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Edibles vs. Marijuana

Amsterdam-420-cannabis-products-windowAs you may have heard, the Denver Broncos are heading to the Super Bowl against the Seattle Seahawks. Both Washington and Colorado recently legalized recreational marijuana, nicknaming the big game the “Doobie Bowl.”

Football aside, on New Year’s Day, Denver pot shops opened their doors for the first time to I.D. carrying adults over 21, now legal to buy and carry up to an ounce of recreational weed.

With Fort Collins poised to vote on March 4 on the particulars of opening retail shops here in Fort Collins, one issue that has been raised is whether or not to allow edible cannabis products to be bought and sold for recreational purposes. Regardless, edible products are still available to medicinal patients.

Early reports indicate that city council will prohibit the sale of recreational edible products but will not prohibit topical products, oil products, or tinctures. Why allow oil products but not allow the sale or manufacture of edibles?

From a revenue perspective, it seems counter-intuitive. By limiting the products available to be purchased, sales could be negatively affected. Consumers may prefer edibles, as they do have some positives factors on their side when compared to smoking. Edibles do not smell nearly as strong as burning marijuana. Edibles don’t cause fits of coughing (as long as you can chew and swallow effectively). Those are two reasons why a consumer might wish to go with a brownie over a bong, but that doesn’t even address the different physiological effects.

Smoking pot is a quick and effective way to get THC into the consumer’s system, but edibles operate a bit differently. The cannabis in edibles goes through the gastrointestinal track, processed by the liver before it reaches the bloodstream. According to MarijuanaGrowers.com, the liver changes the normal THC into what is called 11-hydroxy-THC, which produces a “stronger, more sedative effect.” The effects of edibles take longer to feel, but also last longer than smoking.

If the reason was to keep individuals high for a shorter amount of time, then why are individuals allowed to purchase up to an ounce of marijuana in a single purchase? Furthermore, oil products are permitted. Oil products, which are significantly more potent than the pure plant, are also a primary ingredient in edibles. While the manufacture of edibles is technically illegal in Larimer County and might stay that way for the foreseeable future, providing oil products recreationally makes that rule seemingly redundant; like providing cookie dough but ordering a ban on cookies.

While I was researching this, I found a large amount of input on the internet about cannabis products in general. One of the most common and compelling arguments against marijuana is the negative effect it can have on children. Now, very few people, if any, are calling for Fort Collins to start handing out edibles to children. But I understand how edibles may make some uneasy. How easy would it be for a child to mistake a cookie with weed for a cookie without? It reminds me of Hansel and Gretel (not the Jeremy Renner one): two lost children are lured into the house of a cannibalistic witch by promises of candy. Candy draws kids like moths to a flame.

It just so happens that I traveled across several European countries this summer, and my travels took me to a place where cannabis-infused lollipops are sold — Amsterdam. Surely such a place would lead to more kids using drugs, right? The thing about that is, at least in the case of the Dutch, the data says otherwise.

Robert J. MacCoun, a professor at UC Berkeley, did a study which showed that Dutch teens were less likely to use marijuana than teens in the U.S. Another interesting portion of the survey was that Dutch teens used far less hard drugs than the youth in the U.S. In fact, one of the reasons ‘coffee’ shops happened in Amsterdam was the idea that recreational weed would limit the use of harder drugs. By separating soft drugs from hard drugs, those who only sought marijuana didn’t have to meet the shady dealer who tried to upsell weed with an eight-ball of cocaine. In addition, rules about not providing weed to minors are strictly enforced by coffee shops themselves, evidenced by both MacCoun’s study and by my personal experience. I saw a shop owner immediately expel a woman who had forgotten her I.D. from the building and was almost certainly older than eighteen (the legal age in the Netherlands).

The Netherlands has some clear differences between the U.S, demographically and culturally, which of course makes a comparison difficult. But it is one of the only places where there is a history of legalized marijuana use. That is one of the difficulties for a town like Fort Collins; going where few have walked, where precedent is few and far between.

If children are indeed the reason to tread slowly, then why not allow edibles to be consumed, but only on the premises of a shop? It would be like going to a bar, but instead of sipping on a Jack and Coke, you buy a Cannabis Cookie. Hire a bouncer, servers will check ID’s, and have municipal secret shoppers to test to make sure the rules are being followed.

Will some kids find ways to get cannabis products? Of course. Minors get alcohol and tobacco products with relative ease. But policing marijuana like alcohol, at least in the eyes of the law, is a reasonable measure to take to limit kids from consuming marijuana.

If edibles are not allowed for another reason, I’m stumped as to what it is. Plant-yes, oil-yes, edibles-no?

Collegian Editor at Large Zack Burley can be reached at community@collegian.com.

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