Why Cannabis Edibles Have a Greater Risk of Overdose

As cannabis edibles are becoming more popular among users, some experts are warning about the risks associated with consuming them.

Nivedha Elango - Author

Jan. 10 2020, Published 5:17 p.m. ET

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After Canada legalized cannabis edibles, almost all cannabis companies began to focus on developing recreational products. They’re already fighting to get a head start in the edibles market. As edibles are becoming more popular among users, some experts are warning about the risks associated with consuming them.

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Risk of overdose with cannabis edibles

Cannabis-infused edibles can be dangerous for first-time users, older people, and children. Because traditional intake methods such as vapes allow people to feel a high immediately, people don’t usually overdose. The high also wears off a lot faster. However, cannabis-infused edibles take time to have an effect. Products can also be things such as cake and cookies, which can cause users to consume more than intended.

The psychoactive effects of eating edibles can take more time to kick in and can remain around for longer than they do with other marijuana products. Further, marijuana overdoses can result in extreme confusion, vomiting, nausea, paranoia, hallucinations, panic attacks, and anxiety.

Other risks related to cannabis edibles

Due to cannabis-infused edibles now being on the market, there’s the risk of accidental cannabis poisoning in children. Children could mistake cannabis edibles for normal food and consume them unknowingly. Colorful packaging could also prove attractive. The effects and symptoms of marijuana on children is also more severe. In states that have legalized recreational marijuana, cases of accidental cannabis poisoning among children have increased.

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Unlike traditional products, directions for the use of edibles are harder to understand. Even the states that have legalized recreational marijuana don’t have proper regulations for edibles, such as accurate dosage descriptions on products. This regulatory gap could result in serious public safety risks. Even if states come up with a prescribed dosage, the THC content in cannabis-infused products can vary by batch. Older people may also find it difficult to find products with lower THC concentrations.

Expert view

Public health researchers Drs. Jasleen Grewal and Lawrence Loh from the University of Toronto believe that the intake of edibles can result in cognitive impairment for elders. They also write that the overdose of these products can cause hypotension and arrhythmia. Grewal and Loh advise that doctors should routinely question patients about their intake of cannabis, including cannabis edibles. A doctor’s counsel about the safe consumption of these products will be helpful for users. Many experienced cannabis users believe that beginners should “start low and go slow.”

According to Grewal and Loh, “Although edibles are commonly viewed as a safer and more desirable alternative to smoked or vaped cannabis, physicians and the public should be aware of several risks related to the use of cannabis edibles.”

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The edibles market

The recreational use of marijuana is already legal in Canada and 11 US states. More states in the US might legalize recreational marijuana this year. Last year in October, Canada legalized cannabis-derived products such as edibles and derivatives. Even after the implementation of age restrictions and possession limits on these cannabis products, the poison control centers in states such as Colorado have received an increased number of calls about accidental marijuana exposure in kids. Colorado reported almost a 70% increase in marijuana exposure cases for kids in four years.

As per a report by Deloitte, Canada’s recreational cannabis market is estimated to be worth 2.7 billion Canadian dollars annually. The cannabis edibles market value alone is estimated to be 1.6 billion Canadian dollars. The report also estimates that 24% of Canadians will use cannabis-infused edible products.


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