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Health officials urge caution as marijuana edibles introduced

PMG FILE PHOTO - Temporary rules limit edible products containing THC that are sold in Oregon to include no more than 15 milligrams of the psychoactive chemical. State regulators and an industry council agree that 5 milligrams should be considered a serving size for edibles.Oregon health officials are urging novice marijuana users to start slow as pot-infused edibles were introduced in the state’s legal recreational market last week.

Since Oct. 1, anyone 21 and older has been allowed to legally purchase a limited amount of cannabis flowers, seeds and starter plants, that the result of voter approval of Measure 91 back in 2014. The Oregon State Legislature added edibles, extracts and non-psychoactive lotions, balms and oils to that list early this year.

“We are concerned about folks who are novice users,” said Jonathan Modie, spokesman for the Oregon Health Authority. “We are concerned about calls into the poison center, not just children, but adults.”

Health authorities adopted temporary rules last month on the sale of the new products. The rules took effect last week and expire at the end of the year, when the Oregon Liquor Control Commission is scheduled to take over regulation of the recreational marijuana program.

Temporary rules restrict sales to one edible product and one extract per day to each customer. An edible product may contain no more than 15 milligrams of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the psychoactive chemical in pot. Extracts are limited to 1,000 milligrams. Customers may buy an unlimited number of topical products.

The 15-milligram limit on edibles might still be too potent for some people, health officials said.

“What we are telling the industry is they should divide it up into 5-milligram servings,” said Andre Ourso, manager of the state’s medical marijuana program. “At that point, we would recommend that they label it and say that it contains three servings.”

Proposed permanent rules, effective Jan. 1, will limit serving sizes to 5 milligrams of THC, with up to 10 servings allowed in each package. The proposed rules also impose stricter specifications for child-resistant packaging.

“Part of the reason we chose the 15-milligram limit for the temporary rules is that labs can’t test for that low of a concentration without it being very expensive and can’t even give a good confidence level that that is what it actually contains,” Ourso said, referring to the 5-milligram amount. “In proposed permanent rules, the labs will test the 50 milligrams in the package but won’t be required to test each serving size.”

When consuming edibles, it can take between one and four hours to feel effects, he said.

“If you aren’t feeling the effects after an hour, wait a couple of more hours before consuming more,” Ourso said. “We would caution people to start out slow.”

The Oregon Responsible Edibles Council has launched a public education campaign designed to guide new users through eating marijuana-infused foods for the first time. The group’s Try Five Campaign advises consumers to eat no more than 5 milligrams of THC for their first experience.

The council has a website and has been distributing posters to put up in dispensaries and T-shirts for so-called “budtenders” — recreational and medicinal marijuana retailers — to wear when they’re selling products.

“Everyone in the edibles industry should be behind this campaign, because when there is overconsumption of edibles and people have bad effects, it taints the industry as a whole,” said Leah D’Ambrosio, a member of the council.

D’Ambrosio said eating 15 milligrams of pot can be too much even for some regular marijuana users.

“For someone who doesn’t smoke and is not used to ingesting marijuana, I advise eating 5 milligrams or even half of that just to see how it hits you,” she said.