, sodas, candies, beef jerkies, and other edible delivery systems.
“There are going to be hundreds of questions on the legal and health side that no one was able to foresee when the voters pulled the lever,” said Paul Doering, professor of pharmacy practice and co-director of the Drug Information and Pharmacy Resource Center at the University of Florida.
Cannabis contains 500 different chemicals, 66 of which are cannabinoids and have an intoxicating effect. The main psychoactive substance is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Behavioral effects vary by individual, and according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, “Recreational doses are highly variable, and users often titer their own dose.” Labeling of the products will be a tricky issue because there is a “delayed high” effect when eating THC as opposed to smoking it. THC remains unstable in food, and the dosages can be inconsistent because of the assortment of products with variable compositions.
“What a lot of people enjoy about marijuana is the rapid onset from smoking – within minutes the effect begins to take place in the brain,” Doering said. He added, “I truly think that edible dosage forms are going to be immensely unpopular with the recreation user whose primary goal is to get high and to get high now.”
According to Doering, “I am very focused on product quality, and the steps taken by the manufacturers of pharmaceutical drugs are so extreme and complex that the average consumer can have reasonable certainty that when they take 325 milligrams of aspirin, their tablet contains 325 milligrams.” However, without the proper testing in place, the active ingredients in marijuana edibles will vary significantly. Safety will have to be assured by the Marijuana Enforcement Division of the Department of Revenue, and not the usual Colorado Department of Public Health, because part of its budget is federally funded.
“The governor signed an executive order to create a task force, and it was clear he wanted everyone at the table – elected officials, people from the medical marijuana industry… educators and scientists. We are all working together,” said Daria Serna, a spokesman for the Department of Revenue.