Edibles Often Mislabeled – Why Potency Testing is Crucial

clear bowl filled with gummy bears and marijuana buds around isolated on a white background

Nearly 25 percent of all medical cannabis users in the United States prefer brownies, cookies, and other edible products to get their dose of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). And while eating some THC-infused candy may seem like a more pleasant (and safer) way of medicating compared to smoking marijuana, how do you know that those edibles, as appealing as they may be, contain the right dose?

Cannabis edibles often mislabeled, study shows

For patients who rely on cannabis for medical purposes, reliable dosage information is of utmost importance. Side effects of mislabeled edibles can be serious, and sometimes a matter of life and death. 

Emerging research, conducted at John Hopkins University found that less than a quarter of the 75 cannabis edible labels studied listed accurate amounts of THC. The study, led by Ryan Vandrey, Ph.D., underscores the lack of oversight of edibles, and many risks posed to consumers.

Of the 75 products tested by Vandrey and his team, 23 percent had higher levels of THC, and 60 had no discernable THC whatsoever. Other products had up to 50 percent more tetrahydrocannabinol than what was listed on the label.

Vandrey cautions that patients who consume under-labeled products — edibles where the THC levels are higher than stated on the label — could experience psychotic reactions and other side effects common of overdosing.

Potential side effects of edibles

Of course, every person will react to edibles differently, depending on their metabolism and previous exposure to cannabis products. Possible side effects of candies, cookies, and THC-infused edibles can include:

  • Anxiety and paranoia: Consuming large doses of THC, or more than your body can handle, can trigger feelings of paranoia and social anxiety.
  • Lethargy: Extreme lethargy is not unusual after consuming too much of a THC laced gummy bear or other cannabis edible.
  • Cardiovascular problems: Heart problems are nearly three times more likely with edibles compared to smoking pot. Too much THC can cause panic attacks and irregular heartbeats.
  • Longer-lasting high: The effects of eating cannabis last much longer compared to smoking it. If side effects are unpleasant, this can make it challenging to function throughout the day.
  • Hallucinations: THC and cannabinoids can alter brain function, causing fear-induced visual and auditory hallucinations.

New Cryo-Milling technique shows promise

A cryo-mill technique has shown promise as a new solution for testing THC quantities in cannabis edibles. Edibles are placed into a special grinding jar with liquid nitrogen and pulverized until a fine powder forms. Then, the powder is combined with Celite, a material containing microscopic hollow particles, which allows the cannabinoids to be separated and gathered using flash chromatography.

While the cryo-mill process has provided reliable measurements of THC and CBD levels in cookies, topical lotions, candies, and THC brownies, it has yet to be perfected. It is still more accurate compared to older liquid extraction procedures.

Marijuana testing service at Modern Canna Science

Marijuana may be legal for medical and recreational purposes in many states, but it is still not approved by the FDA. This means that there are no uniform regulatory testing standards.

For patients who regularly use cannabis-laced products, there is always the risk of under or overdosing. A THC tester for edibles is an easy way to confirm you’re getting what the label says. Modern Canna Science, located in central Florida, tests marijuana for potency, microbial agents, contaminants and terpenoids. 

Contact us today to learn more about our quality control services for medical marijuana.

Additional Resources:

  1. Civilized Life, Want To Know How Much THC Is In That Edible? This Test Will Tell You https://www.civilized.life/articles/thc-edibles-measure-test/
  2. WikiLeaf, Are There Side Effects to Edibles? https://www.wikileaf.com/thestash/side-effects-edibles/
  3. Johns Hopkins Medicine, Medical Marijuana ‘Edibles’ Mostly Mislabeled, Study Shows https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/news/media/releases/medical_marijuana_edibles_mostly_mislabeled_study_shows
  4. Vice.com, How to Test the Potency of Pot-Infused Foods https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/ae3ppk/how-to-test-the-potency-of-pot-infused-foods

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