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“There is high potential for overdose from marijuana edibles.”

Strong words.

That quote is from a website produced by the United States Drug Enforcement Administration aimed at reaching out to youth with drug facts.

Here’s the skinny on edibles, according to the site: Because it takes longer for users to notice the effects of marijuana when eating it as opposed to smoking it, people often ingest more marijuana that way. Hence the elevated danger of overdosing. It also takes longer for ingested pot to clear the system, and side-effects from eating marijuana include psychotic episodes, hallucinations, paranoia, panic attacks and impaired motor ability.

The New York Times recently reported on a study that found that marijuana edibles have induced a disproportionate number of pot-related medical crises. In other words, more people were landing in the emergency room because of marijuana edibles than would be expected smoking and eating marijuana had the same effects.

With the great density of marijuana dispensaries in Bellingham and throughout Whatcom County, this information is concerning.

According to the report, edibles were more likely than smoked or vaped pot to cause “severe intoxication, acute psychiatric symptoms in people with no history of psychiatric illness and cardiovascular problems.”

Marijuana edibles can be a particular danger for younger marijuana users. They often are packaged in ways that are more attractive to youth, and the foods themselves — brownies, cookies, candies and the like — also often have greater appeal to younger adults.

Dr. Nora D. Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse of the National Institutes of Health, is quoted in the New York Times article as saying that marijuana candies “look very innocent and safe, so you take another and another, and slowly it is being absorbed. And then you start to feel awful, before you complete the absorption, and that can lead to a psychotic episode.”

Of course, it is true of most things that too much can be hazardous to one’s health. This is true of alcohol, certainly, or of sugary foods. One of the big dangers of edibles, though, is that it’s so easy to overdo it — not unlike with sweetened alcohol drinks such as Four Loko, which pairs alcohol with sugar and artificial flavors. Couple that with the slower absorption rate of edible marijuana, and you have a dangerous situation.

Like marijuana for smoking and vaping, edible marijuana is legal in Whatcom County and throughout Washington state. Legality certainly does not equate to safety, though, and users should be well aware of the dangers before ingesting marijuana.

Whatcom County employers, too, should be aware of the safety and quality concerns that can arise when an employee is affected by marijuana at work. As noted above, ingested marijuana stays in the system for even longer than marijuana that has been smoked or vaped. If a team member eats a few marijuana cookies on the weekend, how affected will he or she be come Monday? Research is still being done on that, but most of the companies that Bostec works with in Bellingham, Ferndale, Lynden and throughout the Pacific Northwest have a zero-tolerance policy against marijuana for that and other reasons. That might also be a path for your company to consider. If you’d like advice on crafting a workplace drug and alcohol policy for your Whatcom or Skagit business that takes edible marijuana into account, please give Bostec a call.

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