In the short time that recreational marijuana has been legal in Colorado and Washington, edibles (the catchall term for pot-laced foods and drinks) have quickly become the preferred delivery method, thanks to ease of use and local laws that stop you from sparking up on the sidewalk. In fact, edibles make up an estimated 45 percent of all legal marijuana sales in Colorado. These infused cookies, candies, mints, and granola bars are especially popular among inexperienced or out-of-practice pot smokers looking to get high without having to inhale despite the fact that they're no less potent. In fact, while edibles can indeed provide an easy, smoke-free, and even delicious way to get stoned, it's easy to over-do it.
First of all, the obvious: Consuming too much THC too quickly can cause extreme anxiety, psychosis, paranoia, panic attacks, or vomiting. The recommended amount of THC to give you a good buzz is 10 to 30 milligrams, depending on your experience with the drug and how your body reacts to it. That's a big reason why Colorado set a standard serving size for edibles of no more than 10 milligrams of THC. However, even with this regulation, just like with any food product, there can be several servings within one edible. So a single brownie may contain many 10-milligram servings of THC. And since it's pretty tough to put down a brownie after just a bite or two, before you know it, you might have ingested 40, 50, or even 100 milligrams of THC.
But even if you are able to measure serving sizes, it's still fairly easy to get too much THC from one product. That's because it generally takes a lot longer to feel the effects of the drug when you ingest it compared to when you inhale it. Smoking marijuana usually gets you high within the first 10 minutes, while ingesting it takes 30 minutes or more. THC also stays in your system three times longer when it's been consumed orally than when it's been inhaled. But many people don't realize these differences.
For these reasons (not to mention the fact that candy and brownies are enticing to children), the rapid rise of edibles has some health experts worried. In 2014, the first year that recreational marijuana was legal in Colorado, the Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center received almost twice as many calls pertaining to marijuana exposure than it did in 2013 — and those were mostly related to edibles. It was a similar story in Washington, which also legalized weed in 2014. Calls to the Washington Poison Center regarding marijuana last year increased 57 percent over 2013.
Even if overindulging on an edible doesn't land you in the ER, getting too much THC is simply not fun. So when it comes to edibles, always start slow and be patient.