Pot has come a long way in the last 30 years, and to coin a phrase, not all of it has been “totally chill, man.” For instance, as the science of growing marijuana has evolved, levels of THC, its primary psychoactive ingredient, have also dramatically increased. Some strains of these modern buds have as much as triple the amount of THC as they did four decades earlier.
No big deal, right? Actually, it’s quite the opposite. In states where either recreational or medicinal marijuana use is legal, pot related emergency room visits are on the rise. Experts, like Dr. Richard Zane, head of emergency medicine at the University of Colorado Hospital, attribute the upswing to Marijuana Edibles.
“It’s one thing to say that one person who’s used marijuana before is going to smoke a marijuana cigarette. It’s another thing when you have college students who are pretty naïve sucking on a THC-infused lollipop and are psychotic for two or three days because they’ve never had this level of THC or this strength,” said Dr. Zane on Colorado Public Radio.
Another all together scarier issue is that edibles come in all varieties, many of them resembling treats that children can easily mistake for candy, brownies or cookies. Marijuana, especially the “new and improved” strains are particularly dangerous for children. Studies have proven that THC causes damage in the developing brain.
Here are Statistics About Legalized Marijuana:
- The National Poison Data System reports that calls to poison control regarding the accidental ingestion of marijuana in children 9 and under have more than tripled in states that legalized pot usage before 2005
- In states that decriminalized marijuana between 2005 and 2011, the calls to poison control centers increased by 11.5 percent
- Two deaths in Colorado have been linked to eating marijuana edibles
Another negative consequence of legalizing marijuana is the message it sends to teenagers, that marijuana isn’t that big of a deal. In fact, pot can be particularly dangerous for teens because the human brain doesn’t fully mature until a person is well into their 20’s. One study found that chronic teenage users performed poorly in memory-related tasks even two years after they quit smoking marijuana.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse now warns that there’s enough data to link marijuana abuse with mental health problems, such as depression and suicidal thoughts. Using pot may also trigger schizophrenic episodes in people who are predisposed to this mental illness. This is dangerous considering that edibles are one of the most powerful THC delivery methods.
THC-infused edibles present a whole new challenge for lawmakers and healthcare workers, too. The amounts of THC in different edible products vary widely, and it’s much easier to over consume because of the delayed onset of the “high.” Often, new users will take an edible, feel nothing for a time and then eat more. The negative effects of over consumption can range from intense anxiety, hallucinations, and paranoia to excessive sedation.
“The edibles are just a whole different ball of wax. You just don’t know what you’re going to get,” noted Dr. Scott Bentz, the medical director of emergency services at St. Luke’s Medical Center in Denver, in an interview with The Denver Post.
Colorado has seen two deaths that were, at least in part, attributed to edibles. A 19-year-old college student jumped to his death from a hotel balcony after ingesting a reported six times the recommended serving of marijuana cookies. Another man shot and killed his wife while hallucinating after ingesting marijuana infused candy.
Just as healthcare workers are dealing with rising ER visits, lawmakers in states that have decriminalized pot usage are considering legislation. They hope to control potency levels in edibles, standardize packaging symbols and restrict products that appear similar to common candy products.
Marijuana and the business of manufacturing THC-infused products have certainly come a long way. However the dangers of abuse, addiction, overdose and now the accidental ingestion of edibles by children have increased right along with it.