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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The bright patterns and recognizable designs of Waterlust's activewear aren't just for show. In fact, they're meant to promote the conversation around sustainability and give back to the ocean science and conservation community.
Each design is paired with a research lab, nonprofit, or education organization that has high intellectual merit and the potential to move the needle in its respective field. For each product sold, Waterlust donates 10% of profits to these conservation partners.
Eye-Catching Designs Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles
waterlust.com / @abamabam
The company sells a range of eco-friendly items like leggings, rash guards, and board shorts that are made using recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. There are currently 16 causes represented by distinct marine-life patterns, from whale shark research and invasive lionfish removal to sockeye salmon monitoring and abalone restoration.
One such organization is Get Inspired, a nonprofit that specializes in ocean restoration and environmental education. Get Inspired founder, marine biologist Nancy Caruso, says supporting on-the-ground efforts is one thing that sets Waterlust apart, like their apparel line that supports Get Inspired abalone restoration programs.
"All of us [conservation partners] are doing something," Caruso said. "We're not putting up exhibits and talking about it — although that is important — we're in the field."
Waterlust not only helps its conservation partners financially so they can continue their important work. It also helps them get the word out about what they're doing, whether that's through social media spotlights, photo and video projects, or the informative note card that comes with each piece of apparel.
"They're doing their part for sure, pushing the information out across all of their channels, and I think that's what makes them so interesting," Caruso said.
And then there are the clothes, which speak for themselves.
Advocate Apparel to Start Conversations About Conservation
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Waterlust's concept of "advocate apparel" encourages people to see getting dressed every day as an opportunity to not only express their individuality and style, but also to advance the conversation around marine science. By infusing science into clothing, people can visually represent species and ecosystems in need of advocacy — something that, more often than not, leads to a teaching moment.
"When people wear Waterlust gear, it's just a matter of time before somebody asks them about the bright, funky designs," said Waterlust's CEO, Patrick Rynne. "That moment is incredibly special, because it creates an intimate opportunity for the wearer to share what they've learned with another."
The idea for the company came to Rynne when he was a Ph.D. student in marine science.
"I was surrounded by incredible people that were discovering fascinating things but noticed that often their work wasn't reaching the general public in creative and engaging ways," he said. "That seemed like a missed opportunity with big implications."
Waterlust initially focused on conventional media, like film and photography, to promote ocean science, but the team quickly realized engagement on social media didn't translate to action or even knowledge sharing offscreen.
Rynne also saw the "in one ear, out the other" issue in the classroom — if students didn't repeatedly engage with the topics they learned, they'd quickly forget them.
"We decided that if we truly wanted to achieve our goal of bringing science into people's lives and have it stick, it would need to be through a process that is frequently repeated, fun, and functional," Rynne said. "That's when we thought about clothing."
Support Marine Research and Sustainability in Style
To date, Waterlust has sold tens of thousands of pieces of apparel in over 100 countries, and the interactions its products have sparked have had clear implications for furthering science communication.
For Caruso alone, it's led to opportunities to share her abalone restoration methods with communities far and wide.
"It moves my small little world of what I'm doing here in Orange County, California, across the entire globe," she said. "That's one of the beautiful things about our partnership."
Check out all of the different eco-conscious apparel options available from Waterlust to help promote ocean conservation.
Melissa Smith is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainable studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a non-profit that's featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.