Edibles are an increasingly popular option for consumers who require medical marijuana or want to experience marijuana-induced highs without having to smoke or vape the product. The production of edibles is also a booming industry. According to a recent report, the edible industry was valued at $1 billion in 2017, and it is expected to reach $4.1 billion in Canada and the United States by 2022.

Cannabis edibles are cannabis-infused food or drinks. More specifically, these products are infused with cannabinoids, the active compounds found in the cannabis plant. THC and CBD are just two of numerous cannabinoids, but they are the ones associated with edibles. THC is the compound that provides consumers with the feeling of being high. CBD is very similar but does not have the same euphoric effects. CBD edibles are marketed for largely unproven medical benefits, but they do not present a risk to your workplace. On the other hand, THC-infused edibles, which provide the same euphoric effects as inhaled marijuana, can pose a significant risk.

With the market growing exponentially as more states legalize marijuana, and with edibles become increasingly easy to find, they are likely to become an issue for your company.

Here is what you need to know about cannabis edibles.

A Cornucopia of Options

Cannabis edibles come in a wide variety of forms. While early DIY recipes had people cooking dried marijuana into brownies and cookies, new commercial edibles are increasingly sophisticated.

Of course, people can still make their own and commercially produced cannabis-infused baked goods are widely available. However, depending on the state where you live, you can also find cannabis edibles in the form of:

  • Candy (Ex. gummies and suckers)
  • Soft drinks
  • Hot Chocolate
  • Coffee
  • Chocolate bars
  • Popcorn
  • Butter
  • Cooking oil
  • Emulsions and tablets

The Appeal of Edibles

For adults who are put off by the idea of smoking or vaping, edibles offer an appealing alternative. However, there is an increasing concern that recreational edibles in the form of candy and chocolates, in particular, are potentially attractive to children and could lead to accidents. That said, the use of medicinal edibles is also greatly easing the viability of treating both children and elderly patients with cannabis.

The Effects of Edibles

The effects of edibles mirror those associated with smoking or vaping marijuana. They include:

Delayed Effects

While CBD edibles do not produce a high, THC infused edibles, result in a very different and potentially more dangerous, high than smokers or vapers get from marijuana.

One of the most significant issues with edibles is that their intoxicating effects are usually delayed. In fact, it can take anywhere from thirty minutes to two hours for the user to feel any effect at all. This is very different from smoking marijuana, which offers almost immediate effects. This delayed reaction can lead to consumers assuming a product isn’t working, and consequently opting to ingest more, resulting in them ingesting far too much. In turn, additional consumption can lead to over-intoxication with symptoms ranging from anxiety and panic to nausea, vomiting and psychosis.

The delay in the effect of an edible is directly related to how the body processes edibles. Inhaled cannabis travels from the lungs to the bloodstream and then is delivered to the brain. The THC in edibles, however, must travel from the stomach and then to the liver before it makes its way into the bloodstream and finally to the brain. The process is much longer, dramatically delaying its effects.

A More Intense High

The delay in an edible’s effect is compounded by a high that tends to be both more intense and longer-lasting in some people. The peak of an inhaled THC high occurs within half an hour, but an edible high often doesn’t occur for up to four hours.

Passing through the liver also increases the intensity of an edible high. This is because the liver turns the THC ingested in edibles into a much stronger form. Combining this more potent form with the original THC can produce an even stronger, and somewhat unpredictable high.

A Longer Lasting High

The body absorbs the THC in edibles much more slowly than it does THC ingested through inhalation. This means that an edible high can actually last up to twelve hours, and residual effects can be felt for up to twenty-four hours.

Edibles and the Law

While medical and recreational marijuana is legal in a growing number of states, the regulations regarding marijuana edibles vary widely among them. Arkansas and Arizona, for example, have legalized edibles for medical use only. In Georgia, however, while possessing less than a gram of marijuana is a misdemeanour, possession of a single edible can result in a felony charge. On the other end of the spectrum, Colorado had legalized all medical and recreational edibles. Still, it recently banned animal and fruit-shaped edibles on the basis that they are too appealing to children.

Generally speaking, the same rules apply to THC infused edibles that apply to smoking or vaping marijuana. For Department of Transportation (DOT) governed employees, it remains illegal, and drug tests will detect it. Your drug policy will govern other employees and guide safety, drug testing and the consequences of impairment on the job.

The main issue of edible use, apart from its intensity, is that they don’t look any different than the usual snacks you might find your employees enjoying in the break room. A clear policy governing marijuana use, and the consequences of this use, can help if you do detect a problem with edible use among your workers.