Last year, Washington and Colorado legalized recreational marijuana sales. Adult Colorado residents are now allowed to buy up to an ounce of marijuana per transaction.
A sushi mini-chain with locations in Denver and Boulder has introduced pot pairing menus to help customers determine what kind of weed goes best with sushi.
Colorado restaurant owners Wanda James and Scott Durrah offer monthly gourmet marijuana cooking classes at their Caribbean restaurant “8 Rivers”in Denver.
And Colorado residents can now also buy a wide variety of marijuana and hashish-infused foods and beverages such as chocolate truffles, brownies, chai mints, Old Fashioned Sarsaparilla, Sparkling Pomegranate, sodas, candies, and even THC-laden beef jerky, along with other items.
Among the most popular items are marijuana-infused chocolate bars, which are sold in a pack of four for $15 and chewy, chocolaty Dixie Rolls, which sell for $17 a pack.
But all these pot laced foods sold are basically exempt from being regulated by federal agencies like the CDC or the Food and Drug Administration because marijuana is illegal at the federal level.
ABC News notes the Colorado Department of Public Health has not been involved in regulation, because part of its budget is federally funded. So the Marijuana Enforcement Division of the Department of Revenue is overseeing regulation of the entire industry.
“There are going to be hundreds of questions on the legal and health side that no one was able to foresee when the voters pulled the lever,” said Paul Doering, professor of pharmacy practice and co-director of the Drug Information and Pharmacy Resource Center at the University of Florida.
According to Doering, the cannabis plant contains 500 different chemicals, 66 of which are cannabinoids and have an intoxicating effect.
The state requires child-proof packaging that requires a serving size contain no more than 10 milligrams of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana.
But the dosages can be inconsistent because of the variety of products with variable compositions. The chemicals in marijuana are also not very stable, especially in food.
“My first concern is not about health risks, but that is all dosage forms in elixirs, cookies, candies and soda pop can’t possibly be stable in all different deliveries of the drug,” said Doering.
“What a lot of people enjoy about marijuana is the rapid onset from smoking – within minutes the effect begins to take place in the brain.”
When cannabis is eaten, however, the absorption rate is slow and the duration is longer.
“The person is not apt to get what they are looking for — the familiar high they get in smoking,” he said. “Only 4 to 20 percent of the THC even makes it to the bloodstream at all. A good portion is destroyed in the stomach or the first pass through the liver.”
Doering adds that problems arise when a person expects to get high, decides it’s not working, and eats another brownie.
“I truly think that edible dosage forms are going to be immensely unpopular with the recreation user whose primary goal is to get high and to get high now,” he said.
“Of course, if one is good, two must be better. And if two is not enough, then four would be that much better.”
In the mean time, edible products manufacturers, public health officials, Colorado state regulators and laboratory owners were part of a series of meetings last fall and some new rules are being phased in this year.