The NIDA Blog Team
November 10 2014

Pop quiz!  Don't worry, you won't be graded on this one.

Question: If you look at the candy in the check-out aisle in your local store, an average chocolate bar is 1 serving, and an average bag of candy-covered chocolates (which has about 30 candies) is also 1 serving.

What's the average serving of a marijuana edible chocolate bar or bag of a candy that has been infused with THC—the active ingredient in marijuana?

Answer:  There is no average serving.

Yes, it was a trick question. But that’s kind of what marijuana edibles are…tricky. At least for a person who doesn’t use marijuana regularly.

Do the math

For example, in Colorado, a single serving of an edible marijuana food product purchased for adult recreational use (as opposed to medicinal use) can’t have more than 10 milligrams of THC in it. BUT, there can be up to ten servings in the product or package. That means a single bag of marijuana candy, a marijuana chocolate bar, a marijuana brownie, or any other marijuana edible might contain as much as 100 milligrams of THC.

Smoking marijuana delivers to the user about 5 mg of THC in one puff. So if you ate all ten gummies in a bag of marijuana candy—each one a single 10 mg “serving”—it would be like taking 20 hits of a marijuana cigarette at one time! Because it takes longer to feel the effects of the THC when you eat an edible compared to smoking marijuana—up to an hour or two, this happens a lot. People end up eating more than the recommended serving because they don’t “feel” it right away.

But really, it also goes against how most people eat candy. When was the last time you just had one candy from a bag?

Half a sip?

Beverages containing cannabis can be even more confusing. For example, one product contains 7.5 servings in a bottle that is about the same size as a can of soda. Does that mean that you are supposed to take only one sip? A sip and a half? 

Manufacturers may say it’s a great drink to share, but do you really want to share a bottle with 7.5 friends? That’s a little too much sharing, if you ask us. (And how do you find half a friend?)

We all know that these THC-infused edibles and drinks are illegal for teens to use and buy. But many will find ways to try them. They may discover, though, that it isn’t worth long nights coping with overwhelming dizziness, hallucinations, and stomach sickness (common symptoms of overdose)—and, for a growing number of unlucky experimenters, trips to the emergency room.

That’s what happened to New York Times reporter Trish Reske’s 21-year-old son, who had to be rushed to the hospital after eating all 6 servings of a marijuana chocolate bar. Not a great way to spend an evening.

Tell us in the comments: What should manufacturers do to make marijuana edibles safer?

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