The city council in Victoria, British Columbia recently voted to allow the sale of marijuana edibles in dispensaries that would be regulated under a proposed new city bylaw. The council made this decision against the advice of the B.C. health officer who said edibles could potentially poison kids and adults. Council instead sided with local senior citizens who argued that, as medical marijuana patients, they didn't want to have to inhale toxic smoke in order to harness the drug's healing effects.
The safety of edibles has sparked a heated debate in Canada and the U.S. about whether edibles are a godsend, or a dangerous health hazard. Unlike Victoria, the city of Vancouver decided not to allow the sale of edibles under its new regulatory system. And there is also the example of prominent U.S. politicians like Vermont governor Peter Shumlin, who supports legalization but not the consumption of edibles.
But the arguments against allowing the sale of edibles - believed by many to be true - don't always stand up to the facts. Here's what people are saying on both sides.
1. Edibles pose a poisoning risk
Consuming too much of an edible product feels terrible - the most notorious example being the experience of Maureen Dowd - but edibles themselves are not poisons. They just need to be taken in properly measured doses. "[Marijuana] takes effect after about an hour or two when eaten, but in only about 10 minutes when smoked," as Tech Times points out, "[but] not many people are aware of the delayed effects." Hence, novices end up consuming multiple doses at a time without realizing it, putting themselves at a greater risk of freaking out. The answer is not banning them: it's better education that warns against the perils of bingeing on, say, almost-impossible-to-dose dishes like cannabis-infused guacamole. And it goes without saying that children need to kept away from edibles entirely. A Colorado state representative recently introduced a bill that would prohibit edible marijuana to be sold in the form of an animal, human or fruit, common shapes for gummy candies favored by young children.
2. The government needs to protect people
That's true, but food products should be regulated by government bodies that have expertise in such matters. As Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps said during the recent council session, "Our position, my position is that it is not the city's responsibility to regulate food products. The city doesn't regulate the contents of the spicy nut triangle that I get at Habit Coffee. That's not our jurisdiction." The Victoria voted to turn over the issue of monitoring the health and safety of the edible products to provincial health officials.
3. Legalizing edibles will be a free-for-all
"Because legal channels are available to address the problems with marijuana edibles, such issues are not an argument against legalizing marijuana," write Robert MacCoun and Michelle Mello in their study, "Half-Baked - The Retail Promotion of Marijuana Edibles," published in the New England Journal of Medicine last year. "Indeed, one potential advantage of legalization is that is provides more regulatory levers than are available under prohibition." Contrary to the arguments of prohibitionists, legalization is likely to result in a more safely regulated market of edible products that provides public education around how to properly use them and keep them out of the hands of young people.