In states where marijuana has been legalized, chomping down on an edible can be one of the safest but scariest methods to consume pot. At the most basic level, edibles spare lungs, but can also deliver more THC (or tetrahydrocannabinol, which is the active ingredient behind marijuana's psychological effect) than the consumer intended to bite off.
In Colorado, by law, a single serving of a retail edible product has 10 milligrams or less of THC. It takes time for the body to digest marijuana, especially if someone recently ate normal food, which is highly recommended. In the liver, THC is converted into the more intense-feeling 11-hydroxy-THC, the Daily Beast reported. Basically, start small and take it slow.
This is why those who use it for pain relief prefer oral ingestion, since the effects of the high tend to last longer — up to six hours, depending on the person's metabolism, according to High Times.
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Since being legalized recreationally in some parts of the United States, the market has been flooded with edible products that go beyond the standard brownie — granola, fruit chews and chocolate to name a few. Consumers may expect the marijuana to hit their system immediately after swallowing. After all, that's the experience when marijuana is smoked, Greatist reported. So they take one, two or more servings, and later, are hit out of nowhere with a powerful, sometimes terrifying high.
"But then I felt a scary shudder go through my body and brain," Maureen Dowd wrote for the New York Times on her experience of eating too much of a marijuana candy bar in 2014. "I barely made it from the desk to the bed, where I lay curled up in a hallucinatory state for the next eight hours." She later added of her unpleasant high, "As my paranoia deepened, I became convinced that I had died and no one was telling me."
While this sounds like the opposite of the fun or relaxing times promised by eating edibles, Dowd's experience can be avoided by carefully following recommended dosages. In March 2014, 19-year-old Levy Thamba Pongi consumed over 60 milligrams of THC from a cookie, Forbes reported. A few hours later, he jumped off a building. Autopsy reports found Pongi's marijuana blood intoxication level was at 7.2 nanograms per milliliter (the legal driving limit is 5 nanograms per milliliter) in Colorado.
Correction: Feb. 3, 2016
An earlier version of this story reported Levy Thamba Pongi died in March 2015. He died in March 2014.