Health

Edible Weed is Half Baked

The dangers of cooking with cannabis

How smart is ingesting cannabis? One word should tell you all you need to know: Beware.

Some think they know better, of course. Laurie Wolf, a food writer for thecannabist.com, says the best dinner party is one that begins and ends with cannabis: It’s a “medicated or infused product, so that when you get to dessert, it’s kind of just starting to kick in,” she gushes. “And I just love sitting at a table with people and they’re like, ‘Oh yeah! I feel it now.’”

Inexplicably, despite the dangers, more and more Americans are choosing to get their pot fix as food. While pot brownies and cookies are still popular, cannabis cooks are getting more creative, with Ganga Guacamole and Chipolte-Avocado Baked Mac & Cheese listed in the “most popular” category on the online Stoner’s Cookbook.

Yet the marijuana of the 21st century is more potent than ever. Ingesting marijuana produces a much stronger high than smoking marijuana.

Mitch Earleywine, a professor of psychology at the State University of New York at Albany, explains.

“Eaten cannabis gets metabolized by the liver, so delta-9 THC becomes 11-hydroxy-THC, which passes the blood-brain barrier more rapidly and has more of a psychedelic effect than standard THC. Smoked or vaporized cannabis bypasses the liver and doesn’t create the same 11-hydroxy-THC,” he told The Daily Beast.

Smoking marijuana is a bullet train to the brain by way of the lungs. Ingesting marijuana is a slower but more powerful freight train via the liver.

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Smoking marijuana is a bullet train to the brain by way of the lungs. Ingesting marijuana is a slower but more powerful freight train via the liver. Smoking marijuana has a faster effect: 50 percent-plus of the THC passes directly into the blood plasma in 10 minutes or less, but rapidly dissipates. Ingesting marijuana is longer and stronger — less than 50 percent of cannabinoids reach the blood plasma as long as an hour or two after ingestion, but they are absorbed by fat and body tissues, so the effect is prolonged for many hours.

It is easier for marijuana smokers to know their limit, and wave off the next pass of a joint when they feel they’ve had enough. Ingestion is not as easy to control. Why? Just look around you. Most Americans have a hard time managing their food intake even without the pot additives.

Cannabis proponents claim the drug does not promote violent, erratic or deadly behavior, but accounts of incidents induced by ingesting suggest something else.

Cannabis proponents claim the drug does not promote violent, erratic or deadly behavior, but accounts of incidents induced by ingesting suggest something else.

In April 2014, a 19-year-old college student died after falling from the balcony of a Holiday Inn in northeast Denver. According to the coroner’s report, Levi Thamba Pongi died of “multiple injuries due to a fall from height.” That fall was precipitated by “marijuana intoxication” from eating marijuana cookies.

Pongi’s death was one of three deadly incidents attributed to edible marijuana in Colorado, where 45 percent of the marijuana consumed is edible. The second incident happened in March, when 23-year-old Luke Goodman shot himself in a condo at the Keystone Ski area.

Food Safety News reported: “It will be a few weeks before toxicology reports will be returned, but Goodman’s family and friends suspect that edible marijuana was a factor in the self-inflicted gunshot death. His mother, Kim Goodman, blames her son’s death on ‘a complete reaction to the drugs.”

Goodman and his cousin, Caleb Fowler, reportedly purchased $78 worth of marijuana products, including edibles. They began ingesting peach tart candies, each containing the recommended dose of 10 milligrams of THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, the chemical responsible for most of marijuana’s psychological effects.

“Fowler says his cousin ate at least five of the candies and later became jittery and was talking incoherently,” Food Safety News reported. “Goodman did not want to leave the condo with the family later in the evening and got the handgun out that the family used for protection when traveling.”

In the third incident, 44-year-old Kristine Kirk called 911 to report her husband was hallucinating after eating marijuana candy in combination with prescription medicine. Richard Kirk shot and killed his wife, and was charged with first-degree murder.

While pot proponents, as well as the growing commercial pot industry, may promote the idea of cooking with cannabis as cool, the fact is that ingesting this drug as food comes with a potent set of risks.

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