Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Marijuana Food: Something to keep an eye on

Alright, before we get started I’m going to lay down the basic fundamentals; I do this because I don’t want to have to repeat myself multiple times in the process of writing the article, and because being as it is that marijuana is such a “hot topic” I don’t want my intention in writing this article to be misconstrued.
This article is neither in support of, nor detracting from, the usage of marijuana. Some states have it legalized for medical usage (sorry Florida, I know Amendment 2 didn't pass with a 60% vote), some for recreational usage, and the federal government still has it listed as a controlled substance that is illegal on a nationwide level. This article is not about any of those things, and as such you will not find (too heavy of) an opinion on those points. This article is a purely objective introduction to the newest addition to a widely accepted food-culture: marijuana-infused food.
To mix marijuana and food is not a new idea to say the least. I choose to believe that it probably existed before this recording of a 911 call made by a cop and his wife after eating a pot brownie did, but given the illusory nature of the “past”, I wouldn't be surprised to learn otherwise.
The basic concept is fairly (incredibly) simple. THC (the active ingredient in marijuana that gets you high/has the purported health benefits) is extracted from the plant matter through means of finding a soluble base and applying heat over a duration of time. In general, the most THC soluble substances are fat and oil, and as such you will find a lot of recipes that call for one or the other.
I’m going to share a secret with you: people who smoke marijuana are (generally) aware of the fact that inhaling any form of smoke is hazardous to the lungs, and likely to lead to long-term health issues. In fact, it would seem that a portion of Colorado’s recent economic /cultural explosion surrounding marijuana-infused foodstuffs (hereafter referred to as “Edibles”) can be laid at the feet of a more health-conscious approach to the drug as presented by the state in the “Don’t Smoke” campaign.
There’s a bit of delicious irony in that and the joke sort of writes itself, so I won’t sully your eyes by pointing out the specifics of why it’s funny that an anti-drug campaign resulted in higher revenue in the market for the drug; instead allow me to point out the not-so-obvious by drawing your attention to the fact that the leading supplier of marijuana edibles reported selling an entire month’s worth in just one day.
People love their brownies, and their cookies, and even their olive oil (which is apparently a thing you can infuse with THC); the edible industry has caused a massive upstart in projected revenue, and the largest supplier, one Dixie Elixirs and Edibles, has already begun construction on additional warehouses just to keep in line with demand. Temp agencies in the area like Hemp Temp are predicting that up to 10,000 jobs will be created over the course of the next ten years, and some projections suggest that the marijuana industry as a whole will earn in excess of $2 billion this year alone.
This article isn't going to try and convince you that marijuana food is the bee’s knees; the issue of packaging and presentation still leaves something to be desired. That video I linked to earlier that had the police officer calling 911 is a very good example of what can happen if you unknowingly ingest a marijuana-infused food. If you listened to that recording you may have laughed at the verbal bumbling antics, and the assertion that the cop “felt like he was going to die” because he was too stoned. We know that you can’t overdose on marijuana (in the traditional sense), but that’s knowledge that not everybody has. Having been on the receiving end of a “surprise” brownie and not been expecting the outcome I can personally agree that an unanticipated high can feel a lot like dying.
Since marijuana laws became lax in 2009, there have been at least fourteen cases of children ingesting marijuana edibles in Colorado, due in part to the bright and attractive packaging and a lack of education on the material being presented. With that knowledge in mind I want you to think again of the 911 recording and understand that that is the result of a marijuana brownie affecting a fully grown man; imagine how that must feel to a child. Edibles tend to hit slower, but longer, and my own personal experience with the unexpected brownie left me feeling like my world was collapsing for well over two days.
I’d laugh at the cop on the recording, but I've been there.
I’d shrug off the idea that kids are getting drawn in by bright packaging and fancy flavors, but I can’t even pretend to imagine what the end result feels like for them.
I said I wouldn't get opinion heavy on the legality of marijuana and I won’t, but this is where I will: packagers like Dixie and the like need to start taking into consideration the idea that children are going to be drawn to their products. You show me a child that says that they won’t steal a cookie when nobody is looking and I’ll show you a liar playing a dangerous game.
The current laws may very well prohibit sales to anybody under the age of 21, but when one of the major side effects of the product that you are peddling is forgetfulness, you have to take into account the possibility that more than just your clientele are going to come into contact with your wares.


What are your concerns about marijuana edibles? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!
Thanks for reading!

About the Author:

Damien Marty once tried to be a pioneer in domesticated Yellow Jackets; now he and his horrifically swollen face sit at home and write informative articles about food and science, other other fascinating topics. If you ever need a helping hand with a hard-to-remember factoid, or are interested in having him (terribly) sing at your doorstep, simply yell loudly out your window and he'll be there when he can.


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