By Joseph Ditzler

The Bulletin

Need to know: marijuana edibles

• Starting today, state regulations allow a medical marijuana dispensary to sell to anyone age 21 or older one unit of a single-serving, low-dose edible per day.

• A unit can be more than one edible as long as the total THC content in the unit does not exceed 15 milligrams. THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the chemical in marijuana that makes you high.

• All edible retail marijuana products in Oregon must have a clear THC serving size indicated on them.

• THC can affect people differently. Consumers are advised to ingest less than 15 mg and wait from 90 minutes to four hours before eating or drinking more.

For more information on marijuana from the Oregon Health Authority, visit: public.health.oregon.gov/marijuana

Source: Oregon Health Authority

A veritable dessert tray of food and beverages infused with the active ingredient in marijuana becomes available today for purchase by any adult age 21 and over at medical marijuana dispensaries in Oregon.

The list is long but includes chocolates, hard candy, popcorn, ice cream, peanut butter cups, coffee and soda. Plus, dispensaries may also sell up to 1 gram of THC in extracts, the concentrated resin from marijuana plants. THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana that makes people high.

Since Oct. 1, dispensaries, regulated by the Oregon Health Authority, have been temporarily allowed to sell a quarter-ounce of dried marijuana flower and four immature plants per customer per day while the Oregon Liquor Control Commission writes regulations and issues licenses for recreational marijuana businesses.

In March, the OHA announced that dispensaries may also temporarily sell low-dose edible forms of recreational cannabis and topicals and extracts.

“It’s going to bring a different variety of people to the store,” said Cash Smith, manager of Top Shelf Medical, a Bend dispensary on NE Greenwood Avenue. “Lots of people don’t smoke.”

The same rules that apply to the sale of dried marijuana flower apply to the newly available forms. They must be inside a child-resistant container, not packaged in a way that attracts children and properly labeled to indicate the amount of THC and the product weight in grams.

Dispensaries may sell one edible — a drink, popcorn or chocolate, for example — with no more than 15 milligrams of THC to individual adult customers per day. In addition, they may sell one pre-filled container of extract with up to 1 gram of THC and any topicals that contain up to 6 percent THC. The OHA set no limit on the number of dispensaries a consumer may visit.

Products must be tested and labeled for potency, pesticide contamination and the presence of microbes by a laboratory on an OHA list.

Testing labs have until Oct. 1 to become fully accredited. Until then, the OHA requires only that they provide a copy of their testing manuals to make the list. That’s a stopgap measure meant to catch pesticide-laden marijuana before it hits dispensary shelves.

New regulations take effect Oct. 1 that will require labs to become certified by the Oregon Environmental Laboratory Program, said André Ourso, Oregon Medical Marijuana Program manager.

“We’re not going to be confident with the process until the labs are accredited,” he said. “Until that process is in place, there is some degree of risk for people that consume marijuana products.”

The Oregon Medical Marijuana Program had limited its definition of a “pre-filled receptacle” of extracts to the cartridge that fits a vaporizer pen, similar to an electronic cigarette. The agency changed that definition Wednesday to include any hard or soft container filled prior to sale with an extract, Ourso said.

“That’s big,” said Aviv Hadar, co-founder of Oregrown Industries, which operates a medical marijuana processing facility in Tumalo and a dispensary in Bend. The OHA “got a lot of pushback,” he said. “The Oregon marketplace wasn’t about to sit back and say we’re only going to sell vape pens.”

Extracts, also known as hash oil or honey oil, can be heated in vaporizers and inhaled. Hadar said Oregrown makes its own variety, a waxy, golden substance the size of half dollars sold in child-resistant, one-use-only, heat-sealed packages. The dispensary on Wall Street, in Bend, also has peanut butter cups, caramel popcorn, chocolate fudge and truffles.

“It’s a wide range with edibles,” Hadar said.

Lizette Coppinger, co-owner of Cannabend, a dispensary on N. Third St., has her own stockpile of THC-infused products, including granola, chocolates, caramels, ginger beer and sugar packets. She also stocks ice cream in regular, gluten-free and dairy-free varieties.

“We’ve always been known for having a (large) selection of edibles,” she said.

Alex Berger, co-owner of Magic Number, a Bend-based maker of THC-infused ginger beer and cold-brewed coffee, said he supplies many of the 17 dispensaries in the city. Magic Number beverages come in 12-ounce bottles with three concentrations of THC: 3 milligrams, 10 milligrams and 25 milligrams. The 25-milligram drinks may be sold only to medical marijuana cardholders, for now. Berger said he ramped up production over the last month to meet demand. He delivered 23 cases, with 24 bottles in each, on a recent day.

“Right now we’re slammed,” Berger said. “I’m working 12-hour days.”

With a dizzying selection of products available, even with low doses of THC, temptation, for novice marijuana consumers, may be hard to resist. The effect from edible forms of THC, unlike smoking the dried flower or vaporizing the extract, comes on slowly, said Ourso, the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program manager. Beginners should start with 5-mg doses and wait an hour or longer before ingesting any more.

“Go low and go slow,” he said. “It may take an hour or four hours to feel the effects of an edible.”

Smith, at Top Shelf Medicine, said the 15-mg limit on edibles set by the OHA may help stem incidents involving edibles that grabbed headlines in Colorado.

“Oregon is doing it the way they should do it,” he said. “Colorado opened everything up at once, and their hospitals were full for weeks.”

Closer to home, the number of all marijuana-related emergency department visits at St. Charles Bend has escalated, from 63 in January 2014 to 434 two years later. Dr. William Reed, of the hospital’s emergency department, said people seem unaware that the high they expect from edibles takes longer to achieve. The effects from smoking marijuana are usually felt immediately.

“They’ll wait 15 minutes and not feel anything,” Reed said. “We have seen cases, I’ve seen a couple here now, too, who ate too many cookies. Instead of one cookie or half a cookie, they eat a bunch.”

A high dose of THC may cause confusion or anxiety or exacerbate deeper mental health issues, he said; “reasoning goes out the window.”

Reed suggested that anyone who consumes too much THC should seek emergency treatment, which may consist of a sedative, fluids and rest in a quiet setting for as many as six hours.

“It’s important to pass on that like all medications, it can be toxic in children,” Reed said. “Keep it out of reach and locked up, just like blood pressure or diabetes medicine. It may look like candy, but it ain’t, so you gotta put it away like anything else.”

— Reporter: 541-617-7815, jditzler@bendbulletin.com

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