Testing Cannabis Edibles for Potency


Last month we wrote about what is known as “marijuana tourism,” the act of traveling to states where recreational marijuana use is legal. With four states allowing adult cannabis use, there are a number of options for people who want to experience the end of marijuana prohibition first hand. A number of marijuana tourists are not regular users, and may or may not have ever used extremely potent strains of marijuana or edibles that can be purchased at pot shops. In the state of Colorado, researchers found that emergency rooms have seen a surge of visits by out-of-staters experiencing marijuana-related medical problems. Many of the incidents involved marijuana edibles which, it turns out, can be difficult to gauge with regard to the dosage of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) present in such products.

There is a growing concern about inconsistent and inaccurate dosage information listed on the labels of marijuana edibles, which can mislead potential users. In response, scientists have developed a new method for measuring the level of marijuana compounds present in edibles, Science Daily reports. The scientists exhibited their work this week at the 251st National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS).

“Producers of cannabis edibles complain that if they send off their product to three different labs for analysis, they get three different results,” says Melissa Wilcox, who is at Grace Discovery Sciences. “The point of our work is to create a solid method that will accurately and reliably measure the cannabis content in these products.”

Jahan Marcu, Ph.D., from Americans for Safe Access and vice-chair of the newly formed ACS Cannabis Subdivision, points out that inconsistent and inaccurate labeling is important because eating cannabis is different than smoking, according to the article. Cannabis edibles are metabolized differently than when marijuana is inhaled, which can produce a stronger high that comes on slowly and has a longer lasting effect.

“It’s a lot easier for an individual to control their dose when smoking,” Wilcox says. “The effects of edibles can take a while to happen. You eat them, and then wait to see how you feel in an hour or two. If you ingested too much, you could be in for an unexpectedly bad experience.”

The current method employed for analyzing the potency of edibles involves using a high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC), the article reports. Marcu notes that HPLCs were not designed to have food injected into them, the sugars, fats and starches hinder the machines ability to produce accurate results. In order to combat the problem, the researchers developed a technique that separates the cannabinoids from the rest of the food. They then inject a liquid containing only the marijuana compounds into the HPLC.

People traveling to take part in the marijuana experience should be fully aware of the risks present with cannabis use. While the drug is legal for both medical and recreational use in a number of states, it does not mean that the drug cannot have adverse effects on people and it can also be habit forming. If you believe that cannabis use is negatively affecting your life, please contact Harmony Foundation.

Marijuana Tourists’ Emergency Room Visits


When it comes to which mind altering substances carry the greatest health risk it is probably fair to say that most Americans would agree that marijuana is at the bottom of the list – as is evident by the continued lightening of restrictions when it comes to the use of cannabis. In the last 20 years, since California became the first state to legalize the use of medical marijuana, more and more states have hopped on the “green train,” medical marijuana is now legal in 24 states and Washington D.C. Four of those states and Washington, D.C. have also legalized adult recreational use, with more states expected to follow suit this November.

The State of Colorado is one of the four states that have legalized adult cannabis use, and in 2014 sale began throughout the state. Legalization, like one might expect, has brought about a surge in marijuana tourism, that is people who would like to walk into a store and buy marijuana, just like one would by a six-pack of beer. The novel experience is a not without risk, a new report has shown a spike in emergency room visits involving out-of-state visitors experiencing marijuana-related medical problems, HealthDay reports. Between 2013 and 2014, the number of marijuana tourists visiting the University of Colorado Hospital emergency room doubled, according to a research letter published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

“People in Colorado are becoming more experienced with use of these products,” said study co-author Dr. Andrew Monte, an assistant professor of emergency medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Aurora. “Sometimes visitors to the state, it’s more difficult to get the educational information in their hands. They may be less experienced with the particular products in the state. They haven’t been exposed to the deluge of public health messaging.”

While marijuana may be perceived as being a benign substance, a number of marijuana products contain extremely high levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – the main psychoactive ingredient that produces the high marijuana users experience. Monte points out that the majority of ER visits are the result of marijuana affecting pre-existing medical conditions, according to the article. Cannabis edibles are also responsible for a large number of emergency room visits, which if too much is consumed can cause severe vomiting.

It is important to keep in mind that on top of physical health risks, marijuana can become habit forming and potentially lead to addiction. If marijuana is negatively impacting your life, please contact Harmony Foundation for assistance.

High-Potency Marijuana Damages Nerve Fibers

People use marijuana more than any other illicit drug, yet the plant has been severely understudied. In recent years the use of marijuana has fallen into a veritable grey area, with states legalizing the drug for both medical and recreational use, despite marijuana being illegal on the federal level. Greater acceptance of marijuana use has led to a surge in research on the drug, regarding both the dangers of use and the plant’s medicinal properties. There is little question about marijuana being more benign than let’s say methamphetamine; however, there are still many scientists who are unsure regarding the long term effects of use.

Many marijuana users, including teenagers, believe that marijuana is harmless; they often say that ‘no one has ever died from marijuana use!’ While that may be true, whenever someone uses a mind altering substance there is an effect on the brain – which may be more serious than you’d might think. What’s more, marijuana has become available in highly potent forms, containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) levels upwards of 20 percent; THC is the principal psychoactive constituent found in the plant.

In fact, new research suggests that high-potency marijuana may damage nerve fibers in the brain, which connect the organ’s two hemispheres, HealthDay reports. The study was conducted by researchers at King’s College London.

The research team analyzed MRI scans from 99 people, some of which had been previously diagnosed with psychosis, according to article. The researchers found that frequent use of high-potency marijuana was associated with damage to the corpus callosum, the largest white matter structure in the brain. The corpus callosum is notably rich in cannabinoid receptors. The stronger the marijuana, the greater the damage.

“We found that frequent use of high-potency cannabis significantly affects the structure of white matter fibers in the brain, whether you have psychosis or not,” said senior researcher Dr. Paola Dazzan, of the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience at King’s College London.

The findings were published in Psychological Medicine.

While marijuana is legal to use recreationally in four states, including Colorado, it is important that the public be made aware of the risks of use. Like alcohol, just because it’s legal does not mean it is safe. Teenagers are especially susceptible to adverse effects because their brains are still developing. Marijuana can also lead to dependency, which can require outside help. If you or a loved one is addicted to marijuana, please contact Harmony Foundation for assistance, we have been able to help tens of thousands of people learn how to live life free from addiction.

Mixing Alcohol and Marijuana Increases THC Levels

The legalization of recreational marijuana use in a number of states, including Colorado, has created a need for more research on the drug. Up until recently, there had been little research conducted on the effects of marijuana use, let alone on the effects of mixing alcohol and marijuana together – the two mind altering substances that are used together the most frequently.

New research suggests that when a person mixes alcohol and pot they show an increased amount of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in their blood, TIME reports. THC is the active ingredient in marijuana that is responsible for the euphoria that users experience.

The new study involved 19 people who drank alcohol or a placebo in low doses 10 minutes before they used marijuana in either a low or high dose. The researchers found that when a person drank alcohol, their blood concentration of THC was much higher, compared to when marijuana was smoked on its own, according to the article.

Previous research has shown that when alcohol and marijuana are mixed together, users are far more likely to get into a car accident. Teenagers who mixed the two substances were about 50 to 90 percent more likely to admit to unsafe driving, and they had higher rates of traffic tickets/warnings and car accidents. The new research may explain why that tends to be the case.

Mixing alcohol and marijuana is quite common among teenagers and young adults. In most cases, people are unaware that combining any two mind altering substances increases both intoxication and the risk of injury. While alcohol, and now marijuana in some states, are legal – it does not mean that they are always safe; both can lead to addiction.

The new research was published in Clinical Chemistry.

If you are a young adult struggling with alcohol and marijuana use, we encourage you to take a look at our Young Adult Recovery Track. Our program focuses on the specific needs of young people looking to find a new way of life through recovery.

Addiction and recovery news provided by Harmony Foundation.

Where Drug Abuse Meets Politics

Where drug abuse meets politics has been evident in the news this past month with several headlines catching national attention.

First, Obama’s former right hand man turned Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is advocating that the state of Illinois lay off some of its stringent drug laws. Specifically, he wants to reduce the felony charge for those caught with a gram or less of a controlled substance. Currently, those caught with a  pain pill for which they have no prescription or a small amount of cocaine face a felony charge, which can have lifelong repercussions. According to Emanuel, “A felony conviction can slam the door on someone’s future and make it harder to go to school, apply for financial aid and find housing. There are times when a felony conviction is no doubt warranted, but we have to ask ourselves whether it’s too high a price for using drugs.” What’s left out of this story was whether those charged with non-felony possession would be encouraged to seek drug abuse treatment.

Second, the Federal Government recently posted a job seeking pot farmers for the National Institute on Drug Abuse. They are looking for farmers to “cultivate and harvest, process, analyze, store, and distribute cannabis (marijuana) for research.” Specifically, they are looking for marijuana farmers who are able to grow plants with “altered” variations of THC for specific research they are conducting.

Obviously the farmers must be approved by the FDA and DEA and registered to handle Schedule II substances. A spokesperson for NIDA said the organization’s contract for marijuana farms is going to expire next year and that these new contracts will likely be for one year, but may have the option of a four year contract. Obviously a lot of research on marijuana abuse will come out over the next few years but this job post in particular has gotten many interested in what NIDA is researching exactly.

Third, United States Attorney General Eric Holder announced that he will resign last week as soon as his replacement is confirmed. Critics say that Holder is leaving at a time when the DOJ is in over it’s head with the discordance between state and federal marijuana policy. Whoever the new Attorney General will be will have to contend with the fact that two states have legalized marijuana, 23 have sound, clear cut laws around medicinal use of cannibus and a few states have a few limited and blurry laws around medicinal uses. However, the Federal government continues to classify marijuana as a schedule I drug (or a drug defined as being criminal, without medicinal purpose and with high abuse potential). Because the DEA is part of the DOJ, the new Attorney General has the power and authority to reschedule or de-schedule a substance – something Holder failed to do while in office. Time (and nominations for Attorney General) will tell how marijuana will be classified federally.

Pot Brownies in Schools, Youth at Risk of Marijuana Dependence

There have been several concerns about marijuana regulation and its impact on youth since Amendment 64 was passed in November. Since then, several stories have emerged about marijuana ending up in schools where kids and young adults were exposed to pot brownies.

In a Colorado Springs middle school, a 14-year-old student was hospitalized after she consumed a pot brownie. The student who gave it to her got it from adults off campus and was arrested for distribution. Nanette Anderson, a representative with the school district said this was the first time she had seen an incident like this. She asserted that the school will follow the same school policies regarding illegal substances and that Colorado’s new marijuana law does not change her school’s position.

Although the student who was hospitalized knowingly consumed the pot-laced brownie, cases are arising where people are unknowingly consuming marijuana from students offering brownies as a prank. Two students at the University of Colorado in Boulder were also arrested for giving their professor and two other students a pot laced brownie without their knowledge. Both the professor and students were hospitalized from the effects of the THC – which likely included panic from having been drugged unknowingly.

Authorities speculate that these cases are just a micro-indicator of what will occur without tough marijuana regulation throughout the state. The concern is mainly for children, teens, and young adults as Sgt. Jim Gerhardt with the North Metro Drug Task Force stated, “We’ve seen children infant age that have been getting into this stuff and hospitalized, and this has been under medical marijuana. I can’t imagine how bad it’s going to get with full blown legalization.”

Addiction treatment centers in Colorado are also expecting a rise in the number of admissions they see for marijuana dependence because it is already one of the most common addictions seen among teens and young adults. And the volume of youth addicted to marijuana may grow because they may be more likely to try drugs that come in innocent forms such as brownies and cookies, then say, needles or pipes. Treatment for marijuana dependence at an early age is crucial because using substances early on increases the incidence of addiction and dependence later on in life.

Drug treatment for young adults and teens is also vital because the brain isn’t fully developed until the age of 25. A recent article published by Medical Express showed that use of drugs and alcohol before the brain is fully developed could have lasting detrimental effects. The article revealed that functional signs of brain damage from abuse include “visual, learning, memory and executive function impairments. These functions are controlled by the hippocampus and frontal structures of the brain, which are not fully mature until around 25 years of age.”

If you are concerned for a loved with a with marijuana dependence, Harmony Foundation’s reputable Colorado drug rehab has addiction programs for young adults and adults that help them become free of marijuana addiction and dependence.