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Oregon moves ahead with lower potency limits for marijuana edibles

Gallery: Marijuana edibles

Oregon public health officials are moving ahead with rules that would cap THC in marijuana edibles at half of Washington and Colorado limits, saying such a restriction is key to protecting novice consumers and children.

A rules advisory committee of the Oregon Health Authority met for the last time Thursday to discuss the proposed rules, which call for limits of 5 milligrams of THC in a single serving of an edible, such as a cookie or chocolate. A package of marijuana-infused edibles may contain no more than 50 milligrams.

For edibles sold on the medical marijuana market, the state has proposed higher limits — 100 milligrams of THC — a cap many advocates and patients say is too conservative for experienced and regular cannabis consumers.

The agency will hold several hearings this spring for public comment on the rules, but the schedule and location for those meetings has not been set. The rules go into effect Oct. 1.

For months, Oregon public health officials have debated how to address complicated issues posed by pot-infused edibles. There’s little science to suggest what constitutes a single serving, leaving regulators to guess at a starting point for consumers. Complicating matters, these products, which include candies, drinks, sweets and other treats, are popular, potent and take longer to have an effect than smoking.

Leading pediatricians in Oregon and public health experts pressed for less-potent edibles, worried about the products’ natural appeal to children.

Last year, the Oregon Poison Center received 25 calls related to children under 6 consuming marijuana, up from 11 the previous year. (By comparison, the center received an estimated 1,800 calls in 2014 about young children getting into household cleaners, according to data provided by the agency.)

Andre Ourso, manager for Oregon’s medical marijuana program, said the limits are intended to protect kids and rookie pot consumers.

“We felt that a cautious approach was probably the best approach,” he said, adding that consumers disappointed after eating a 5 milligram serving can eat two or three more. “I think this is the best compromise we could come to.”

David McNicoll, a member of the rules committee and owner of Dave’s Space Cakes, an edibles company, said the edibles industry is preparing to launch a public education campaign.

The “Try 5” campaign will encourage recreational consumers to start with 5 milligrams of THC before eating more. The campaign mirrors an effort in Colorado, where the marijuana industry has promoted a “start low, go slow” message.

McNicoll said his group, the Oregon Responsible Edibles Council, hopes to have posters and cards in the state’s dispensaries soon.

“We are really just hoping to get the conversation about dosage started with people who don’t know what THC is, or a milligram,” McNicoll said. “We are trying to get them educated about what the products are.”

The health authority also has set limits for a range of consumer products sold on the marijuana market, including extracts, topicals like lotions and balms, and capsules.

On the medical side, the agency set 4,000 milligram THC limits for tinctures, capsules, suppositories, skin patches and extracts.

John Bayes, a longtime grower and owner of Green Bodhi, a medical cannabis business in Eugene and Portland, wondered why the state set relatively low limits for recreational marijuana edibles due to public health concerns and limits on some medical products that far exceed what even heavy consumers could comfortably tolerate.

“These are really, really high,” he said. “A 4,000 (milligram) suppository melts down and you have the experience that no one in this room is handling that well.”

He said he hasn’t seen capsules with 4,000 milligrams of THC — most are between 50 milligrams and 100 milligrams — but worried that could become reality if the state signals its approval through its rules.

“I know the reality is people are going to do it because that’s how this industry goes,” he said.

Bayes suggested the state set limits on those products at 100 milligrams.

Ourso said the 4,000 milligram cap is intended to cover a package of capsules or suppositories, not individual doses. He said the agency will take a second look at the issue and consider setting 100 milligram caps on individual capsules and suppositories.

Oregon moves ahead with lower potency limits for marijuana edibles Gallery: Marijuana edibles Oregon public health officials are moving ahead with rules that would cap THC in marijuana edibles

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A Beginner’s Guide to Eating Edibles

There are many ways to make an edible.

The hundreds of edible cannabis-infused products on Portland shelves represent another 100 different ways of processing cannabis into hash oil, THC distillate or cannabutter. All of them, however, have to follow the same potency and testing requirements. So whether you’re pouring a shot of cannabis-infused ginger ale or snapping off a couple squares of a chocolate bar, you’re theoretically consuming the same amount of cannabis.

That said, everybody is different, and even the same body can feel a different effect under identical circumstances a day later. Since the more nuanced effects of cannabis products come from the flower used to make them, I can’t tell you whether a brownie will make you sleep better than, say, a cannabis soda. But I can offer some guidance—with the help of a chemistry audit from Zoe Sigman, education coordinator at Farma—when navigating the Oregon edibles market to find what works best for you.

Baked Goods & Snacks

EXAMPLE PRODUCT: Elbe’s Gingerdoodle Cookie. Made with classic—and increasingly rare—cannabis butter, the sweet, rich dough tastes homemade, and the gingery cinnamon flavor makes it a healthier treat, free of extras like chocolate chips or frosting. Sold as a single, chewy cookie containing 25 mg CBD and 25 mg THC, the 1-to-1 ratio of cannabinoids is an ideal balance for your high, providing a full-bodied sensation from your brain down to your toes.

SUGGESTED DOSAGE: Single bite, about one-third of the cookie.

ACTIVATION TIME: 1-2½ hours.

WHAT TO KNOW: Although breadier snacks take longer for the stomach to digest, the fat in cannabis-infused butter helps cannabinoids bind to receptors in our brains, making it easier to feel psychoactive effects in their totality.

RECOMMENDED ACTIVITY: Movie night.

WHERE TO BUY: Oregon’s Finest, 736 NE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., oregons-finest.com.

Hard Candy

EXAMPLE PRODUCT: Drip Gems. Each package contains 10 pieces of 5 mg candies shaped like tiny jewels and infused with CO2 oil—ideal for those who like to microdose while out and about. Think of them as antidepressant Tic Tacs that smooth out stress without getting you extremely stoned.

SUGGESTED DOSAGE: One Gem.

ACTIVATION TIME: 45 minutes-1½ hours.

WHAT TO KNOW: The genre of 5 mg bite-sized doses are an ideal anxiety medication—the perfect microdose of calm before a big presentation, a night of frenzied packing or a tense dinner with your MAGA relatives. If you want to feel the effects faster, suck on it like a lozenge and the cannabinoids get absorbed sublingually.

RECOMMENDED ACTIVITY: Hiking.

WHERE TO BUY: Bloom, 2637 NE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., bloomportland.com.

Caramels

EXAMPLE PRODUCT: Nelson & Co. Organics Carefree Caramels. The dominating sweetness of sugary, buttery caramels have always made a great match with cannabis, and that’s especially true with these. The heavy whipping cream, brown sugar and real butter make for a melt-in-your-mouth consistency that doesn’t taste like cannabis extract. Be warned, though—there’s 50 mg of cannabis concentrate packed into one piece of caramel, which is a risky scenario for the rookie edible consumer.

SUGGESTED DOSAGE: One-tenth of a caramel.

ACTIVATION TIME: 30 minutes-2½ hours.

WHAT TO KNOW: These are heavy-hitting caramels intended to deliver maximum potency in a small size—so not ideal for snacky individuals. If you are trying to microdose, that means eating a small sliver of caramel at a time. But if you want to get as high as the state of Oregon will allow in one bite, this is the treat for you.

RECOMMENDED ACTIVITY: Netflix and nap.

WHERE TO BUY: TreeHouse Collective, 2419 NE Sandy Blvd., pdxtreehouse.com.

Chocolates & Gummies

EXAMPLE PRODUCT: Leif Goods Mexican Chocolate Bar. These bars are slightly larger than a Hershey’s and contain 45 mg of Rick Simpson oil—that is, oil with a particularly high amount of THC. It’s dusted with cinnamon, New Mexican chipotle and toasted pepitas, adding up to a more measured, gourmet edible experience. For the food-sensitive, this fair trade chocolate is also dairy-free, soy-free, non-GMO and wheat-free.

SUGGESTED DOSAGE: One square, about one-tenth of a bar.

ACTIVATION TIME: 1-2 hours.

WHAT TO KNOW: Chocolate and gummies digest the same way in the stomach, and also tend to be easily pieced out into smaller 5 mg doses. The cannabis extract in Leif Goods edibles are made by extracting cannabinoids with food-grade, organic ethanol, though that’s not true with all chocolates.

RECOMMENDED ACTIVITY: Happy hour.

WHERE TO BUY: Kaleafa, 5232 SE Woodstock Blvd., kaleafa.com.

Beverages

EXAMPLE PRODUCT: Müru Cannabucha. Müru’s infused syrup contains 50 mg of cannabis extract, which is then combined with Soma kombucha made with organic green and black tea cold-brewed in volcanic glacier water. Additional flavors come from organic ginger juice and organic cold-pressed lemon essential oil. Other than being refreshing, it delivers a healthy high without the extra fat of candy or baked goods.

SUGGESTED DOSAGE: One-fifth of the 16.9-ounce bottle.

ACTIVATION TIME: 25 minutes-1 hour.

WHAT TO KNOW: Drinks can be more difficult to dose given that you pour them into a glass. The serving size here is less than one-third of the bottle, so newbies should pour it with the same consideration as hard alcohol. Consider a double shot a safe place to start. You’ll know whether you can handle more within an hour.

RECOMMENDED ACTIVITY: Sunday self-care.

WHERE TO BUY: Tru Cannabis, 5217 SE 28th Ave., mytrucannabis.com

Tinctures

EXAMPLE PRODUCT: Luminous Botanicals. The formula—675 mg THC and 75 mg CBD per 1-ounce bottle in a blend of coconut and almond oil—is especially versatile: safe for eating and massaging into muscles as a topical and for use as an intimate lubricant. Tinctures are meant to be potent and efficient, and this definitely fits that bill. There are no extra ingredients or flavors, just a mildly nutty aftertaste from the oil base.

SUGGESTED DOSAGE: One dropperful (0.8 ml).

ACTIVATION TIME: 30 minutes-1½ hours.

WHAT TO KNOW: The jumbo syringe-style dropper in the glass bottle makes it extremely easy to control your dose. The dropper is marked at a halfway point for microdosing 0.4 ml throughout the day for chronic pain. For more immediate effects, hold the tincture under your tongue.

RECOMMENDED ACTIVITY: Post-pickup-game aftercare.

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