Last month, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd shared a bad experience with a marijuana edible during a visit to Colorado, joking (maybe) that such items be stamped with a "stoned skull and bones."
The Dowd piece, coupled with other negative news stories linked to edibles use, is among the inspiration for First Time 5, an edibles-education campaign being launched at an event tomorrow. Steve Fox, executive director of the Council for Responsible Cannabis Regulation, offers us a preview.
"We sometimes hear from friends or friends of friends who are trying edibles for the first time and end up having a bit more than they find enjoyable," says Fox, who's also counsel for Vicente Sederberg and director of VS Strategies, the law firm's government relations and strategic communications sister company. "It's really just a lack of knowledge -- people coming to Colorado who may have smoked a joint or two back in college who think, 'If I eat just a little, it'll be fine -- and it's the same thing as smoking without the smoke.' But they don't realize it's almost a different drug.
"There's a big difference between inhaling and ingesting marijuana," he continues. "So there's the possibility that they might consume a bit too much -- and given the longer lasting effects of edibles, it might be unpleasant. Whereas, if they knew the more appropriate amount, it would probably be a more enjoyable experience."
Hence the First Time 5 concept, which encourages people who've never tried edibles before to start out by consuming an amount containing no more than 5 milligrams of THC -- half the 10 milligram state standard for a single serving.
Why suggest 5 milligrams for first-timers as opposed to 10? Psychology.
"Because the state law says a serving is 10 milligrams, that almost leads one to believe that if one serving is 10, how bad could two servings be?" Fox notes. "But some people might find 20 milligrams of THC to really be more than they wanted. So we're hoping to get that 5 number out there so people will think, 'If that's what they're suggesting, maybe I'll go crazy and double that to 10.' And hopefully, that will avoid the situation where people will unknowingly have 30 or 40 milligrams thinking that might be a good amount to try the first time."
The First Time 5 campaign launches at a press event scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, July 23, at Sweet Leaf medical marijuana center and retail store, 2215 East Mississippi Avenue (the former location of Higher Ground). A new website should debut around that time, but Fox says "our main goal is to produce posters with the First Time 5 logo and provide them to retail shops across the state, so that consumers will see them -- and they'll also serve as a reminder for people who work there to start getting the message out."
As for the campaign's motivation, Fox acknowledges the impact of edibles critics, who got a lot of mileage out of Dowd's column, as well as two deaths associated with marijuana edibles: Wyoming student Levy Thamba's fatal fall from a hotel balcony and the murder of Kris Kirk by her husband, Richard, who'd reportedly consumed a pot edible some time before pulling the trigger. But he insists that First Time 5 is about more than turning the conversation in a more positive direction.
"There's no doubt that in almost any situation that becomes political, folks on both sides try to spin it one way or the other," he says. "But what we're really trying to do -- and this is a stated purpose of the Council for Responsible Cannabis Regulation -- is to help Colorado to be a model for cannabis regulations. That way, other states can see what Colorado is doing, learn from it and maybe bring it to their state. We've identified this as an issue -- that some people don't understand how much of an edible to take, and if they take too much, it's an unpleasant experience and reflects poorly on the whole industry. So we're trying to avoid that.
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"Imagine if the alcohol industry were new and no one really understood the effects -- and they thought doing five shots of vodka in a row made sense. We'd want them to understand that they should try one shot first, then wait a while and see how they feel before they do anything else. We're just getting basic information to consumers so people will have a good impression of the product and a good experience when they visit Colorado."
Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.