With more and more states legalizing cannabis for medical and recreation use, many are calling upon the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to regulate cannabis use in the food industry. The FDA has broad regulatory powers over legal drugs, with more limited powers over food. The FDA categorizes a substance as either a food or a drug depending on how the product is labeled or advertised. Note: For purposes of this particle, we are focusing on natural cannabis, not synthetic marijuana, which is actually not cannabis at all.
BENEFITS OF CANNABIS EDIBLES
Many dispensary owners advertise the benefits of cannabis edibles as way to sell more of their products to consumers. Whether many people know this or not, enthusiasts report that there are several benefits to cooking with cannabis:
It does not get you stoned
When cannabis is raw, un-aged, and uncooked, the active ingredient is not psychoactive. By keeping the product raw, many people are able to get the dietary and health benefits of the plants without getting that “high” feeling.
Cannabis Leaves are high in Vitamins, Minerals, and Fiber
Whether you think about cannabis, it is still in the family of green leafy plants. Raw cannabis leaves are a great source of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Raw cannabis is high in:
- Vitamin K (Essential for blood clotting)
- Vitamin C (Essential for Immune Systems)
- Iron (Essential for blood Oxygenation)
- Calcium (Essential for bones)
- Folate (Essential for DNA repair)
It also has a high concentration of fiber.
High in Antioxidants
Antioxidants protect the body from stress and other damages. They also help fight against diseases and cancer. Raw or cooked cannabis is chocked full of antioxidants that will give our bodies more of what is needed.
Healthy Alternative to Smoking
Smoking is not good for the respiratory system whether you are smoking weed, cigars, or cigarettes. Smoking marijuana can leave four times more tar in your lungs than smoking cigarettes can. Using cannabis in your cooking, or rather as an edible, has none of the drawbacks as smoking and puts no harmful carcinogens into your lungs. Cooked marijuana can actually give you a longer higher because it travels differently through the body’s system than smoking it will.
Great for Pain Relief
As previously stated, ingesting marijuana will cause the user to experience a more intense and longer lasting high than smoking. When smoking marijuana, a user will usually experience a high lasting from one to two hours. On average, oral ingested marijuana users experience a high lasting from four to six hours. This will provide more pain relief for a longer period of time.
Studies have shown that medical marijuana has been clinically proven to reduce nausea and help increase appetite. The only drawback with this use of cannabis edibles is that it can take up to 90 minutes before they start having an effect. It is not useful when it comes to sudden and unpredictable bouts of nausea.
Helps Fight Cancer
The National Cancer Institute has updated its website to reflect the fact that cannabis does not only help eliminate the symptoms that results from cancer treatment (nausea, loss of appetite, severe pain, and discomfort), but it can actually be used to help fight cancer. While you can’t get the added benefit from smoking, the cannabis can be made into an oil that can be added to food.
RISK OF CANNABIS EDIBLES
Cannabis edibles are not regulated by the FDA because of how some of the products are labeled or marketed. Because they are not regulated, cannabis edibles are more accessible and can be purchased over the internet. Cannabis infused edibles, such as: brownies, cookies, lollipops, and chocolate candy, avoid the issues of marijuana odor and the stigma of use because they are consumed like any other food. Cannabis edibles are very easy to transport. Since these products not being regulated, it is considered a “buyer beware” market.
Mislabeling Edible Marijuana Products
A study conducted at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine tested the accuracy of how medicinal edible marijuana products are labeled. Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the active ingredient in marijuana. Medicinal edible marijuana products are supposed to list the amount of THC that is contained in their product. The study showed that majority of the labeling on medicinal edible marijuana products is incorrect.
- 17 percent of the products had accurate labels
- 60 percent of the products contained less THC than listed on the packaging
- 23 percent of the products contained higher levels of THC than listed on the packaging
In 2015, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a warning highlighting the dangers of ingesting marijuana. According to a 2013 study, it was estimated that 19.8 million people used marijuana making it the second leading recreation drug in the country behind alcohol. The CDC warns its users that consuming multiple servings of cannabis edibles in close successions could lead to higher level of intoxication and a greater risk for psychological side effects which can severely impact judgment.
Officials are also warning parents about the presence and dangers of marijuana-laced candy that could be given out during Halloween. They suggest that parents check their children’s Halloween candy and look for unusual candy packaging. If any suspects their child has received marijuana-laced candy, then they are to report it to their local police department immediately.
Many are calling for better regulation and government oversight for cannabis edibles. Patients who consume under-labeled products could suffer from overdosing side effects while other patients who consume over-labeled products are not getting what they paid for.
Side Effect of Marijuana Overdose
- Anxiety and panic attacks
- Acute psychosis in extreme cases
In the absence of federal regulations, it is up to states that have medical marijuana laws to issue their own regulations. California has placed a strict limit of no more than 100 milligrams of THC in edible marijuana products.
While many are concerned with the cost of regulation to the consumers and businesses, most can agree that regulation is the only way forward. While there are many benefits to edible cannabis, it is important to think about the risk as well. With proper regulation, we can make sure edibles are safe for everyone.
By: Keeba Smith, Contributing Writer (Non-Lawyer)