Cannabis Gummies: Nice treat Or Bad Trick

Photo of cannabis gummies

Cannabis use was once so simple. Once flower was procured, ingestion was a simple decision: Smoke a joint or smoke a bowl. Even the twenty different ways to describe it basically came down to those two choices. Once in awhile you might come across some ‘special’ hash brownies or cake baked with some canna butter. Depending on the method and experience of the baker, the taste would vary from weedy to hard-to-finish.

Over time, as extraction methods other than making butter became more and more common, options for culinary cannabis enhancement also grew as the green unpleasant flavours were lost. During this early shift, most of the jurisdictions that now see cannabis legal in one form or another were legislated otherwise. The result? This burgeoning cannabis edible market is, for the most part, entirely unregulated. The end result could have been predicted. Faced with no resistance or guidelines, any movement will naturally progress to the extreme. This is where we find ourselves today.

The extreme nature of the edibles market has clinicians voicing concern and suggesting a serious look at how some cannabis edibles are being sold. Some are even asking whether certain types of products, such as child-familiar gummies, should be sold at all. It’s clear that no responsible individual would make THC-infused gummies intended for children. For adults, it is our right to medicate as we see fit; however, it’s possible that we’re lacking sufficient education on the risks that such edibles pose for children. As well, there need to be sufficient punitive measures for irresponsible parents whose child found some treats and ended up in the ER. Some will oppose any such measures based on what they perceive as continued ‘Reefer Madness’ drug war propaganda. The reality is that a child who stumbles upon a bag of 80-mg gummies and eats a handful of them could be in very serious danger.

Some of the earliest products that became available to me via the Canadian online grey market were completely snack based. Rice Krispie squares, peanut butter cookies and gummies were some of the most common. Novelty effect is real and trying a few of these treats was kinda fun. They certainly tasted better than the party cakes of the past and such products led to me and my Mrs. discovering our required dosages for noticeable effect, 350+ mg and 30 mg respectively.

It was fun trying those treats. Learning how much more effective orally ingested cannabinoids are for therapeutic purposes was, however, the valuable take away for us. Dosage consistency and ease of ingestion — you don’t always want a cookie — led us away from treats and into using CBD and whole-plant THC oil in a capsule as a daily-dose medium. Any treat-based edibles we now consume are only what we make from our own butter.

I do not even have full exposure in Canada to the incredible range of products found in different parts of the world. Seeing 1000 mg chocolate bars online seemed fairly inert at first glance and may have elicited the thought, “That might be fun”. Yet, something seemed off and gave me pause for thought.

There have been plenty of times in recent years where cannabis edibles have made the news in some notorious fashion. Children mistakenly taking them to school or unfamiliar adults calling 911 in fear from an edible-induced anxiety attack are just a couple of examples. Social media responses are predictable, ranging from blind disbelief because “cannabis is harmless”, mockery and even abuse from the ‘no regulation’ side. Those advocating for common sense controls are typically shouted down and end up muted in the din of recreational outrage. Such is the modern internet.

An objective venture into the issue circles around some key basic questions:

  • Is the availability of infused sweets a public health issue?
  • Is the availability of infused sweets an education issue?
  • Is the availability of infused sweets an enforcement issue?
  • What is the most responsible approach?

The above questions are easy to ask, yet answers pose more of a challenge. As a public health issue, adding additional concerns to the sugar addiction our society is already dealing with is never going to be a good idea. That, however, is truly minor in comparison to how serious an edible episode can be. It is not at all uncommon for someone to experience some mild anxiety from ingesting edibles. For some, the anxiety can be extreme and downright terrifying. Imagine being in such a state of fear that you feel you are going to die. While those stories seem to draw much ridicule, it is anything but funny to those facing an overwhelming and impending sense of death.

An education issue?

I don’t think that anyone would be opposed to a well-informed public. That may remain difficult, however, while there is still such distance between the opposing sides and inconsistent positions among governments. One person’s information is another’s propaganda. It turns out that another victim of the drug war is clear and concise truth.

An enforcement issue?

It would be unsurprising to see some governments attempt a heavy-handed restrictive approach that mirrors past prohibition policies. Legalization in Canada, for example, has in its initial approach taken a very restrictive ‘harm reduction’ stand with clear lines between legal and illegal activities. We do not yet know what the laws regarding edibles will be until the federal government releases them later this year. Those laws are to go into effect as of Oct 17th. I think it is very likely the laws will be extremely restrictive in the THC levels that can be present, as well as what can be sold.

What is the responsible approach?

Each side will have a very different answer on the outer edges, ranging from outright banning to fully unregulated. As with anything however, agreement on some basic truths on each side usually points towards a happy medium. Or a balanced discontent.

Is banning prepackaged, cannabis edibles that are too easily indistinguishable from normal dessert treats from being sold the right approach? Perhaps. An entire sector of the cannabis industry is very much hoping for minimal regulation knowing this could potentially be a huge market. Some believe the edible market share will come to rival the dried flower market. The possibility of a billion dollar marketplace is squarely at odds with public health.

Is there a form of prepackaged edible that fully appeases health care concerns? It’s unlikely. Is there likely to be a version that is far more acceptable and meets some of the main concerns? Chief among such concerns are edibles looking like anything a child might find in the candy isle of the local general store. Finding an acceptable product could be a tough call. Sweet treats were a natural evolution from the brownies and cakes of old. There is no obvious substitute. The next best — frankly, for some, better — alternative is the active ingredients in a capsule form. While it would be very effective, it’d hardly be the fun of a good cookie.

Where do common sense, public health and public demand all find acceptable common ground? Surely public health concerns are better met with legislated controls. Ensuring safe dose levels would, in all probability, put an end to the 1000mg chocolate bar type offerings.

Perhaps the only solution is strict dosage limits. It serves harm reduction well, but not perfectly. Nothing I can think of, in fact, serves to fully appease any of the relevant positions. It may be in that grey zone where the only possible solution is found. One thing is certain: No one side is happy, but all are equally unhappy.

The Name Game: Indica and Sativa

The evolution of language involves a complex history that is written daily. Trends, fads, songwriters, events, etc., all nudge and influence what we say and how we say it. Language is fluid and dynamic, being driven by popular usage. In relation to the popular cannabis terms, Indica and Sativa, there is a growing number of voices declaring those terms to be incorrect or even irresponsible and invalid.

Everyday people by the hundreds of millions use popular and familiar cannabis terms such as Indica, Sativa, Ruderalis, Hybrid and Hemp to effectively and clearly communicate in any number of cannabis-related discussions. The clarity of these terms is such that a consumer at a dispensary who is asking for a nice, sleepy-time, bye-bye Indica to help offset insomnia will almost assuredly get exactly what he or she wants. That clarity is akin to walking into a pharmacy to get aspirin and actually walking out with aspirin. These few terms are incredibly effective and efficient at creating the desired outcome.

The history of these terms and their widespread use is another byproduct of prohibition and research restrictions. Left without the benefit of scientific coevolution, the medical cannabis civil disobedience movement grew and learned as they went along. Breeders were able to buy strains based on these predications and to consistently and effectively achieve the desired results.

That same special breed of cannabis devotees grew, bred and learned about what this plant would offer. They learned about phenotypes and chemovars, how they interact and how to cross-breed for desired results. Such learning was mostly done without the input of the greater scientific community and the many relevant specialties. Yet when effectively communicating about cannabis, the terms Indica, Sativa, Hybrid, Ruderalis (AKA auto flower), etc., are still very much the most used tools in the cannabis vernacular toolbox.

Enter The Shift

Realistic attitudes are spreading globally at a pace cannabis proponents could only have dreamed of even a mere 10 or 15 years ago. Laws are being changed and attitudes are changing. The science that medical advocates and patients have desired for decades is finally seeing promise. The answers as to why cannabis is so beneficial on so many levels are finally going to be known.

One shift that was not so easily foreseen, however, was the effort to convince hundreds of millions of people that suddenly, after many decades, everybody is saying it wrong. There are many who claim that the terms in popular usage are invalid, an exercise in futility and/or total nonsense. That presents a couple of problems. Because research is just at the beginning of the journey, many of the whys, particularly regarding entourage effect, are still unknown. Aside from discussion of terpene profiles and specific terpene effects, science is only beginning the path to understanding the millions of ways cannabis interacts with our bodies.

The other problem is imposed, unnecessary context. A teaching physicist for example, will use terms that are familiar and understandable when speaking to the general public to help explain a broader meaning. When conversing with colleagues, however, that same physicist will revert to terminology with colleagues that would leave me — and most others — dizzy and confused. The language used is of critical importance to the context.

Currently, people are making cannabis purchases, getting what they want and are quite content using the terms with which they are familiar and prefer. Were those serving the needs of customers to start trying to ‘educate’ every customer beyond that familiar vernacular, they would likely lose a lot of business. Of course, there is a place in the discussions for terpene profiles. Consumers and providers are not at all unfamiliar with the technical details that they require and wish to discuss. That stated, almost every discussion centred around ‘What are you looking for?’ will invariably have Sativa, Indica or a hybrid variation as an initial qualifier.

Terms such as Indica or Sativa have evolved into entry points for discussion. They are a predictable indicator of what you are seeking. It’s not about species anymore. Instead, such terms are more of an amorphous designation that enable us to quickly and clearly drill down into specific detail.

As research develops, horticulture, plant biology, biochemistry, etc., will all bring with them new ways of describing specific plant function and composition. That will drastically change how the cannabis plant is seen in the learned community and the language used to describe it. That is what we all want. We do not, however, all want to become scientists. Just as it is not a requirement of every day life to know the exact molecular make up of your favourite beer, it is unrealistic to expect the general public to suddenly learn an entire new cannabis language.

Although the current terms are not conforming to the new profiles being discovered, they’re still extremely useful. It is counterintuitive to expect that the suggested changes would be welcome and accepted. Without an easily explainable alternative that can serve as an adequate replacement, how could they be? The general public converses in common, everyday vernacular; that will never change and attempting to change it is futile.

While terms such as Indica and Sativa will find they have no place in laboratory or horticultural settings, they will remain with the public. Does that mean they are not translatable or usable when endeavouring to explain the science in laymen’s terms? Perhaps.

Ultimately, the terms have come to mean something else entirely. When I enter a discussion about obtaining a specific phenotype, generalized terms such as Indica or Sativa and the meaning behind it is end result effect. Growers will attest that Indica and Sativa do indeed show different growth traits, with hybrid versions expressing variations. Beyond that, specific lineage and terpene profiles are the relevant factors in the conversations. So, in pure science terms perhaps they do not translate.

Indica. Sativa. Hybrid. These are basic roadmap terms that provide information similar to describing directions, such as north and south. They are effective terms that serve the basic purpose for which they are required. Nothing more, nothing less.

There is no need to require everyone to be able to understand the physics of an engine in order to drive a car.

Farewell, Justin — We’ll Miss You

It’s with sadness that MellowMeds has learned of the passing of Justin Marshall. Justin was a cannabis advocate who recently graced our pages in a blog post.

For me, the poignancy of his happening serves as a reminder that none of us who deal with cancer — I currently am dealing with skin cancer — have to take every possible avenue of treatment to improve our odds of success. Personally, I’ve been remiss in doing all I can. I’m not eating as well as I could be and I still have a relationship with that demon alcohol.

Putting my situation into a broader context is that my MellowMeds partner, Al, lives in Canada and is a long-time cannabis producer. With the legal landscape in Canada, his access to cannabis is assured. I, on the other hand, have been in Japan since 1991, where cannabis and even CBD oil are illegal. The frustration is real.

When Justin shared his story with us, I was excited at the prospect of JMO (basically, uncooked RSO) as a solution of getting a high-CBD product without the high. Excited and frustrated, because as promising as JMO sounded, I have no legal means of access. And I am disinclined to explore illicit means of access here in Tokyo. Incarceration is simply not an option.

The availability of cannabis products should be universal. Cannabis is a naturally occurring plant and it is positively ridiculous to me that it somehow became illegal to possess something that grows in nature. People are messed up. Anyway, I’m currently looking forward to being able to visit Al in Canada to sample his fine product. I’ll be looking forward to sampling some herb, RSO and — courtesy of Justin — some JMO.

Godspeed, Justin. Your passion for cannabis lives on. You can visit Justin’s memorial page via the link below: