'High' Standards: The Wave of Marijuana Legalization Sweeping America Conveniently Ignores the Hidden Risks
63 Pages Posted: 17 Apr 2018 Last revised: 2 Sep 2019
Date Written: April 16, 2018
As a tide of marijuana legalization sweeps across the United States, there is a surprising lack of scrutiny as to whether the benefits of recreational marijuana outweigh the risks. Notably, marijuana edibles present special risks to the population that are not present in smoked marijuana. States that have legalized recreational marijuana are seeing an increase in edible-related calls to poison control centers and visits to emergency rooms. These negative reactions are especially prevalent in vulnerable populations such as children, persons with underlying preexisting conditions, and out-of-state marijuana novices.
Unfortunately, research on edible marijuana is scant and state regulatory regimes are not adequately accounting for the special risks that edibles pose. Edibles are metabolized differently than smoked marijuana, resulting in late-onset, longer-lasting, and unpredictable intoxication. Novices are particularly vulnerable because of inaccurate dosing and delayed highs. Children are also at risk because edibles are often packaged as chocolate and other forms of candy to which unsuspecting kids are attracted. To minimize these risks and maximize the social utility received from marijuana edibles, further study of their effects is required and tighter regulations are necessary. Conducting research studies and enforcing new regulations takes time, and in the interim a state-implemented ban on marijuana edibles may be necessary to halt the increase of edible-related harms and hospitalizations.
Keywords: marijuana, cannabis, edibles, drug policy, consumer protection, public health
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