New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd went to Denver to check out the new legal marijuana scene there. After eating a cannabis-infused caramel chocolate bar, she found herself "in a hallucinatory state for the next eight hours."
Dowd did what many inexperienced pot users do: rather than wait for the high to kick in, she ate the entire candy bar. "I was panting and paranoid, sure that when the room-service waiter knocked and I didn’t answer, he’d call the police and have me arrested for being unable to handle my candy," she writes about her experience. "I strained to remember where I was or even what I was wearing, touching my green corduroy jeans and staring at the exposed-brick wall. As my paranoia deepened, I became convinced that I had died and no one was telling me.
"It took all night before it began to wear off, distressingly slowly. The next day, a medical consultant at an edibles plant where I was conducting an interview mentioned that candy bars like that are supposed to be cut into 16 pieces for novices; but that recommendation hadn’t been on the label.
"I reckoned that the fact that I was not a regular marijuana smoker made me more vulnerable, and that I should have known better. But it turns out, five months in, that some kinks need to be ironed out with the intoxicating open bar at the Mile High Club."
The Cannabist reports that Dowd sampled the chocolate bar when she visited Denver in January. In a statement sent to Tom Angell's Twitter page on June 5, Dowd explained: "I wrote in the column that I take responsibility for not knowing enough about what I was doing. I was focused more on the fun than the risks. In that sense, I’m probably like many other people descending on Denver... (Eating) more than a small amount of an edible was ill-advised for someone with a low tolerance level and that edibles are ingested differently and reaction times are quite different. I ate approximately a quarter of the candy bar, which was too much for someone like me. I favor legalization, but given all the tourists streaming into Colorado, it would be better to err on the side of conservative cautions.”
In an email exchange with Dominic Holden, news editor at The Stranger in Seattle, Dowd offered: "I just think that there needs to be a better protocol of cautions at the point of sale... The industry hasn't caught up with a culture that includes a lot of novices, or people who don't realize how much more potent pot is these days, or how edibles get ingested into the body in a different way. They just need to educate people more carefully and not assume that everyone will react the same way. I know there's some resistance. But I interviewed several industry types yesterday and they seemed amenable. They want it to be a fun experience, not a scary one."
Holden contends: "Newer users encountering edibles of unpredictable strength could benefit from more product-specific information about potency... Mocking her as a anomalous lightweight is a denial of the evidence: Lots of these edibles are powerful, they have unpredictable potency, and tons of users - especially novice users, which will increasingly be the norm under legalization - have trouble with them. So blaming a person for making a mistake is backwards."
Angell adds: "It's sad that many in the industry so far don't seem to realize that it's in their interest to provide basic information to consumers lest there be a public backlash, especially when we've got legalization initiatives on the ballot in several states this November and more to come in 2016."
NORML's communications director Erik Altieri chimes in: "Colorado is actually already in the process of implementing requirements for edible labeling and testing, and these regulations will be rolled out over the course of the summer. Consumers should be informed that such products possess delayed onset and prolonged duration of effect. Proper education and the imposition of sensible regulations - not criminal prohibition - are the best strategies to address such health concerns."