Getting jacked on edibles

A new study suggests Canadians are in the dark about cannabis-infused edibles, but are they uninformed or just misinformed?

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One day a 10-milligram THC brownie lifts you into a good mood, the next it knocks you flat on your back.

Seasoned users know that consuming edibles can be a wildly subjective experience. And therein lies one of the key problems with information campaigns on edibles. To some extent, none of it can really be trusted.

You can tell someone to start low and go slow. But there isn’t a great deal of agreement on what low (or slow) actually means.

When it comes to edibles and the laws governing them, confusion abounds.

Take, for instance, a new study from the group Responsible Cannabis Use (RCU). It comes just weeks before the rollout of edibles sales across Canada. And it suggests that Canadians know jack about edibles.

Only half of those surveyed know how long the effects can last. And only four in 10 people surveyed know to start with a low 2.5-milligram dose. (That number also happens to be what the industry has settled on as the baseline dose.)

“Overall, these results are consistent with other studies which confirm that Canadians are not familiar with cannabis products,” the survey concludes.

Should this be cause for alarm?

The RCU’s results imply that people don’t know how to use edibles safely. But they may not be uninformed consumers of cannabis — just unpracticed readers of government regulations. The guidelines put in place by the feds – a minimum of 2.5 milligrams and a maximum of 10 milligrams per dose – seem to make sense. But there’s no hard science on the limits.

So the question remains whether Canadians are uninformed, or just misinformed.

RCU’s CEO Afshin Mousavian thinks it’s a bit of both.

He acknowledges that figuring out where Canadians are on edibles is like “trying to assess the black market for moonshine.” That’s because so much information about edibles use remains hidden from researchers and official channels.

Years of government-approved misinformation has also warped what we know about edibles. News outlets turn negative information into dramatic headlines. And in the process has doomed edibles to endless news cycles of soccer moms who got too high, kids that chewed the wrong gummy, or pets who got into the infused human treats.

One study out of the University of Guelph earlier this summer shines a different light on edibles use. It found that a significant number of people, especially young people, just didn’t trust the information they were getting. “They trusted their body to be a better source of information.”

The Guelph study also found that government ad campaigns may not be useful.

So what’s to be done?

Mousavian suggests that the best place for consumers to start is at the point of sale. Get people talking to their budtenders, and they’re more likely to absorb the right information, he says.

Except, in a number of provinces, the budtender is the government. And what experienced users know about edibles doesn’t always jibe with what the government wants us to know.