Don’t Eat the Whole Thing! How Edibles Became the Marijuana Industry’s Biggest Headache.

Inside Colorado's marijuana economy.
June 11 2014 8:51 AM

Don’t Eat the Whole Thing

How edibles became the marijuana industry’s biggest headache.

(Continued from Page 1)

That’s because until recently, making pot brownies was a homespun affair. While Colorado began regulating Dixie and other facilities making edibles for the medical marijuana market in 2010, the rules were mostly about sanitation; there was little attempt to develop standardized production procedures or institute quality-control measures required of other mass-produced food products. Now, edibles companies and state officials are working to change that. Dixie, for example, infuses its products with marijuana concentrate near the end of the production process, rather than “bake” the THC in via cannabis butters. Hodas says this process helps deliver the THC evenly to each bit of the edible. Other companies are experimenting with spraying concentrate onto their finished product to also create a consistent dose.

Edible1.
Making edibles at the Dixie Elixirs and Edibles factory.

Courtesy of Joel Warner

In May, Colorado began mandatory potency testing of edibles products, hoping to bring much-needed predictability to edible dosages. Unfortunately, only two labs have thus far been cleared to test all of the state’s 40 or so edibles makers, and there’s no way to independently verify the results of either lab. That’s a concern to Ean Seeb, founding partner of Denver Relief Consulting and chair of the National Cannabis Industry Association. In 2012, Seeb had two Colorado labs test the same strain of marijuana. One reported the pot contained 18 percent THC, while the other reported it was 29 percent.

And even if an edibles company gets its production process dialed in perfectly, it’s hard to make a truly consistent product. “We believe we can achieve a level of homogeneity that is appropriate,” says Hodas. “But it is plant matter. So if you take a marijuana candy bar and cut it in half, it’s not going to be 80 percent THC on one half and 20 percent THC on the other, but it might be 52 to 48.” This becomes more of a problem when you’re breaking each bar into 10 or more serving sizes.

Advertisement

This is the biggest challenge currently facing Colorado’s edibles industry: How do you take something that’s considered an indulgence, like candy or soda, and build into it the sort of fine-grained dosing associated with pharmaceuticals? Who wants to carefully nibble on a tiny nugget of a blood orange cannabis candy bar and call it a day? Who wants to sip just a thimbleful of Dixie’s pomegranate elixir?

Edible4.
An ad for Dixie One

Courtesy of Dixie Elixirs

In the face of growing concerns, Colorado edibles producers are beginning to dial back potency. Dixie, for example, is launching Dixie One, a watermelon cream soda that contains just 5 milligrams of THC in its 8.5 ounces, so you can enjoy the whole bottle without worrying about delivering too big a dose. Some Colorado lawmakers argue such lower potencies should be mandatory, capping all recreational edibles at just 10 milligrams THC—one-tenth of the current levels. Such a rule would seem to benefit companies like Dixie (a customer would have to buy 15 bottles of Dixie One at $6.50 apiece to achieve the dosage of a single bottle of old-fashioned Dixie Elixir, which sells for about $20). But Hodas is against such strict limits. For one thing, it would mean Dixie and its competitors would have to completely redesign every part of their production processes. For another, he says, “I don’t know the consumer elasticity around this.” In other words, maybe the prospect of buying $10 chocolate truffles with just a hint of THC would drive people back to their buddy’s black-market pot brownies.

Instead, Hodas thinks solving the edibles conundrum “is going to take time, education, and product variety”—namely, both 5-milligram products for marijuana rookies and 100-milligram products for old hats. As a society we’ve had generations to learn that a pint of beer does one thing to us, while a shot of whiskey does something different—and along the way we’ve allowed people to discover, through trial and error, which system of alcoholic indulgence works best for them.

“There is still a novelty factor for some people,” says Hodas of edibles. “You get a chocolate bar or cookie, and you don’t give it the respect it deserves. We want people to understand that this is something that demands respect.” The challenge is figuring out how to get people to respect a blue raspberry Giant Gummy Claudie Bear.

Sam Kamin is professor and director of the Constitutional Rights and Remedies program at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law.

Joel Warner is a former Westword staff writer.

TODAY IN SLATE

Culturebox

The Ebola Story

How our minds build narratives out of disaster.

The Budget Disaster That Completely Sabotaged the WHO’s Response to Ebola

PowerPoint Is the Worst, and Now It’s the Latest Way to Hack Into Your Computer

The Shooting Tragedies That Forged Canada’s Gun Politics

A Highly Unscientific Ranking of Crazy-Old German Beers

Education

Welcome to 13th Grade!

Some high schools are offering a fifth year. That’s a great idea.

Culturebox

The Actual World

“Mount Thoreau” and the naming of things in the wilderness.

Want Kids to Delay Sex? Let Planned Parenthood Teach Them Sex Ed.

Would You Trust Walmart to Provide Your Health Care? (You Should.)

  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 22 2014 9:42 PM Landslide Landrieu Can the Louisiana Democrat use the powers of incumbency to save herself one more time?
  Business
Continuously Operating
Oct. 22 2014 2:38 PM Crack Open an Old One A highly unscientific evaluation of Germany’s oldest breweries.
  Life
Dear Prudence
Oct. 23 2014 6:00 AM Monster Kids from poorer neighborhoods keep coming to trick-or-treat in mine. Do I have to give them candy?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 22 2014 4:27 PM Three Ways Your Text Messages Change After You Get Married
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 22 2014 5:27 PM The Slate Walking Dead Podcast A spoiler-filled discussion of Episodes 1 and 2.
  Arts
Culturebox
Oct. 22 2014 11:54 PM The Actual World “Mount Thoreau” and the naming of things in the wilderness.
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 22 2014 5:33 PM One More Reason Not to Use PowerPoint: It’s The Gateway for a Serious Windows Vulnerability
  Health & Science
Wild Things
Oct. 22 2014 2:42 PM Orcas, Via Drone, for the First Time Ever
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.