New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd got experienced in Denver with some edible legal marijuana. It didn't go well. She wrote that she suffered an all-night panic attack after "nibbling" on some infused chocolate.
There's a lesson to be learned from her self-described bad trip. She and other cannabis newbies would do better sticking to the old-fashioned method when consuming for the first time: smoking it.
When we inhale marijuana, the intoxicating impact is nearly instant. The lungs extract THC (along with more than 80 other cannabinoids) from the smoke then it goes into the bloodstream and binds with our body's built-in cannabinoid receptors. One or two puffs and a consumer will start to feel the effects. Take a few more puffs and the effects increase. Stop smoking for an hour or two and it quickly wears off.
When we eat marijuana, the process is quite different. During digestion the cannabinoids are metabolized in the liver, which can take an hour or more. The body also begins to produce natural, endogenous cannabinoids, essentially giving the consumer a double dose. When the effects eventually begin to set in, they are often more intoxicating than smoking or vaporizing whole-plant material. Edible cannabis intoxication also lasts longer, eight hours or more.
Cannabis-infused candies, chocolates and other treats, along with simple tinctures, have been around for hundreds of years. They have long been used by medical marijuana patients. Rather than smoking every hour throughout the day, they find greater, sustained relief with the edible method. Moreover when these patients need relief overnight (they can't smoke in their sleep), an edible is the best medicine.
Some recreational consumers also truly enjoy the more intense sensations ... for those who can hold their truffles.
Dowd's chocolate freak-out was rare but not unique. In 2007 Cpl. Edward Sanchez of the Dearborn Michigan Police Department stole some of the devil's lettuce out of the evidence locker at work. He went home and baked a pan of pot brownies with his wife. The two happily munched down the lot. Then Sanchez made a call to 9-1-1, claiming to be having an 'overdose" and begging for an ambulance to rush to the couple's aid. Officer Sanchez told the (very smart) dispatcher that time was going by "really, really, really, really, slow" and he was convinced they were "dying."
Perhaps most amazing: No charges were filed against Sanchez for the theft and he was allowed to resign.
Cannabis has a unique intoxicating effect. It is a mild stimulant and is classified in science as the lowest level of hallucinogen. The same dose of the same strain can also have a varying impact on different individuals. Simply smoking marijuana is usually not enough to bring on a psychedelic high. Yet the body's production of in-house cannabinoids when eating it can certainly get more groovy.