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OVC public health researcher warns of unknowns of cannabis edibles

Stack of brownies with cannabis (Istock credit:  Lauri Patterson)

As edible cannabis products are set to hit store shelves, a University of Guelph public health researcher warns there could be potential problems ahead.

Prof. Andrew Papadopoulos, in the Ontario Veterinary College’s Department of Population Medicine and coordinator of the U of G’s master of public health program, has studied edible cannabis perceptions and use in North America, including effects of legalization of edibles in the United States and the extent of Canadians’ knowledge about these products.

His review of published research on edible cannabis found many potential users likely won’t know how to use them safely.

Among U.S. jurisdictions that legalized cannabis edibles, many ran into immediate problems, Papadopoulos said.

“Colorado is one of the states where cannabis was first legalized, and many of the issues they noticed right away involved edibles. They saw an increase in emergency room hospital visits that was so significant, they even considered banning edibles.”

Papadopoulos said the main risk of edibles comes from ingesting too much.

Legal edibles must contain no more than 10 milligrams of THC — the main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis — but homemade edible products might contain any concentration.

“There is a perception that if something is legal, then it must be safe. But we know that with alcohol, that’s not true; it’s legal but there are plenty of potential harms,” he notes.

Public health messaging needs to emphasize harm reduction rather than promote abstinence, he adds.

That harm reduction approach would remind potential users about safety, including knowing the THC concentration in edibles and monitoring initial effects before consuming more.

Read the entire article on the University of Guelph website.