Admit it: When considering where to book your ski vacation in this year, Colorado’s “special” après-ski options swayed your choice, didn’t it? There’s the temptation to try stoned skiing (some say it helps you “feel the snow better”) or at least indulge in a fireside hot chocolate laced with THC back at the lodge.
But before you stock your daypack with marijuana-infused energy bars (like the Mikiba bar—which has chia, coconut oil, quinoa, raspberries and cannabis), you have to know a few basics.
Since Colorado legalized the sale of edible marijuana products last winter, business has been brisk. In fact, Bob Eschino, owner of THC-edible company Medically Correct, says his company is growing like, um, a weed. “Two years ago we had one employee. Now we’re up to 35 employees,” he says.
It turns out that we really like edibles (for some dispensaries, edibles can make up more than 40 percent of sales) but we’re really bad at consuming them responsibly. In the first four months of 2014 there were 79 medical calls to facilities regarding marijuana overdoses, more than half of which were attributed to edibles, according to the Wall Street Journal. And there have been at least two fatalities blamed on edible products. In one incident, a college student jumped from a balcony after eating six times the suggested dose of a pot-infused cookie. In another, a man fatally shot his wife after ingesting edible marijuana candies and possibly other drugs.
“New regulations are being discussed mainly to save people from themselves,” says Peggy Moore, owner of Love’s Oven, which makes marijuana infused cookies, caramels and, of course, brownies. Lawmakers are considering a host of ways to regulate commercial pot products‒like requirements to stamp the THC content on individual products and to identify all THC-laced products by a certain shape or color. Many producers say regulations like these would be impossible to follow, comparing it to having to stamp every single item at a grocery store. Moore says she sees both sides. Like any business owner she wants the industry to prosper, but she also wants it to be safe.
“I don't think the drug itself is truly dangerous,” says Lindsey Walker, a registered nurse who works in an intensive care facility in Colorado. “Now, the decisions you make after ingesting edibles...”
Here’s how to keep yourself from making terrible decisions on your next trip to the Mile-High State.
Start Slow, Then Wait
Edible products are made with THC-infused oils or butter. This oil is generally much more potent than what you’d get from your experiments introducing Mary Jane to Betty Crocker in your mom’s kitchen. It also allows for a more exacting product. That means you can precisely measure your dosing. If you’re a beginner, start with no more than 5 milligrams—some folks will even get a good buzz off of just 5mgs.
“It can take two hours for the effect to kick in,” says Moore. Many people end up munching while they wait, thinking that they didn’t get a buzz, she adds. “The biggest message we want to get out there is ‘start low, go slow.’” Also, know that edibles hit you differently than smoking. “With an edible it lasts a long time,” says Moore. “It can be with you for hours.”
Read the Label (Seriously!)
Every edible label must show how much THC is in one serving and how much is in the entire package. This probably sounds obvious, but before you rip off the wrapper, read it. Recreational products are allowed no more than 10mgs of THC per serving and up to 10 servings in a package. And, FYI, a serving may be incredibly small. In the case of the college student who jumped off the balcony, a single serving was just one-sixth of the cookie. So if you think you’ll get the munchies, buy some regular ol’ cookies to quench your sugar fix.
Keep Unmarked Products Away From Kids
Once a product is out of the packaging it can look just like a regular cookie or lollipop. This has led to a fair number of cases of children ingesting edibles. Currently, legislation mandating some sort of demarcation on the actual product is being discussed. Until that happens, keep these products far away from kids.
Appoint a Caregiver
Eschino attaches warnings to all of his edibles that suggest having one member of the group stay sober, in case someone eats too much or needs medical attention. Thank this person profusely and maybe buy them some non-cannabis-laced chocolate to make up for the amount of time you’re about to spend being fascinated by your hand, okay?
Prepare for a Bad Trip
Apart from treating symptoms like high heart rate, anxiety or vomiting, there’s little a medical professional can do to treat the actual high, so it’s important that you are prepared to wait out a bad experience, says registered nurse Lindsey Walker. “If I had a friend call me because they worried they had consumed too much, as a medical professional I would feel obligated to tell them to seek medical attention if they are legitimately concerned."
Especially if you’ve consumed other drugs too—or if you have other health problems like an anxiety disorder or a heart issue—you should absolutely seek medical attention, Walker says. However, a doctor is really only going to be able to treat your other symptoms. You’re still going to have to ride out your high.
Her final advice is this: “Understand that you don't know when it's going to hit you or how much it will affect you. Don't be stupid and you'll save yourself—and us—a whole lot of hassle.”
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