Cannabis economy, we have a problem. At risk of crying that the sky is falling, we must admit the fledgling cannabis industry, both medical and recreational, has a serious problem. The problem involves Cannabis Edible Labeling and Dosage, Labels and dosage do not sound sexy, particularly in an industry that still maintains a black economy perception, but the problem is real.
Let’s consider dosage first. The chart below, which is the result of a study conducted by a Santa Fe Reporter writer (who has a legal medical marijuana card) comparing stated THC dosage on packaging to actual THC content. We will get to the disparities discovered between the stated and actual quantities later but for now let’s address the dosage of THC in edibles.
The average Northern Lights, a predominantly sativa strain, is rated about 16.0% THC. What does this even mean? A chemist uses a sample of trichomes (resin) off the marijuana buds and mixes it with a sample solution then runs it through a chromatograph. This equipment separates and weighs the mass of the different molecules and resin. Then you end up with the concentration of THC molecules that is measured in nanograms per milliliter. From that you get the percent THC figure.
Measurement methods have come a long way and the process is efficient and less expensive than ever before so shouldn’t we have a better understanding of how much THC should be added to edible products? With edibles we rate them by milligrams of THC in the edible.
A friend recently told me about his latest encounter with an edible jolly rancher type candy. First there was no label except to describe the strain. He was going to the gym and had a good sativa infused candy so he ate the entire thing. It was the size of a jolly rancher, something my children could eat in five minutes. My friend proceeded to do an hour long climbing workout at the rock gym and when he finished he realized he would not be able to drive home. He was so incapacitated by one small candy that he had to call a friend to drive him home. We are talking about a grown, athletic man who regularly consumes cannabis and has for many years. But he was taken by surprise because of an unlabeled product that clearly was at a ridiculous dosage.
Isn’t something wrong here? What if instead of being a cannabis aficionado, who falls victim to the latest overdosed edible, my friend is someone visiting Las Vegas who wants to try cannabis for the first time. The jolly candy seems innocuous. A day later the visitor finds himself passed out who knows where with no money. Yes, I understand this happens all the time in Vegas with alcohol, but people drinking alcohol know what they are getting themselves into. For the uninitiated cannabis consumer looking for a great experience in the wonderful city of Las Vegas, things could get ugly.
Look at the chart above. We don’t want to single out any particular brand but let’s look at the R Greenleaf Organics because it has a high THC content. The chocolate bar labels its product at having 180 mg of THC. 180 milligrams!!! No edible should contain that much THC, not only for the intended user but for children who perhaps eat a chocolate bar thinking it is regular candy. The NCDA believes no edible should contain more than 5mg THC. If the consumer wants to eat 180 mg then let them buy and eat 36 chocolate bars.
We as an industry are risking the success and general acceptance when we create products with dosages that can cause serious impairment to the inexperienced consumer. When a mother visiting Las Vegas wants to try an edible for the first time she doesn’t want to end up hallucinating and drooling on the casino floor. Let’s apply some common sense here.
What is the solution? Create a common standard for edibles. The NCDA recommended guidelines follow:
- Use one single dosage measurement method. NCDA suggest the THC by weight measurement based on chromatographic testing.
- No greater than 5mg THC in any one edible item.
- Each edible item is individually wrapped even if part of a larger package.
- Each edible item will be clearly labeled as to THC content, along with strain and nutritional information.
- Each wrapped edible will have large, clear warning symbols on labeling that deter children.
There is no debate on this topic. It is a necessary step in order for the cannabis economy to embrace in order for the industry to grow. And the industry must come about quickly.
Stricter standards may be a hassle short-term for producers and packagers but in long term it will serve everyone better when the recreational adult use market avoids suffering black eyes in the form of tourist over-consumption because of immature dosage and product packaging.
The best way for the cannabis economy to grow is for first-time or inexperienced adult consumers to have a good first experience. The best way to accomplish this is for the product labels to be clear on dosage.