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Packaged Marijuana Edibles Are Usually Lying About Their Potency

Packaged Marijuana Edibles Are Usually Lying About Their Potency

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The Oregonian tested 15 of the most popular cannabis-laced foods, and found that most of their potency claims are inaccurate

Wikimedia Commons

Looking to buy some (legal) edibles in your state? You may be in for more than you bargained for.

In states where marijuana is now legal, like Colorado and Oregon, cannabis-laced edibles are a booming business. But how potent is your brownie? (or cookie, or lollipop, or root beer…) A new study from
The Oregonian
has found that 14 out of 15 of the popular edibles tested contain either more or less THC than advertised on the packaging.

According to the Oregonian, the state is supposed to test each product for food safety and potency before it hits the market. But still, 4 out of 5 of the tested products fell short when it came to the marked THC content, including Coma Treats pizza, which claims to have 350 milligrams of THC—a seriously-potent concoction. In reality, it actually has 85 percent less. Other poor performers included Gummiez candy, Infinite Flower cookie, and Steve’s root beer. Perhaps even worse is Drip ice cream, which contains 54 percent more THC than on the label, which could make for a hilarious prank or a nasty surprise. Of the 15 tested edibles, only Cheeba Chews chocolate listed the correct amount.

Most of the product manufacturers were just as surprised as The Oregonian’s testers, as companies usually spend thousands of dollars a month to pay state-sponsored or private labs to test their products.

How To Use Cannabis Trim, Stems, Sugar Leaves, and Popcorn Buds in Edibles

Stems, sugar leaves, popcorn buds, and all of the other flower material that you don’t end up curing and smoking are ideal for making infusions. This article will explain how to use cannabis trim and stems (popcorn buds and leaves too!) within your own homemade cannabis edibles.

Using trim is also a great way to practice making your own cannabis edibles as you will not be as worried about ‘wasting’ some premium cannabis. Not to mention, the strength of these edibles will help those who are new try cannabis edibles without feeling too overwhelmed.

These infusions won’t be as strong as using high-quality cannabis buds, however, I personally find that this type of cannabis infusion can produce ideal daytime edibles, or, cannabis edibles for those who might be new to this type of cannabis experience.

Decarboxylate Your Trim

Like cannabis buds, your stems, trim, and other material will need to be decarboxylated in order to produce the best edibles you can.

After decarboxylation, store the cannabis material in a glass, airtight jar (or container) in a cool, dark cupboard. If you are planning to use the decarboxylated trim right away for edibles, you may do so.

In my own opinion, the most efficient way to make cannabis fat infusions is with a slow cooker and the double-boiler method. This ensures no burning (of the cannabis, or fat), as well as retaining a very consistent temperature throughout the infusion process.

Cannabis can be infused into:

You will also need cheesecloth (or micron filter) to strain the fat through as well as a container to strain your infused fat back into. I usually use the container that the fat originally came in, such as a jar of coconut oil.

Once you have infused your cannabis trim into a fat, get creative and think of snacks or meals that contain this fat.

Making Cannabis Edibles

Although many cannabis consumers do not think past the brownie or cookie when edibles are mentioned, cannabis edibles are highly versatile and just about anything can be infused with cannabis.

Some of the best tasting edibles I have ever made are dishes such as curries, pizza dough, gingerbread, waffles, meatballs, and fried chicken. The options for cannabis-infusions are almost endless.

Here are two very easy example recipes using cannabis coconut oil, both of these are considered snacks, however, if you would like more complex recipes for full meals, feel free to hit me up on Instagram @cannabisinformationinstitute.

Cannabis Gummies

  • 170 Grams Jello (Your Choice of Flavour!)
  • 28 Grams Plain Gelatin
  • 1/4 Cup Cannabis Coconut Oil
  • 1/2 Cup Water
  • Combine the water and oil in a pan and heat on low until steam begins to rise
  • Add gelatin and ensure it is fully dissolved
  • Now, add jello and heat on low while stirring for 6-7 minutes
  • Transfer to moulds and chill.

This is a sample of my own gummies made with the above recipe (Lime Flavour).

Cannabis Chocolate Fudge

  • 1 Cup Cannabis Coconut Oil (Unmelted This Will Weigh Approx 227 grams)
  • 1 Cup (250ml) Cocoa Powder
  • 1 Tablespoon Vanilla Extract
  • Pinch of Salt
  • Maple Syrup, Raw Honey OR Other Natural Sweeteners (To Taste)
  • Line a bread pan with parchment paper
  • Place melted coconut oil into a bowl with cocoa powder, salt, and vanilla extract
  • Add sweetener (maple syrup/raw honey etc)
  • Taste mixture to ensure it is sweet enough
  • Transfer mixture to your lined bread pan
  • Spread fudge evenly and refrigerate for 4-5 hours

(Optional) Top with coconut shavings

Enjoy these recipes, and once again, feel free to reach out, either right here through our cannabis growers forum or through Instagram (@cannabisinformationinstitute)

Using Edibles

Edibles vs. Smoking

Why do cannabis users eat edibles in addition to, or instead of, smoking marijuana?

  • It’s an alternative to smoking.
    • Some people don’t like smoking, or find it to be too harsh on their lungs.
    • Edibles allow them to enjoy marijuana without smoking or inhaling.
    • A little bit of weed goes a long way in preparing or cooking edibles
    • So eating just a small amount can be a more economical (and just as potent, if not more so) approach to achieving a high than buying bud.
    • Edibles are portable, inconspicuous, and can be consumed anywhere.
    • This is particularly helpful in hotel rooms and other places where smoking is banned.
    • The effects take longer to kick in than smoking – anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours
    • The high lasts longer than smoking – users can feel effects for as long as 4-8 hours
    • The high is stronger and more intense than smoking
    • This is why some medical patients prefer edibles for dealing with pain
    Eating the Right Amount

    So how much of a cookie, or how many gummies, should you eat?

    The answer depends greatly on several factors, including:

    • How much cannabis was used in the product
    • How strong the cannabis is, or what strain it is
    • How evenly the cannabis was spread through the food
    • How cannabis usually affects the person ingesting it, and
    • What their tolerance is for cannabis

    When consuming edibles purchased in stores or dispensaries, you should start with no more than a single serving. A single serving generally contains 5-10 mg of THC (as marked on the package) and each serving will be separately packaged or denoted in some way.

    • If you’re trying edibles for the first time, or if you are trying a new edible for the first time, eat half the recommended serving.
    • Wait an hour, or longer if this is your first time, before ingesting more
    • If you’re not feeling any effects, try eating a half-serving more

    With homemade edibles, it is much more difficult to choose the right dosage and estimate potency.

    • Start by eating half of what you’d expect a single serving to be – so half of a brownie square, etc.
    • Wait an hour, or longer if this is your first time, before ingesting more
    • If you’re not feeling any effects, try eating a half-serving more

    As we’ve mentioned, consuming marijuana edibles in any form impacts everyone differently. Learn more about how much to consume, and what to do if the edible you’ve ingested is too strong for you.

    2. Why are edibles so expensive?

    So why is an edible so much more expensive than cannabis flower, especially when the flower will potentially allow the customer more consumption sessions? There are several factors explaining the higher price of edibles.

    Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

    The main reason behind the pricing of edibles is the amount of processing required to create them - not only must the starting cannabis material be purchased from the grower/supplier (whether it's actual cannabis flower for whole-plant infusions or pre-extracted cannabis compounds for isolate or distillate-infused edibles), it must then be infused into the ingredients of a manufactured food product to create the edible, which must then be packaged and branded for sale by the edible company.

    Each of these processing steps can add several additional costs to the bottom line of creating that edible.

    For example, if an edible company is infusing a butter or oil with cannabis flower or extracts, that company must have the batches of infused ingredients lab-tested to confirm potency before they can be used in the final edible product, which then requires its own lab testing to confirm the potency is within the regulated limit of THC per container. While this potency double-check is vital to ensure that you as the consumer get a reliably dosed edible product, it can add significant cost to the process, which must be factored in to the price of that good.

    Another explanation behind the increased price of edibles is the amount of specialization & expertise required to produce quality edibles - as with most things in life, when it comes to edibles, good isn’t cheap, and cheap almost always isn’t good.

    Crafting a high-quality edible requires in-depth recipe research and development, sourcing of the best ingredients, and formulating a cannabis infusion method that will deliver on many important factors such as taste, potency, and the type of cannabis effects a consumer wants.

    So while the price for a good edible might be a bit higher than a similar quantity of flower, what you’re really getting is a high-quality, dose-verified cannabis product made by food artisans with your best experience in mind.

    How Long Does It Take For Edibles To Take Effect?

    When you inhale cannabis, onset of psychoactive and medicinal effects can occur within 15 minutes.

    Edibles, however, need much longer to take effect. You may need between 30 minutes and two hours before you notice onset of effects.

    The total length of time it takes before you experience effects from an edible varies from individual to individual.

    This is why proper dosage for THC edibles can be a little tricky.

    Your personal metabolic rate and whether or not you have eaten the edible on an empty stomach will impact the amount of time it takes for your body to break down the edible.

    Since this delivery format has such a long activation time, it is recommended to wait until the AT LEAST two full hours after first trying an edible before increasing your dose.

    Some experts suggest waiting as long as six to eight hours – or even until the next day.

    Once you have figured out how a beginning dosage of an edible might affect you, you can slowly increase or decrease the dose over time.

    Learn More about Cannabis Delivery Methods at CTU

    Interested in learning more about the differences and similarities between tinctures,edibles, and other infused products? Want to learn more about the cannabis plant, its cannabinoids and terpenes, the endocannabinoid system,and the many available products containing its therapeutic compounds?

    Check out our blog/resource center for tips on how to make cannabis tincture and edibles, cannabis tincture/edible dosage, how to use cannabis tinctures and edibles, and cannabis tincture and edible side effects. Our informative articles can help you have a safe and effective experience.

    For a complete cannabis education, sign up for CTU’s online cannabis college to learn how to use and grow cannabis, as well as how to get a rewarding career in this business.

    Some of the links in this article may be affiliate links and if you click through them and make a purchase from the website it takes you to it may result in a commission for us. We appreciate it and thank you for your support!

    Cooking With Marijuana and Cannabis Concentrates

    Cooking with marijuana or with cannabis concentrates is nothing new. But now that cannabis is legal in many U.S. states, cooking with cannabis is becoming all the rage. We’ve seen cannabis infused into everything from cotton candy to pretzels to beer.

    Sure you can purchase marijuana-infused foods, aka “edibles,” at any dispensary . But what fun is that? And, frankly, factory-made edibles cannot compare in quality to home-cooked edibles made from scratch. That is assuming you can cook.

    Why cook with marijuana and cannabis oil?

    Edibles are actually a great way to consume marijuana. They save your lungs and heart from the dangers of smoking and vaping, and edibles provide long-lasting effects.

    Edibles can also improve gut and digestive health. Interestingly research suggests that an imbalance in gut bacteria is actually a major cause of depression. And studies are showing that cannabis promotes a strong gut biome which in turn improves overall health and mood. Moreover, cannabinoids have been shown to help reduce the inflammation that comes with conditions such as Crohn’s Disease, inflammatory bowel, and ulcers.

    Edibles are also great for those who are treating loved ones who can’t take care of themselves — such as Alzheimer’s disease patients and children. (Of course, you should never give marijuana edibles to a child without the direction of a qualified healthcare provider.)

    What about the buzz? Something that most people are not aware of is that edibles don’t necessarily need to be made with marijuana and THC. Non-intoxicating edibles can be made with cannabinoids such as CBD or CBG found in cannabinoid-rich hemp flower.

    And non-cooked foods that are prepared without having to be cooked — say, guacamole, for instance — can be made with THCA (found in raw marijuana buds) which is also non-intoxicating (until you cook it) but has many of the same benefits as THC.

    What kinds of foods can be made with marijuana and cannabis oil?

    The venerable pot brownie has been made famous — or infamous — in countless Hollywood movies. And for good reason. When made properly, cannabis-infused brownies utterly rock.

    But not everyone loves brownies. So what other kinds of foods can be made with marijuana?

    We don’t recommend you toss marijuana buds on top of your salad or in your tuna sandwich. That’s because, frankly, raw marijuana and cannabis oils taste terrible (to most people).

    However, just about any other food that is prepared with oil or butter is fair game. It’s even possible, and not uncommon, to add powdered cannabis directly into things like smoothies or pasta sauce. You can also buy water-soluble THC or CBD for adding to beverages.

    It’s important to point out that cannabinoids and terpenes are oils. And as such, these compounds don’t mix with water. If you eat them, most of the supply will end up just being absorbed into fatty tissues in the body rather than dissolving into the bloodstream. Because of this, cannabis is not great for certain applications such as making tea or soup. However, by infusing cannabinoids into an oil, the oil can be added to things like smoothies, soups, and sauces.

    Study: Most Marijuana Edibles Inaccurately Labeled, Wrong THC Content

    Unlike amateur bakers, licensed producers run multi-stage tests using highly sophisticated equipment. As Leafly explained, &ldquoFirst, they test the Cannabis flowers to be used in the production run [to get] an estimate of how much of each cannabinoid [like THC]&hellip is available for extraction. Subsequent testing of the extract determines how effective the extraction process actually was. Finally, testing of the spent plant matter post-extraction confirms the amount of cannabinoids&hellip left behind.&rdquo You simply can&rsquot perform these tests in your kitchen.

    To skew the numbers further, remember that materials like oil and butter aren&rsquot perfect at extracting and retaining cannabinoids. Though lipid-soluble, THC binds less effectively to certain fats than others. Coconut oil and butter are regarded as some of the best extractors, while products like vegetable oil and canola oil are some of the worst. And, even with coconut oil or butter, nothing is guaranteed. According to Dr. deCesare, &ldquoFor clients that normally extract into dairy butterfat, they discover they only extracted between 40% and 60%&rdquo &ndash not the full 100% by a longshot. You would need to analyze your butter (or oil) to determine its true THC content yet even when they&rsquore performed by professionals, butter potency tests are so inaccurate that some companies, like Tucson-based Botanica, end up testing individual products from every single batch.

    That&rsquos right: even professionals struggle to get dosage right. According to a study published last year in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), &ldquoOf 75 products purchased (47 different brands), 17% were accurately labeled, 23% were underlabeled, and 60% were overlabeled with respect to THC content.&rdquo

    Let me reiterate: fewer than one in five products tested had the right THC content displayed on the label &ndash and that&rsquos with the benefit of sensitive scientific equipment, which you certainly won&rsquot have lying around in your kitchen.

    The JAMA study sums up the problem nicely: &ldquoEven though oral consumption lacks the harmful by-products of smoking, difficult dose [calculation] can result in overdosing or underdosing.&rdquo As the study concluded, &ldquoRegulation and quality assurance for edible product cannabinoid content and labeling are generally lacking.&rdquo

    The bottom line for patients? Edibles won&rsquot kill you &ndash but they&rsquore likely to be stronger or weaker than you anticipated, which can obviously cause problems. If the product turns out to be weaker than you thought, you won&rsquot get the pain relief you need. If it&rsquos stronger than you thought, you might find yourself getting far too intoxicated, which can be very stressful (not to mention disruptive to your plans). In either case, you&rsquore likely getting a hefty dose of fat and sugar, which is something most people could stand to avoid anyway. Pre-produced edibles are okay in moderation, but you should be aware of these issues going in &ndash and whatever you do, for safety&rsquos sake, please leave the baking to the professionals. As Leafly&rsquos experiment and JAMA research both show, you simply won&rsquot be able to control or measure the dose if you try to make edibles at home. Even the manufacturers get it wrong, much of the time.

    8. You can OD on edibles.

    McDonough says: “There’s a lot of controversy over the word overdose, which has a connotation that it’s a fatal condition. With edibles there’s no such thing as a fatal overdose. It’s impossible—you𠆝 literally have to eat nine pounds of hash. If you have an alcohol overdose, you throw up and you have the spins. You’ve poisoned yourself essentially, but just because you didn’t die doesn’t mean it’s not an overdose.”

    Photo courtesy Elise McDonough