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Now You’ll Finally Know How High You’ll Get from That Edible

A group of scientists announced this week that they have developed a technique to more accurately measure the amount of cannabis in food products.

by Alex Swerdloff
Mar 21 2016, 7:00pm

Faced with a delectable-looking tray of brownies or an overstuffed bag of glistening gummy bears, have you ever asked yourself, "Exactly how high will I get if I eat this edible?"

Good news: A group of scientists announced this week at the National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS) that they have developed a technique to more accurately measure the amount of cannabis in food products.

Prior to this development, the methods of measuring the high in an edible have been notoriously unreliable. Typically, edibles are analyzed using something called high-performance liquid chromatography—but the problem is that the sugar, starches, and fats present in edibles mess up the measurement process. As Dr. Jahan Marcu, who works with Americans for Safe Access and is the vice-chair of the ACS' Cannabis Subdivision, puts it, "These machines were never designed for you to inject a cookie into them." Reliability is also an issue: According to Melissa Wilcox of Grace Discovery Sciences, "Producers of cannabis edibles complain that if they send their product to three different labs for analysis, they get three different results." The new testing system, which uses flash chromatography, promises to be much more reliable and also yield much more accurate measurements.

Sounds pretty damn great! Though that said, part of the fun of taking edibles is guessing just how much THC was in that lollipop that made your buddy believe he's the reincarnation of Greta Garbo.

The researchers found that only 17 percent of the edibles they tested were accurately labeled with the amount of THC in the products. THC, of course, is the stuff in weed that gets you high, although another substance called cannabidiol was found in more than half of the edibles tested. Cannabidiol is not a psychoactive, but it's used as a painkiller and anti-inflammatory. None of the labels tested even listed it as an ingredient.

The effects of edibles can sneak up on you since they don't take effect until digested. Plus, they last quite a long time in your system—longer than marijuana does when you smoke or vape it. Dr. Marcu says, "It's a lot easier for an individual to control their dose when smoking. The effects of edibles can take a while to happen. You eat them, and wait to see how you feel in an hour or two. If you ingested too much, you could be in for an unexpectedly bad experience."

Don't we know it, Dr. Marcu.

The next step, he says, is to train technicians and install equipment on a large scale. In short, the marijuana business in the US is finally growing up. Soon we may look back with nostalgia to the days when we would pop an edible and then have to wait an hour to find out what kind of night we were in for.