The conversation surrounding cannabis edibles continues to be dominated by fears over overdosing. You'll often hear horror stories about people eating too much and then having a terrible, sometimes nightmarish experience.
And yet, edibles remain an extremely popular method of consuming cannabis. In fact, the average American thinks edibles are the safest way to consume cannabis, according to a recent poll. But how does one learn to understand and manage their dosage?
This is the problem that How to Edibles—a dosing and recipe resource developed by Canada-based software engineer Ray Toth—wants to solve. 'How to Edibles' is a free website that allows the user to both calculate and manage their dosing. Toth hopes that it will help would-be cannabis chefs have more control over the potency of their infused foods.
Based on Experience
Toth was still living in his native Brazil in 2014 when he was diagnosed with chronic anxiety—a disorder typified by feelings of irritability and restlessness. Since medical cannabis was, and remains, largely illegal in Brazil, Toth was placed on a regimen of prescription pills to manage his condition.
"When I was first diagnosed, they put me on the hard drugs," he told Civilized. "I was seeing a lot of bad side effects from it—I felt like I was hurting myself."
So he began searching for another solution in 2016 after moving to Vancouver, where his doctor recommended trying cannabis as a treatment option. Being a non-smoker, cannabis-infused food seemed like the best alternative, but since Canada has yet to legalize the sale of edibles, his only option was to make them himself.
"To my surprise, it actually worked," he recalled. "Unfortunately, it worked too well."
That's because the recipe he found online called for a very high dosage of THC—the intoxicating agent in cannabis—without providing any advice on how much a first-timer should eat. So like many others before him, Toth ended up overdoing it, and the intense experience nearly scared him off of edibles entirely.
But instead of giving up, he began to study dosages when searching for recipes and utilizing resources like EROWID—a website that compiles dosing information on, and psychoactive effects of, various drugs, including cannabis.
After figuring out the trick to proper dosing, Toth was determined to develop a site that would help others avoid the same mistakes he had made.
"For new users especially, they need to know how to dose properly," he told Civilized. "The last thing a first-time user needs is to overdo it and have a bad time. That only reinforces the stigma."
Building the Website
Using his skills as a software engineer, Toth created an app that not only helps users find great recipes but also provides handy dosing tips. The app turned into the first version of 'How To Edibles,' which launched in 2016. It was pretty rudimentary, featuring just a few recipes, and a very basic dosing calculator. Even from the start, though, Toth's primary focus was ensuring that users were provided with information that would allow them to take control of their high.
"I wanted encourage people to use edibles responsibly," he explained. "I needed to make it clear that a high dose will lead to consequences."
The crux of the site its easy-to-use dosage calculator, one that features a sliding tool designed to help users precisely measure how much THC they are consuming, based on both the strength and amount of the weed, as well as how many portions one intends to take.
Once a user inputs this information, the calculator with inform you of how much THC they would be consuming, whether this is a low, medium or strong dose, as well as a list of positive and negative effects one can expect to see from such a dose.
As the site grew, it began to feature additional precautions, including a generalized decarbing process, a list of dos and don'ts for consuming edibles, and a link to TripSit, a chat service that helps those having a bad trip talk through their high with somebody.
All of these precautionary measures remain both visible and accessible as you browse the many recipes featured on the site, allowing you to cross-reference instructions with dosing information in real time.
The recipes themselves are a major point of pride for Toth, who assured Civilized that he tries each one himself before posting it. Provided the dosage isn’t too high, he said he’s willing to try "just about anything" that comes his way.
He does have his favorites, however. Dispite his bad first experience, Brownies remain his go-to. His analytics, however, seem to show that a lot of his users tend to go with the more basic recipes, such as "firecrackers," which are not renowned for their palatable taste.
"It is most visited by far," he said. "It's because it’s so easy, right? You just put some between two graham crackers with some Nutella, and you're set."
Still, he remains hopeful that the variety of items posted to the site will encourage users to expand their tastes and try new things. In fact, shortly after launching the site, he put out a Portuguese-language version that featured a number of traditional Brazilian recipes that he hopes to eventually re-tool and introduce to a North American audience.
"In Brazil, our stomach for sweets is really different from Canadians," he said. "I like to cook. I live among Canadians, so I want my friend and coworkers to experience some of the cakes and cookies that I make from Brazilian recipes. So I’d like to do that with the site as well—just maybe a little less sweet, and more Canada-friendly."
Toth says he has other plans to take the site "to the next level" as well, including building a moderated community of users, and providing access to his mobile app (which has already been developed, but was blocked by Google Play for its drug content).
These things are not so easily achieved, however. The site is still just a side project for Toth, who continues to work full-time as a software engineer. While he would like to find ways to monetize it, he is worried about compromising the things that make the site a valuable resource.
"Because it's currently a non-profit website, it's hard to get people to believe in the idea," he explained. "I hope to someday be able to work on it full-time...I just want to make sure I keep what makes it good."
The Changing Edibles Landscape
While Canada did allow him to begin a cannabis treatment that would have been impossible under Brazilian law, Toth still believes that the Canadian cannabis policy is "flawed". Canadians can legally purchase cannabis across the country, but the government has yet to solidify their regulations for selling edible cannabis products.
"Right now, people can do the same thing I did—get the raw flower online from a government website, find a crappy recipe online, eat the whole thing and have a really bad time," he said, adding that the country needs to find a regulatory system that is "well-defined and consistent."
In the meantime, Toth says he will continue to try and provide the best possible information to consumers to help them better understand the plant, and choose the way in which they wish to consume it.
"Ultimately, the goal is to educate people," he said. "It's true that it’s a plant you have to be careful with, because there are side effects—but there are a lot of good effects, too."
Photos Submitted by Ray Toth.