William Stewart of Half Baked Labs (OR) writes……
Legislated dosage limits for edibles vary from state to state, from the extreme of California, where there is no limit and 1000 mg “stoner treats” are readily available, to Oregon, where new recreational limits of 5 mg per dose kick in on October 1st. It does not appear that anyone is basing these dosage limits on information or experience; instead, they appear to be based largely on fear.
We are all familiar with the case of Maureen Dowd, whose first edibles experience consisted of purchasing a 200 mg candy bar, eating the entire thing in one sitting, and feeling horrible for three days. This helped stoke the fear of edibles nationwide.
None of the panicked legislators rushing to protect us from edible cannabis appear to have asked a simple and relevant question – what would have happened if she had consumed an equivalent dosage of alcohol, which is marketed without dosage limits? In all probability she would not have suffered nearly as much, because she would be dead.
Nor do we have a dosage limit on tobacco, one of the few products which, when used as intended, kills a large percentage of its users. The only thing even comparable is handguns.
Cannabis, on the other hand, has caused no fatalities. We have the occasional report of someone doing something fatally stupid while extremely high – but in every documented case, alcohol and/or other recreational drugs have been involved. An excess of cannabis can be extremely scary and unpleasant, but, as the old joke says, the medical term for a cannabis overdose is a “nap”.
In addition, neither ethanol nor tobacco has any real medical use – ethanol is used as a solvent, and for disinfection; and tobacco can be used to stop bleeding; but cannabis has so many positive medical uses that it was a major player in the US pharmacopeia prior to prohibition. And it is interesting that while our DEA has decided to keep cannabis on Schedule 1, as they insist that it has “no medical use”, it has now been several years since the federal government filed a patent for a whole laundry list of medical uses. So we have at least established that if we’re going to have federal hypocrisy, it will be well documented.
Getting off of our soapbox for a moment, let’s take a closer look at the selected dosage levels in some states that have chosen to set limits.
Both Colorado and Washington have chosen to set an edible dosage limit of 10 mg. For the average casual user, this is a light but detectible dose, something like a glass of wine.
Oregon, on the other hand, has chosen a recreational dose of 5 mg – and there appears to be no explanation, other than a desire to be “better” than CO & WA by setting a lower limit. Packages will be limited to 10 servings, for a total of 50 mg.
True, it is a good idea to “start low, and go slow” as the jingle says. The experience of an edible varies with a variety of factors, both in the user – size, frequency of THC use, what was recently eaten, and the product – dosage, serving size, terpenoids, and potentiators such as lecithin and limonene (which make cell walls more permeable to cannabanoids), for example. But for many users, these levels will be insufficient.
Since many regular users of edibles choose a dose around 25 mg, and often desire 50 mg or higher, this ruling makes each package one to two doses. At a recreational level this is inconvenient, but not particularly problematic.
The real problem arises when we look at the medical side. Here, Oregon wishes to set a limit of 100 mg per package. For an average patient, this is around four doses. But it not nearly sufficient for cancer or chronic pain patients, who may be ingesting 1 to 3 grams of THC per day. These patients would require ten to thirty entire packages per day to meet their needs. This rapidly becomes impractical.
Many patients meet these levels through the use of FECO (full extract cannabis oil), but many prefer edibles, as they are very gentle on the body. Legislators dismiss this problem with, “If they want stronger edibles, they can make them themselves”. Unfortunately, if one requires treatment at this level, it is unlikely that they will want to spend a lot of time standing in the kitchen baking. For many patients, it’s a good day if they are standing, period.
This problem is further complicated by the fact that there will be very few medical dispensaries in the near future. Licensing and other overhead for a medical dispensary is almost exactly the same as that for an adult use dispensary. The income potential for the adult use dispensary is much, much higher. Most dispensary owners have made this calculation, and made the decision to go to the adult use side.
Our cancer patient, forced to shop at an adult use dispensary, with the attendant dosage limits, is now required to purchase twenty to sixty packages of product each day. Even if we assume a relatively low price of five dollars per package, this is a commitment of up to $300 per day. Definitely not covered by insurance.
So it would appear that many medical patients could be driven back into the black market. There is talk of allowing medical level packages in recreational dispensaries for OMMP patients, but as we have shown above this does little to help high dosage patients. Fortunately, there is an alternative, which we will address shortly.
Another unintended consequence of these limits is commercial. Oregon is the center of the craft food, beer, wine, and distilling universe, and rapidly appears to be claiming that space in the cannabis industry. Edibles are the sole exception.
As no cannabis product can currently cross state lines, national brands are built by first building a popular local brand, and then licensing recipes and craft marks to producers in other states. If dosage levels are set so low that no one will buy our local brands, it is unlikely that Oregon brands will build to a level where there is a demand to license them nationally.
Now, a confession – as we say in the South, I do “have a dog in this hunt”. Several, actually. Not only am I building an edibles and topicals company – Half Baked Labs – but I also have a daughter with Cerebral Palsy, who has experienced the medical benefits of cannabis.
And this brings me to our workaround. While a licensed processor providing cannabis edibles to Oregon dispensaries is held to the legislated dosage limits, a contract cook whose client provides the cannabis is not. This enables us to make edibles to the needed and specified dosage, and also allows us to specialize products for patients, taking into account nutrition, flavors, and aromas that bolster desirable terpenes, the inclusion of potentiators, and the personal effects of the chosen recipe. For instance, if Grandma suffers from dementia, and you regularly give her an edible to help her feel calm and comfortable, how much more comforting would it be if we use her mother’s sugar cookie recipe?
As a side benefit, this model also allows us to do cannabis catering for social events. It doesn’t seem likely that anyone will be making 50 mg wedding cakes for dispensaries (divided into 10 individual slices), but when a whole wedding cake can carry 5 mg per slice, it sounds like a party.
Since I know I can’t bake for everybody (although I’ll do my level best . . . ) I hope to promote this model, and create a network of cooks who can serve patients in need, as well as produce social events in which cannabis can be used safely and enjoyably. And if you don’t feel that the latter is a good idea, let me tell you a story.
I have catered one cannabis-only wedding, for two third generation growers. It is the only wedding I have ever attended where there was Not. One. Disagreement.
Unlike, say, the cafeteria at the State House.