Cannabis Edibles Overconsumption: How Many Servings in a Package?

cannabisCannabis edibles, pot that is infused into food or drink, are becoming increasingly popular in Colorado, but confusion regarding just how many servings a package contains has led to cases of overconsumption, in some instances with tragic results. Although Colorado limits a standard serving size of edibles to 10 mg of THC, and limits a package to 10 servings, it does not regulate how that single serving is packaged. Some packages have the full 100 mg (10 servings) in a single cookie or piece of candy.

A common complaint from new edibles customers is that they do not know how much to consume. Although it is hard to exactly compare the THC content of pot in edible form to joints because pot has wide variations in quality and potency, 10 mg THC is considered to be about the same as a medium-sized joint.

Marijuana supporters say pot overdoses are not deadly, but two recent Colorado deaths related to the over consumption of cannabis edibles show that what people do while high can be. In March a 19-year-old student visiting Colorado on spring break jumped from a hotel balcony to his death after eating 65 mg of THC from a whole pot cookie. In April a 47-year-old man shot and killed his wife after eating candy edibles.

Colorado’s Department of Revenue has announced a task force meeting for today to discuss better regulations on portion sizes. Christian Sederberg, a lawyer who worked on Amendment 64 to legalize pot in Colorado and a member of the task force, says people are used to eating a whole cookie or a whole brownie. The industry needs to make it easy to understand what a serving size is. Edible makers are already working on creating single-serving edibles of 5-10 mg. Packaging options under consideration could include individually wrapping serving-size pieces, or segmenting a candy bar.

Cannabis edibles are specifically included in Amendment 64 as legal, but the state has essentially limitless authority to regulate them. Edibles already must be sold in opaque childproof containers clearly labeled that they contain pot and have not been tested for safety or strength. And adding pot concentrate to premade branded foods like candy bars is prohibited, although people commonly do this at home. Still, children and toddlers have overdosed after eating what they thought was candy, confusing edible pot and regular treats.

In addition to deliberations by the Department of Revenue task force, Colorado state lawmakers are considering legislation to require that the actual edible products, not just the packaging, be marked and color-coded to show that they contain pot. Another bill would limit possession amounts on concentrated pot, such as the oils used in cookies. Both bills have passed House and will be heard in Senate on Thursday.

Pot industry groups support the bills. Meg Collins, Denver-based Cannabis Business Alliance executive director and task force member, says they all want to make sure consumers are safe from the dangers of overconsumption. The industry wants to find the best ways to communicate to its customers safe ways to recreate with marijuana.

Cannabis edibles are booming. One manufacturer’s website offers an extensive homemade edibles menu including such dietary restrictions as gluten-free, sugar-free, and vegan. The menu includes delicacies like blueberry lemon drop cookies, hot cocoa with marshmallows, and beef jerky. They also sell marijuana-laced coconut oil capsules, honey, and butter. They even deliver. But again, the question returns to how many servings a cannabis edible such as a piece of beef jerky or a tablespoon of honey contains, particularly when the treats are homemade and may easily lead to overconsumption. New regulations may provide the answer to that question.

By Beth A. Balen

ABC 13 Action News
Huff Post
USA Today