Colorado Physicians Question Safety of Edible Marijuana Products

December 23, 2014

By Ricardo Carvajal

In an opinion piece recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, a trio of Colorado physicians examine the implications of legalization of marijuana in their home state.  The authors summarize “expected” effects, including increased use of health care services in relation to marijuana exposure, as well as “increased opportunities for clinician scientists to study the positive health effects” of legalization – opportunities that purportedly have been limited by continued “federal designation of marijuana as a Schedule I drug.”  The authors also summarize “unexpected” effects, including “an increased prevalence of burns, cyclic vomiting syndrome, and health care visits due to ingestion of edible products”  (for background on Colorado’s regulation of edible products, see our prior blog posting here).

Edible products reportedly account for the “majority of health care visits due to marijuana intoxication for all ages.”  The authors attribute this phenomenon to several factors, namely the “delayed effects of ingestion compared with inhalation,” the relatively high levels of THC in some edible products, inconsistent levels of THC due to the lack of standardized manufacturing practices, the lack of childproof packaging for individual “dosing units” (as opposed to the outer container), and packaging that is appealing to children or that can lead to confusion with conventional products.  These factors lead the authors to conclude that “risks of use must be consistently communicated through health care practitioners and public health officials, especially for edible products that pose unique risks for exposed adults and children.”