By Sue Vorenberg
Columbian staff writer
The first edible marijuana products have arrived in Washington and will be coming to Vancouver’s two marijuana shops as early as this week.
The state moved slowly in licensing edibles to make sure dosage amounts and labeling of products were clearly defined, said Randy Simmons, deputy director of the Liquor Control Board, which oversees cannabis licensing and regulations in Washington.
The board was already planning on strict labeling when issues started to arise in Colorado in regard to people over-consuming edibles, a problem that may have led to two deaths.
“We didn’t react to what was going on in Colorado at all, we already had serving sizes in mind,” Simmons said. “What we did after the incidents in Colorado was change the process a bit requiring product and labeling to be (lab and state) approved before going into stores.”
Colorado has been looking at Washington’s plan as something it might want to adopt, Simmons added.
The state approved products from three edibles providers on Aug. 5.
Adam Stites, who owns Mirth Provisions in Longview, is one of the first three providers to have products on that list.
Stites had planned to launch with a line of sodas and coffee drinks, but he had to scrap the coffee drinks — at least short term — because the Liquor Control Board rules ban edibles that require pasteurization, refrigeration and canning.
So to start off, Mirth is launching three sodas, which will likely be in Vancouver stores by mid-August, Stites said.
“We’re waiting on our lab to give us test results … then we will start bottling, then we will put the final product in quarantine for 24 hours, then (we’ll) test (the) final product,” Stites said in an email to The Columbian. “I know that New Vansterdam and Main Street Marijuana will stock Legal (the soda’s brand name) in Vancouver.”
Simmons said the pasteurization, refrigeration and canning rules actually come down from the Department of Agriculture, which can’t approve some of the products because commercial kitchens require federal approval — and adding marijuana to a product in one of those kitchens runs afoul of federal laws banning cannabis.
“So we looked at low-risk foods versus high-risk foods,” Simmons said. “Anything with milk, butter, high acidity, anything that’s temperature-controlled is out. Hard candy is fine, as long as it’s not called candy, because that’s attractive to children. So they can call them lemon drops but not lemon candy.”
Cannabis butter, which medical patients often use to make infused foods at home, is also out. But cannabis oils and vapor cartridges are fine, Simmons said.
“The butter issue is a food safety issue as opposed to an approved product issue,” he said.
Kyle Stetler, a budtender at Main Street Marijuana, recommends going slowly to those who plan to try marijuana edibles.
“With edibles, the high is different than smoking cannabis,” Stetler said. “It can take a lot longer to affect you, and you can end up using too much if you don’t take that into account.”
When he uses edibles, he takes a quarter of the recommended dose, waits 30 to 40 minutes and then, depending on how he feels at that point, he takes another quarter.
It’s safer to stagger the dose — especially the first time — because edibles enter the body in a different way and can cause stronger effects than smoking.
The high from edibles can also last longer than it can from smoked or vaporized marijuana, especially if the product is made from cannabis oils rather than cannabis butter, Stetler said.
“The oils can last longer than butter, and they can be a lot more potent,” he said.
Butter is made through a basic cooking process. Oils are made by chemically stripping the active components of the plant, such as THC and other cannabinoids, then concentrating them.
“One good thing about store-bought oils is that they’ll all be tested to make sure there are no trace solvents in there,” Stetler said. “On the black market, if people leave solvents in the oil, it can become a neurotoxin.”
While the state has kicked off bans on pasteurization, refrigeration and canning, those rules could change, especially if the federal government loosens restrictions, Stetler said.
“It’s going to be a little strict” to start off, Stetler said. “But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Eventually we’ll see more items like brownies, cookies. Anything you can eat now can be made into an edible.”
Topical lotions, which could also appear, are used on the skin for pain.
“You can’t get high from putting it on your skin, but it can help to round out common aches and pains,” Stetler said. “There are a lot of people who can’t or don’t want to get high that use topical oils for muscle and body aches.”
Some companies will market oil directly. On the medical side, some companies sell pills with THC, which are popular with cancer patients and those with other serious ailments.
Vapor pens and cartridges also started arriving in stores in the past week. Some allow you to use a marijuana tincture in place of tobacco cartridges, and other companies market their own vapor pens specifically for marijuana product use.
“Smoking a joint or a pipe is a little more harsh because you inhale resin,” Stetler said. “The temperature of the smoke is also higher than the vapor in a pen. A joint is about 1,000 degrees. A vape pen is more like 250 degrees.”
New Vansterdam launched its first line of vapor pens and cartridges over the weekend, said manager Don Joling.
Main Street Marijuana will likely follow later this week, Stetler said.
For more information about marijuana legalization in Washington, visit The Columbian's Cannabis Chronicles blog at http://cannabis-chronicles.com.