Matthew J. Edlund M.D.

Getting Healthy Now

Incredible Edibles

Confessions of a marijuana maker

Posted Apr 09, 2016

laurie avocado/
Source: laurie avocado/

When drugs are also foods, addiction becomes easier.  The pleasures of dining conflate with drug pleasures.  Particularly when new experiences are so prized people often ask, how can this be bad?  That is why edible marijuana, now being packaged into innumerable combinations with many foods – especially chocolates and candies – represent a particular public health risk, especially to adolescents and children.

Confessions of a Marijuana Maker

One fellow I know engaged in the “picks and shovels” part of marijuana growing finds himself morally torn.  On one hand, he wants to see the cartels go out of business.  On the other, he’s worried that “we’re doing what we did with alcohol all over again.”  He notes the thousands of marijuana growers in different states, the remarkable potency of the newer strains, and the increasing risk of edibles.  “The doses inside those things can be stratospheric,” he points out, and people often cannot gauge when the drug effects will “hit.”  And the people growing marijuana are among “the best botanists in the business.”

Brownies and candies now pack a wallop previous generations could not imagine.

“And kids can use it.  It’s just like candy, with something extra.”

Several states have noted the risk of edibles.  Laws in Colorado, for example, specify dose, opaque packaging, and “child proof” formats.  Yet for those in the underground economy – which remains huge – there are no such worries. “High” means higher potency, the sky not quite the limit.

The Future of Botany

When Michael Pollan wrote the “Botany of Desire”  in 2001,  his entertaining take on how plants use humans, he singled out the remarkable productivity increases wrought by marijuana growers.   Some viewed marijuana as the most effectively bioengineered plant in the world.

Fifteen years has made a big difference.  Now the purity and potency of marijuana are reaching heretofore unexplored levels.  The different kinds of cannabinoids can be spliced and diced, as well as their ability to be delivered through food.  There is no reason to expect that biotechnological revolution to diminish when billions of dollars are at stake – with many more billions to come.

For “public” marijuana is already in its gold rush phase.  Profits are substantial, but with the “rollout” companies expect nationally, they may soon grow dramatically.  As in the 1960s, tobacco companies see a way to “recoup” their market – and marijuana ironically can become a “gateway drug” to tobacco, especially among the young.  Readers on the Net and through their local newspapers can check out the stock prices of new marijuana IPOs.  With lots of money to be made, new markets will be rapidly investigated – for different populations, products and services.  The expected entrepreneurial ingenuity may lead to many millions more using marijuana – with substantial numbers of them eventually addicted.  For in today’s world of hyped up hype, marketing routinely promises “miracles.”

The Marijuana “Miracle”

Recently a patient came in with a flyer for her new cannabidiol cream.  It costs 190 bucks for 23 days of treatment. She liked the effects.  Some of the written promises of this simple cream were that it A. Reduces inflammation B. Promotes bone growth C. Feeling “clear-headed, positive, energetic and relaxed” without a "high". D. Reduces “function” in the immune system – a great “boon” to people with autoimmune disease. E. Relieves anxiety F. Relieves pain G. Suppresses muscle spasm H. Reduces blood sugar levels I. Reduces seizures – and Yes - There’s More! – J. Inhibits cancer and tumor cell growth.

No medication, or humanly produced substance, can compete with promises like this.  That the peer reviewed scientific literature on marijuana is notably lacking in studies of efficacy for most illnesses, will not stop such marketing.  Instead we should expect more examples like this – of snake oil squared.


Though many adults tout marijuana as “greatly beneficial” to their pain and suffering, most of these testimonials do not include adolescents and children.  Legality is one reason, another the queasiness attached to using potent drugs in people “not yet fully formed.”

This queasiness is well founded.

What data there is on marijuana in adolescent brains is not positive.  Its effects in young people on brain development, control of emotions, and overall maturation, do not appear good at all.  Marijuana’s eventual effects in the young, in terms of physical, mental and social health, deserve a lot more research attention. And not just in terms of higher rates of addiction, depression, anxiety and assorted mood disorders.  What early marijuana use will mean economically and socially is no small issue.

Because marijuana is looking more and more to ready to engage the whole population, young and old, in every state.  Which is why caution remains warranted.  Do we want high dose marijuana edibles in the refrigerators of families with children and adolescents?  If the FDA could ban Lazy Cakes, melatonin brownies, for their ill effects, what will happen with high dose marijuana brownies ingested by kids?  What will be the ultimate public fallout – not just in job growth  for eager horticulturalists interested in the “terroir” of marijuana edibles, but in the brains of kids trying to get through high school physics, or those already experiencing depression and anxiety who read on the Net that marijuana is the “perfect cure”?

Sometimes you look before you leap.

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