Go Low and Slow

New state limits on recreational edibles aim to prevent overdoses

<b>A 10 mg limit on recreational cannabis edibles aims to reduce 911 emergency calls.</b>

A 10 mg limit on recreational cannabis edibles aims to reduce 911 emergency calls.

photo by ken magri

Produced by N&R Publications, a division of News & Review.

In a move to protect consumers, state cannabis regulators have set the dose for recreational edibles at 10 mg, an amount that can be tolerated by inexperienced adults without suffering any adverse reactions.

“Many consumers are brand new to cannabis,” said Kristi Knoblich of Kiva Confections. “They don’t yet have an understanding of the effects of THC, especially when consumed orally.”

Cannabis edibles metabolize slowly through the liver, from delta-9 THC into 11-hydroxy-THC. While smokers can stop once they feel the effects, edibles often trick the user by taking an hour or more to kick in.

Tess, a teacher from Carmichael, had tried her husband’s 25 mg chocolates for relaxation. Recently, the same dosage transported her into an altered-state of paranoia. She phoned her son, thinking, “I’m dreaming, so he won’t pick up.” But he did pick up, then drove over and called 911.

Gathered around Tess in her bedroom, the Emergency Medical Technicians analyzed the remaining edible and verified that she had taken about 25 mg. “You’re going to be OK in a while,” they said. “Do you want to go to emergency, or ride this out here with your family?” Tess chose to stay home. “I was afraid that if I didn’t, they would take me away in a straightjacket.”

Such loss-of-reality episodes are not rare. In 2007, a Dearborn, Mich., police officer shared homemade pot brownies with his wife. An hour later he was calling 911 for a rescue, telling the dispatcher, “I think we’re dead.” In 2014, columnist Maureen Dowd overdosed on cannabis candy. “As my paranoia deepened,” she wrote, “I became convinced that I had died and no one was telling me.” Tess can relate. “I also thought someone died, possibly me. It was a complete break from reality.”

“Edible companies need to provide the tools for safe consumption such as product consistency, demarcation of a dose, and instructions for use,” said Knoblich.

She urges users to access safecannabisuse.com, an educational site created by the California Cannabis Industry Association. Their advice is to start on a full stomach with 5 milligrams, increasing only at 90-minute intervals, until one’s appropriate dose is discovered.