“We should not consider marijuana ‘innocent until proven guilty,’ given what we already know about the harms to adolescents,”1 Sharon Levy, MD, chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Substance Abuse, said in an AAP press release, speaking of the legalization of marijuana in Washington and Colorado. The press release was issued in 2015 when the AAP updated its policy on the impact of marijuana policies on youth (Pediatrics. 2015.), reaffirming its opposition to legalization of marijuana because it contended that limited studies had been done on “medical marijuana” in adults, and that there were no published studies either on the form of marijuana or other preparations that involved children.
Marijuana is a schedule I controlled substance, so the Food and Drug Administration does not regulate marijuana edibles, resulting in poor labeling and unregulated formulations.2
Edibles are marijuana-infused foods. Extraction of the cannabinoid THC, the major psychoactive ingredient, from the cannabis plant involves heating the flowers from the female plant in an oil base liquid. As it is heated, the inactive tetrahydrocannabinoid acid (THCA) is converted to THC and dissolves into the oil base liquids, and it is this additive that is used in food products to create the edible. A safe “serving size,” was determined to be 10 mg of THC,3 but an edible may contain 100 mg of THC if consumed in its entirety.
Many prefer ingesting edibles, compared with smoking, because there are no toxic effects from the inhalation of smoke, no odors, it’s more potent, and its duration of action is longer.3 The downside is the onset of action is slower, compared with smoking, so many will consume more before the “high” begins, and therefore there is a greater risk for intoxication. For example, a chocolate bar may contain 100 mg of THC, and despite the “serving size” stated as one square, a person might consume the entire bar before the onset of the high begins. Improved labeling and warning of intoxication now are required on packaging, but this does little to reduce the risk.3
Edibles also are made in way that is attractive to children. Commonly, they come in packaging and forms that resemble candy, such as gummies and chocolate bars. Although laws have been put in place to require them to be sold in childproof containers,3,4 As feared, once cannabis oil is obtained legally, there is little control over what it is put in.
As for medicinal purposes, edibles have a great advantage for children when used for that purpose. Ease of administration, long duration of action, and a great taste are all positive attributes. As with all good things, there is a downside when used inappropriately.