What’s an Edible? What Parents Need to Know about Edible Marijuana

Often surprised and somewhat confused, parents nationwide may ask, “What’s an edible?” Edibles are food products, including candy and baked goods, that are infused with marijuana. Although smoking or vaping marijuana is still the most common method of consumption, eating cannabis-infused edibles is becoming increasingly popular among teenagers.

Moreover, with the national movement towards the legalization of marijuana, the types of edibles and their availability are growing rapidly. In the not so distant past, it was hard to find edibles for sale almost anywhere. Although some medical marijuana dispensaries provided edibles for cancer patients, the only available options were pot brownies or cookies. Today, the edibles section of a marijuana dispensary is much more robust, including items like gummies, popcorn, and even drinks.

As new types of edibles are being developed, more of them are making their way into the market.  According to the Colorado Cannabis Chamber of Commerce, sales of infused edibles now constitute almost half of the legal marijuana market.  Additionally,  40% of 12th graders who reported using marijuana also reported the use of edibles, in states with medical marijuana laws. Evidently, edibles now are a common way for teenagers to acquire THC, the active ingredient in marijuana and cannabis products.

This article aims to educate parents on the varying types of cannabis-infused edibles that teenagers may be experimenting with.

The Connection between Marijuana and Teens

Unlike smoking marijuana, it is easier for teenagers to consume edibles without parents noticing. Eating edibles does not produce any smoke and has little to no smell. Often the smell of the cannabis is masked by the food in which the marijuana is infused or removed altogether.

This lack of smell makes it extremely difficult for people to differentiate normal food products from ones that are infused with marijuana. This problem is compounded by the fact that edibles can take the form of snacks that young children love, such as gummy bears and lollipops. If an unsuspecting child ingests a marijuana infused snack, there could be dangerous side effects. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “Edibles are especially dangerous for young children, who may see them at home and eat them. Hospitals in states where marijuana has been legalized have warned adults not to leave marijuana edibles around where they could tempt children who think they’re regular candy.” Therefore, given the dangers, parents need to take preventative measures to ensure edibles do not get into the hands of young children.

Marijuana is not only being infused into food products, but also into everyday kitchen essentials that are used to cook food. Now there are items like, marijuana-infused cooking oil which is used for frying or searing food. Additionally, marijuana-infused butter now can be spread directly on prepared food. Therefore, it is not always the food itself that is infused with marijuana, but rather the oils and butters in which food is prepared that can cause a high.

While marijuana is becoming more accepted outside of medicinal use, there is still reason to be cautious. Marijuana is still a drug that can have harmful side effects, especially when taken in excess.

Marijuana Overdose and the Dangerous Health Effects of Edibles

Although overdosing on marijuana is rarely fatal, it still has negative health consequences. A problem with teens and edible marijuana is the time it takes to feel the effects of the drug can vary greatly, ranging from thirty minutes to two hours. Thus, teens tend to overconsume in an attempt to feel the effects of the drug at a faster rate.

Another issue with edible marijuana is that the amount of THC in a product is difficult to measure.  Hence, the THC contents in these food products are often unknown, with the typical product having too much as opposed to too little.

Due to these factors, it is often easy for a teen to overconsume marijuana, even unwittingly. This can be troubling, especially when looking at the effects of marijuana on the teenage brain.

The adverse health effects of edibles and symptoms of marijuana overdose include:

  1. Extreme anxiety or panic attacks
  2. Intense paranoia that includes delusional behavior
  3. Psychotic reactions, including hallucinations and disassociation
  4. A sharp rise in blood pressure and a pounding heart rate
  5. Chest pain, tightness, and the sensation of a heart attack
  6. Uncontrollable shaking or seizures like an epileptic fit

The simple truth is that cannabis overconsumption, also referred to as ‘greening out’ can be dangerous. There often are lasting detrimental effects, particularly from a mental health perspective, from overdosing on edibles.

Asking “What’s An Edible?” Is Only the First Step

Given the dangers, parents need to realize that asking the question – “What’s an edible?” – and raising your awareness about the variations of cannabis-infused edibles is only the first step.

It is important to take preventative measures to protect your teen from possible marijuana overdose. First and foremost, having open conversations in your family and with your teen about marijuana and its effects can be extremely beneficial. These conversations often help teens adopt healthy habits and become more cautious. To help facilitate these conversations, you may also consider contacting a drug abuse professional to speak with your child and the family.