On marijuana food poisoning and Maureen Dowd’s edibles overdose

Ngaio looks at cannabis-food safety

Ngaio Bealum is a Sacramento comedian, activist and marijuana expert. Email him questions at ask420@newsreview.com.

In the May 29 issue, you wrote that there are “no known instances of someone getting food poisoning” from edible cannabis. I read Maureen Dowd’s column last week in The New York Times, about her experience overdosing on a chocolate-marijuana bar. I also read stories in The Washington Post and other papers about adults, and even kids, going to the hospital because of overly strong edibles. Maybe you have to correct your statement?

—Sue Perliteral

You are literally correct. Since legalization in Colorado, there have been more cases (or at least more publicity about cases) of people going to the hospital because they accidentally ingested too much THC.

Technically, that could be described as a poisoning, in the same way that drinking too much booze and vomiting is also technically “alcohol poisoning.” You got me.

I feel you may have missed the gist of the article, though. Here’s a sentence from my column in question (see “Bake ’em if you got ’em,” SN&R The 420, May 29): “There have been no known instances of someone getting ’food poisoning’ from an edible bought at a dispensary, although I am sure some people have gotten uncomfortably high.” I thought it was clear that by saying food poisoning, readers would understand that I was referring to food-borne pathogens (salmonella, e. coli and the like). Also, the phrase “some people have gotten uncomfortably high” meant too much THC in the bloodstream.

Perhaps we should discuss the dangers of ingesting cannabis instead of smoking it. When you eat marijuana-infused foods, the THC is metabolized by the liver instead of the bloodstream, leading to stronger, longer lasting effects. People need to be careful.

As you mentioned, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd recently wrote about a bad adventure she had with some cannabis-infused chocolates. Turns out, she ate a 16-dose piece of chocolate. No bueno.

But here is the best part: She didn’t die.

No one dies from eating too much marijuana, although they may feel like they might. Too much booze can kill you. So there’s that.

What we need to do is learn to be careful with the weed products. Err on the side of caution, people. If you are not accustomed to marijuana, perhaps you should start with a joint or a vapor pen before eating 16 doses. Likewise, the people that work at the recreational-cannabis stores should work very hard to make sure the newbies know just how strong a particular edible is. Like Alyssa Rosenberg pointed out in a nice column for the Washington Post, it’s going to take a little bit of trial and error for us to get it dialed in. Enjoy your adventures.