Reduced thinking, reduced memory function, reduced learning ability. These are just a few of the potential consequences of inhaling or ingesting marijuana for those between the ages of 13 and 38, generally speaking.
Add to that an average loss of eight IQ points, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and mental abilities that do not fully return in those who quit marijuana as adults. Now, throw on pesticides that could be further toxic to your health or damage your nervous system.
Why would anyone want to start this stuff?
While popular culture suggests a shift in terms of how detrimental marijuana is for one’s health, the drug actually can create serious problems for users as well as the lives of others close to them.
States that have legalized the use of marijuana for both recreational and medicinal purposes are scrambling to catch up to the money train that is driving its proliferation. They’re also scrambling to catch up to the lack of laws regulating what’s in any of it — as well as the lack of labs certified to test products in order to determine whether or not any of this is safe to sell to consumers.
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The city of Denver, for example, recently re-released for sale more than 28,000 packages of marijuana-infused edibles. These edibles were recalled late last year because they tested positive for pesticides that are banned for use on cannabis.
The release comes despite the fact that Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper issued an executive order in November of 2015 mandating all contaminated cannabis be destroyed as “a risk to public health” and “a threat to public safety.”
“We have different jurisdictions and different pieces of the public realm that we’re responsible for,” said Dan Rowland, a spokesman for the Denver Department of Marijuana Policy.
“The executive order is guidance to the state agencies. It’s information that should be out there and we’re glad that it is,” Rowland told LifeZette. “But right now the state is working on its own challenges, getting testing labs certified and that sort of thing.”
Without a statewide certified testing program for pesticides and potency in place, the Denver Department of Environmental Health felt compelled to release the 28,000 products back to distributors after determining the pesticide contamination was minimal.
“It’s been a learning process on both sides,” Rowland said. “The city has worked closely with the industry to develop an understanding of what are the consumer safety risks associated with these different marijuana products.”
A report earlier this year in the Denver Post found this: “There are 17 private labs licensed by the state to test marijuana products for potency, residual solvents and contaminants, but not pesticides. Although state law mandates pesticide testing, it has not been enforced because of the lack of certification. The state Department of Public Health and Environment said it plans to begin certifying labs for pesticide testing in six to 12 months.”
These are among the most common state-banned pesticides seen in the marijuana recalls issued by Denver’s Department of Environmental Health in 2015, according to the Cannabist:
Myclobutanil: Fungicide. It’s an active ingredient in Eagle 20 pesticide brand. It’s considered “slightly hazardous” by the World Health Organization and a “bad actor” by the Pesticide Action Network (PAN). Its own label warns of nervous system problems and toxic fumes.
Imidacloprid: Insecticide. Found in Merit and Mallet pesticide brands, it’s considered “moderately hazardous” by the WHO. The National Pesticide Information Center says it’s moderately toxic if ingested or inhaled.
Abamectin and the Avermectin Chemical Family: Insecticide. This is found in Avid and Lucid pesticide brands. PAN lists avermectin as a “bad actor,” and Avid labels say it’s “harmful if inhaled.”
Washington State and Oregon are also doing their best to crack down on banned pesticides and so far have barred several producers from all sales. But how many lives and currently well-functioning brains are at risk while government regulation tries to catch up to an industry well out in front of it? And is government regulation even the way to go? Why do consumers even risk their health with these awful substances?
While pesticide detection is a concern for public health, the potency levels remain an issue that is up to individual consumers.
Trish Williams, 25, said her first experience in eating cannabis was harrowing. An office manager and health conscious food columnist from Lakewood, Colorado, she was sold a 25mg truffle by an overzealous store clerk who was “trying” to be helpful. An hour after eating half the candy, Williams said there was little effect. She downed the rest before going on a late night fast food run with a friend.
The cannabis kicked in and a simple five-minute walk turned into a scary hours-long outing.
“I had no idea. I wasn’t ready for it at all. That was way too much,” Williams told LifeZette. “We couldn’t even walk. If we had tried to walk, we’d probably have gotten hit by a car. That’s how disoriented we were.”
The friends found themselves in a local park and were catatonic for the next several hours. Williams said it got worse when she closed her eyes to sleep it off. “It felt more like an LSD trip,” Williams recalled. Eventually, the friends were able to find their way home around four in the morning.
Research presented at the national meeting of the American Chemical Society last year showed that the average potency in marijuana is currently around 20 percent THC, more than four times the average potency in the 1980s. Testing shows the highest levels of potency can be around 30 percent THC.
Marketing and distribution standards for the wide range of edible, injectable and smokeable products that are available today continue to be back-end issues.
“There were problems around here where kids were eating cannabis food because it wasn’t labeled very well,” said Liz Shepard, 51, an exercise physiologist in the Denver suburb of Englewood. “A brownie looks like a brownie or a chocolate candy bar looks like a candy bar. There was a lot of toxicity for kids.”
“I don’t think they (the voters and legislators) were really thinking it through,” Shepard told LifeZette of Colorado’s legalization. “It’s a huge problem and it’s a huge liability.”