Marijuana Edibles May Not Be as Safe as Presumed, Doctors Argue
Consuming marijuana edibles may not be as risk-free as some like to believe, Canadian doctors argue.
There is still much left to be discovered about marijuana and its effects. Cannabis edibles take an average of around four hours longer to produce noticeable effects when compared to inhaled cannabis, which the authors of a commentary titled Health considerations of the legalization of cannabis edibles argue can lead to its overconsumption. Furthermore, the effects of cannabis consumption can last up to eight hours, leading to a much longer period of impairment. These factors create a heightened risk in "cannabis-naïve individuals" like children, older people or pets who may mistake edibles for candy or other food.
Cannabis sativa is a plant that contains more than 80 different naturally occurring compounds called "cannabinoids," most well-known are cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), according to the U.S. Federal Drug Administration. Marijuana edibles are products containing CBD or THC made for ingestion, which produce a variety of effects depending on the dosage, chemical makeup and individual response to the product.
"Although edibles are commonly viewed as a safer and more desirable alternative to smoked or vaped cannabis, physicians and the public should be aware of several risks related to the use of cannabis edibles," wrote by physicians Jasleen Grewal and Lawrence Loh in the commentary published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.
In 2018, the northern nation became the first major world economy to legalize recreational marijuana in what that was likened to the ending of alcohol prohibition in the U.S, reported The New York Times. In October of last year, Canada amended its cannabis regulations to authorize the legal production and sale of cannabis edibles.
In light of these new regulations, the use of marijuana is prevalent. A 2019 National Cannabis Survey found that more than one-in-four respondents in Canada had used cannabis in the previous three months and consumed edibles. By comparison, Reuters reports that one-in-seven American adults reported using marijuana in 2017. However, that proportion went up dramatically for respondents who lived in states where marijuana was completely legal.
As of the beginning of this year, Business Insider reports there are 11 states with both legalized recreational and medical marijuana for adults over the age of 21, and 33 states that allow marijuana for medicinal purposes. However, legislation regarding the distribution, sale, use and growing largely vary between state governments and federal prohibition is still in effect, which means that in the U.S. there little regulatory oversight when it comes to safety regulations and consumer cautions. (Though Forbes reports that there have been congressional moves in recent months to legalize marijuana at a federal level.)
"After legalization of cannabis edibles in Colorado, the state poison control center saw a 70 percent increase in calls for accidental cannabis exposure in children from 2013 to 2017, and studies of health care usage reported more children than adults being treated for ingestion incidents," write the authors.
The authors argue that information available on edibles can be misleading and may run counter to what evidence suggests. A recent survey by the Canadian Center on Substance Use and Addiction found that younger consumers believe that cannabis edibles have a positive effect on mood, anxiety and sleep. Though the controversial plant has been linked to health benefits for many conditions, long-term consumption is also associated with adverse effects like panic attacks and psychosis.
The authors do not suggest banning marijuana, but instead argue that doctors and consumers should be aware of the effects of marijuana and should follow federal regulations regarding its use.
"Physicians should routinely question patients who ask about cannabis about their use or intended use of edible cannabis products so that they can counsel these patients regarding child safety, potential for accidental overconsumption and delayed effects, and potential for interactions with other substances such as alcohol, benzodiazepines, sleeping aids and opioids," caution the authors.
Additionally, the authors note that state efforts should continue to monitor cannabis use and continue evaluating the effects of legalized edibles to ensure that regulations are met and the most vulnerable groups are protected.
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Natural gas is a versatile fossil fuel that accounts for about a third of U.S. energy use. Although it produces fewer greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants than coal or oil, natural gas is a major contributor to climate change, an urgent global problem. Reducing emissions from the natural gas system is especially challenging because natural gas is used roughly equally for electricity, heating, and industrial applications.
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What RNG Is and Why it Matters<p>Most equipment that uses energy can only use a single kind of fuel, but the fuel might come from different resources. For example, you can't charge your computer with gasoline, but it can run on electricity generated from coal, natural gas or solar power.</p><p>Natural gas is almost pure methane, <a href="https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/natural-gas/" target="_blank">currently sourced</a> from raw, fossil natural gas produced from <a href="https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/natural-gas/where-our-natural-gas-comes-from.php" target="_blank">deposits deep underground</a>. But methane could come from renewable resources, too.</p><p><span></span>Two main methane sources could be used to make RNG. First is <a href="https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/inventory-us-greenhouse-gas-emissions-and-sinks" target="_blank">biogenic methane</a>, produced by bacteria that digest organic materials in manure, landfills and wastewater. Wastewater treatment plants, landfills and dairy farms have captured and used biogenic methane as an energy resource for <a href="http://emilygrubert.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/eia_860_2017_map.html" target="_blank">decades</a>, in a form usually called <a href="https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/biomass/landfill-gas-and-biogas.php" target="_blank">biogas</a>.</p><p>Some biogenic methane is generated naturally when organic materials break down without oxygen. Burning it for energy can be beneficial for the climate if doing so prevents methane from escaping to the atmosphere.</p>
Renewable Isn’t Always Sustainable<p>If RNG could be a renewable replacement for fossil natural gas, why not move ahead? Consumers have shown that they are <a href="https://www.nrel.gov/analysis/green-power.html" target="_blank">willing to buy renewable electricity</a>, so we might expect similar enthusiasm for RNG.</p><p>The key issue is that methane isn't just a fuel – it's also a <a href="https://www.eia.gov/environment/emissions/ghg_report/ghg_overview.php" target="_blank">potent greenhouse gas</a> that contributes to climate change. Any methane that is manufactured intentionally, whether from biogenic or other sources, will contribute to climate change if it enters the atmosphere.</p><p>And <a href="http://doi.org/10.1126/science.aar7204" target="_blank">releases</a> <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.wasman.2019.07.029" target="_blank">will happen</a>, from newly built production systems and <a href="https://theconversation.com/why-methane-emissions-matter-to-climate-change-5-questions-answered-122684" target="_blank">existing, leaky transportation and user infrastructure</a>. For example, the moment you smell gas before the pilot light on a stove lights the ring? That's methane leakage, and it contributes to climate change.</p><p>To be clear, RNG is almost certainly better for the climate than fossil natural gas because byproducts of burning RNG won't contribute to climate change. But doing somewhat better than existing systems is no longer enough to respond to the <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate2923" target="_blank">urgency</a> of climate change. The world's <a href="https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/chapter/spm/" target="_blank">primary international body on climate change</a> suggests we need to decarbonize by 2030 to mitigate the worst effects of climate change.</p>
Scant Climate Benefits<p><a href="https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/ab9335/meta" target="_blank">My recent research</a> suggests that for a system large enough to displace a lot of fossil natural gas, RNG is probably not as good for the climate as <a href="https://investor.southerncompany.com/information-for-investors/latest-news/latest-news-releases/press-release-details/2020/Southern-Company-Gas-grows-leadership-team-to-focus-on-climate-action-innovation-and-renewable-natural-gas-strategy/default.aspx" target="_blank">is publicly claimed</a>. Although RNG has lower climate impact than its fossil counterpart, likely high demand and methane leakage mean that it probably will contribute to climate change. In contrast, renewable sources such as wind and solar energy do not <a href="https://www.eia.gov/environment/emissions/carbon/" target="_blank">emit climate pollution directly</a>.</p><p>What's more, creating a large RNG system would require building mostly new production infrastructure, since RNG comes from different sources than fossil natural gas. Such investments are both long-term commitments and opportunity costs. They would devote money, political will and infrastructure investments to RNG instead of alternatives that could achieve a zero greenhouse gas emission goal.</p><p>When climate change first <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/1988/06/24/us/global-warming-has-begun-expert-tells-senate.html" target="_blank">broke into the political conversation</a> in the late 1980s, investing in long-lived systems with low but non-zero greenhouse gas emissions was still compatible with aggressive climate goals. Now, zero greenhouse gas emissions is the target, and my research suggests that large deployments of RNG likely won't meet that goal.</p>
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Elephant Burial Grounds<p>Highly social creatures that form deep familial bonds, elephants have long been observed gathering at the site where a peer or family member has died — often spending hours, even days, quietly investigating the bodies or the bones of other dead elephants.</p><p>Although the popular idea that dying elephants are instinctively drawn to special communal graves — so-called "elephant graveyards" — is a myth, their tendency to go out of their way to visit the bones and tusks of the deceased isn't unlike human rituals at graveyards, says animal psychologist Karen McComb.</p><p>"They spend a lot of time touching and smelling skulls and ivory, placing the soles of their feet gently on top of them, and also lifting them up with their trunks," McComb, who's been studying African elephants for 25 years in Kenya's Amboseli National Park, told DW.</p><p>The most striking part of watching an elephant experience loss, Poole recalls, is the quietude. She still remembers one of the first elephant deaths she witnessed; a mother who birthed a stillborn calf. That elephant stayed with its baby for two days, trying to lift it and defending it from vultures and hyenas.</p><p>"I was so struck by the expression on her face and her body. She looked so dejected. It was really like, 'Oh God, these animals grieve…'. It was just so different," Poole told DW. </p>
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