Pot edibles could cause more than a high

The News TribuneJune 23, 2014 

Freshly baked cannabis-infused cookies cool on a rack at Sweet Grass Kitchen, a marijuana edibles bakery in Denver, Colo.

BRENNAN LINSLEY/THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

A whole lot of wrong was going on in the case reported last week of a Puyallup-area father who allegedly provided marijuana extract to his 16-year-old daughter.

Authorities say she used it in baked goods that she took to school and gave to classmates, some of whom were sickened. A pot-growing operation and hash oil extraction lab were found in the family’s home, charging papers say, and the father admitted to allowing his children to smoke marijuana.

Despite voter approval of an initiative to legalize marijuana, none of what happened in the Puyallup case is within the law – especially as it pertains to minors. And it still won’t be legal when recreational pot goes on sale, probably next month, at retail locations.

But it does illustrate the potential problems with pot-laced edibles that are likely to crop up after legal marijuana becomes widely available. Not only are pot-infused cookies, candies and other items indistinguishable from pot-free items – making them attractive to children if left unsecured – but in many cases the concentration of the active ingredient THC might be higher than consumers would expect and can vary widely from product to product.

Those unfamiliar with edibles might assume that it’s safe to consume an entire pot-laced candy bar – which is considered a single serving of regular candy. But those familiar with them know that only a portion should be eaten – and then it’s a good idea to wait a while and gauge the effect before eating any more.

Proper per-serving labeling is important, and so is consumer education. And as much as the purveyors would hate it, it makes sense to package edibles in a way that won’t be attractive to children. A dosage that might be all right for adults could have serious effects on youngsters.

This is already happening in Colorado, a state that is six months into legalization. Children’s Hospital Denver never used to get any cases of kids accidentally ingesting marijuana; now it’s seeing one or two a month. Calls to the poison-control hotline regarding children being sickened by marijuana have been steadily increasing.

Edibles can even be a problem for adults – as illustrated in a recent article by New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd (TNT, 6-5), who took ill after ingesting a small amount of pot-infused candy. In March, a 19-year-old college student who had eaten a pot cookie died after jumping off a Denver hotel balcony. And the shooting death of a Denver woman has been linked to her husband’s ingestion of pot-infused candy.

As the state gets closer to the time that edibles are widely available, it needs to acknowledge that Washington could encounter many of the same problems Colorado has. This state needs to learn from that and make the transition as safe as possible, especially for children.

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