“What’s wrong with you?” I prod, my eyes scanning her body for clues. “I ate a brownie,” she says slowly, reaching for her box of double chocolate oreos. Oh, no. Not you. Not my innocent airhead, overly-trusting friend.“How big was it? Who’d you get it from? How long ago did you eat it? Sit down for God’s sake,” my disbelief quickly turned to concern as she stood next to the couch, staring blankly at a clump of ferret hair on the tile. She had only said five words to me. Historically, I wouldn’t have been able to get a word in edgewise as she recounted her day at work and gushed about whichever “Overwatch” character she was currently sketching. The air encircling my endlessly eccentric friend hangs sullen and silent, and the red flags just keep coming. “I got it from my friend in class. We went back to his house and I ate it. Driving home was really scary.” She recites the story with calculated effort as I brush the cookie crumbs from the couch and make her sit. “I felt as if I kept falling asleep and it was hard for me to focus on the road. I wanted to pull off the road but I was too scared to switch lanes, thinking I’d black out,” she says. By this point, I’m envisioning her beautiful black mustang (I remember the day her dad surprised her with it; I’ve always been jealous) running a red light and slamming into another car, leaving Emma to be airlifted to the hospital. The reality that she narrowly avoided this kind of situation leaves me clutching my friend’s shoulders.
“Jesus, Emma. How did you think it was ok to drive?” I stare at my friend as a mix of gratitude and exasperation wash over me.“I don’t know, I guess I thought I was fine, it wasn’t that long of a drive. Cami, I’m ok,” she affirms, but as she looks into my eyes it becomes clear that my sweet friend, who had never before touched drugs, isn’t seeing the same thing I am. Now, it isn’t Emma eating an edible (marijuana-infused food item) for the first time that gets me, it’s that she blindly accepted it without knowing what kind of effect it would have on her. But with research about edibles seriously lacking and few fully understanding cannabis confections, it’s not immediately surprising that my friend didn’t think twice before eating the brownie. One thing is clear: The U.S. is in a state of flux regarding marijuana, as laws surrounding its use vary from one state to the next. Medical usage for specific ailments is legal in at least 23 states, with eight states ruling recreational use legal as well. And with the herb’s continuous destigmatization, people are looking for more creative ways to ingest it. From vaping it or cooking it with quinoa to blending its resin into lollipops, edibles appear in almost any foodstuff imaginable, but an overindulgence can lead to much more than a sugar high. The reality is that edibles are fundamentally different from smoked marijuana, a truth that more people are learning the hard way. To put it simply, The Cannabist affirms “…the two substances are merely cousins of one another, not identical twins.” The effects of cannabis-infused goodies vary greatly from smoking for several reasons, two of the most critical being:
- The body absorbs tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) differently with edibles. When a lighter touches a pot bud, this psychoactive material of the leaf is decarboxylated immediately, and the smoke travels directly to the bloodstream via the lungs. This produces a quickly recognizable high. With edibles, THC is decarboxylated in the extraction process involved in making the food. The chemical must pass through the stomach and the liver before creating a noticeable high. This can take anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours to set in, but when it does, the high can last up to 10 hours. This slow reaction time makes it all too easy for people to overdose on edibles.
- Edibles are usually made from an unknown variety of trim. In the past, growers simply discarded the plant waste (trim) on marijuana plants for its low THC content, selling only the potent buds of the plant. Because of its cheap price, this trim is often used by manufacturers in the production of edibles, but at a cost to users: Manufacturers usually use a mish-mash variety of trim from strains of marijuana that differ in quality (indica, sativa, etc.). And as each strain can have different psychoactive and/or hallucinogenic effects on the body, there’s really no telling what kind of high one could experience from edibles made with mixed trim.
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