The world of edibles is no longer constrained to your sketchy neighbor baking up a batch of “special” brownies that either A) have zero effect on your state of consciousness, or B) get you so stoned you call the cops on yourself. Over the past few years, thanks to ballot initiatives that have legalized medical marijuana in 23 states and recreational use in four states, the edible-marijuana industry has flourished, and innovation is at a new high. The edibles game has turned into its own culinary arms race, with companies crafting everything from cannabis-infused stroopwafels, to cotton candy, bottled chai, to entire marijuana-fueled dinners.
You know TCH treats have reached a new level of acceptance when celebrities want in on the action, too. In the past year alone, rappers Snoop Dogg and The Game both announced lines of edibles. Snoop’s line, called Leafs, features a slew of products including gummies and chocolate bars. The Game plans to sell the thirsty masses a range of weed-laced lemonade called G Drinks. And everyone from stoner legend Tommy Chong, to reality-TV star Bethenny Frankel, is getting in on the action. The excitement to engineer quality treats is also attracting the attention of people with serious food world cred: James Beard Award-winning pastry chef Mindy Segal is working a line that includes infused granola bites, brittle bars, and a take on a hot chocolate.
While they are becoming more popular, the key facts of edible consumption are still shrouded in haze. In Colorado, for instance, emergency rules were passed requiring edibles makers stamp or shape their products so that they can be identified as containing cannabis outside of its packaging. Because the federal government still classifies marijuana as controlled substance, it makes it difficult for labs to conduct controlled studies that could help set proper, agreed-upon guidelines. Plus, each state sets its own regulations—which are frequently subject to change—making it confusing for consumers. We turned to High Times Edibles Editor and The Official High Times Cannabis Cookbook author Elise McDonough for clarification about rules and regulations, and tips on how to how to seek out the best stuff.
I. Colorado is the spiritual center for testing marijuana-infused treats.
Edibles regulations vary drastically from state to state. Colorado, however, is seen as the poster child for the future of edibles.
McDonough says: “Every state that has a medical marijuana law has some provision for edibles, but it varies from state to state. In Michigan for example, edibles are in a gray area; they are not explicitly prohibited, but they are not regulated at all. Illinois has a very restrictive program.
Most people are watching Colorado. There was a recent article that came out in the New England Journal of Medicine that examined emergency room visits for people who had over-consumed edibles. What they found was that Colorado residents had a much lower rate of going to the emergency room for edibles consumption compared to tourists and visitors that were coming from out of state. The hypothesis was that Colorado residents had a period where it was just medical marijuana in the state for several years. So it seems in that time, people were able to learn how to ingest edibles safely, and discern what their tolerances were. There was this period of education for residents basically through the medical marijuana program.
The way they have handled legal edibles will inform other states as well as California. California is starting to move towards an adult-use legalization initiative that will be on the ballot this November. So I know a lot of the companies have been watching the regulations in Colorado and taking cues, designing products while anticipating a similar set of rules being laid down in California in the next couple of years.” (Photo: weedist.com)
II. Be attuned to dosing levels.
While there is no federal regulation as to what counts as a dose, both Colorado and Oregon have set standards.
McDonough says: “In Oregon, they just announced that they are going to make the standard dose 5 milligrams and no more than 50 milligrams per package of edibles. This is half of what the state of Colorado recommends. In Colorado, the state says that one dose is 10 milligrams of THC, and they restrict all packages to 100 milligrams or less. If someone is a new user of cannabis, they should eat 10 milligram dose and wait for at least two hours, because it takes a while to work through your digestive system; you won’t feel the full effects until hours after you have eaten the edible cannabis.”
These regulations are based off of research done on a drug called Marinol, which is essentially a synthetic THC.
McDonough says: “When they did research on that drug, they found that most people said that 5 milligrams was barely perceptible, 10 milligrams was perceptible, and 15 milligrams you’re really feeling it for sure. That is most people, but it really varies from person to person. This is especially for if someone is a chronic-pain patient and they are using edible cannabis to replace painkillers, and they are using it every single day. I know people who can digest 500 milligrams and be totally functional.”
III. Packaging info can be misleading.
McDonough warns that consumers should always look for packages that mark how much marijuana there is in each product, not just an arbitrary number of doses.
McDonough says: “What I tell people when they are shopping for edibles is to make sure the product lists the amount of THC in milligrams. Many companies will sort of put their own rating. They’ll say this is one dose or two doses, but that doesn’t mean anything unless you know the specific amount of one dose. In other states outside of Colorado, it’s not regulated. Like in California, you could get a variety of products and they all could claim that their one dose are different amounts.
In Colorado, edibles are very strictly regulated. Everything sold in a retail location must be tested by a third-party lab. So understanding the role of lab testing in the industry is crucial. Before you could take the products to a lab and get them tested, you really were just guessing and making a ballpark judgment about how much could be in there.”
IV. Specialty edibles to keep on your radar.
The growing market for edibles means people can find everything from gluten-free, to organic, to vegan, to sugar-free options these days. McDonough notes, “I think that because cannabis is such a health-positive substance, you really should pair it with other ingredients that are nutritious and that will bring more healing benefits to your body.” As a judge of the annual Cannabis Cup, McDonough has developed a sophisticated palette for marijuana foods. Here, she breaks down a list of her favorites.
Lifted Edible’s Superfood Brownie Bites
“These balls are made from a blend of healthy ingredients like almonds, cashews, dates, and cacao to form a sweet treat that gives you a high without a sugar crash.” liftededibles.com
Fruit Slab Fruit Leather
“It’s essentially a very adult take on a fruit roll-up that also happens to be made from all-natural ingredients.” fruitslabs.com
Badfish Beef Jerky
“It’s a big fan-favorite, especially amongst the paleo-carnivore types.” badfishextracts.com
“This company makes everything from THC-spiked iced teas to sodas and lemonades. McDonough warns that “with drinks it is especially important for people to know that they take effect faster, usually within a half hour.” So don’t chug too fast.” dixieelixirs.com
McDonough recommends chocolate for anyone trying edibles for the first time: “It is really easy to homogenize the chocolates and the doses for those companies are totally predictable.” She is partial to the treats by Altai, which are made by a pastry chef who used to work at the Ritz Carlton. altaibrands.com