Marijuana is in the news again — and not in a particularly positive way.
In New York Times’ columnist Maureen Dowd’s June 3 editorial, “Don’t Harsh Our Mellow, Dude,” Dowd writes about her experience after consuming a quarter of a caramel-chocolate flavored marijuana candy bar. And that experience wasn’t a good one. Dowd details how after feeling nothing for an hour, she suddenly felt an overwhelming, terrifying high that didn’t subside for 8 hours.
“I was thirsty but couldn’t move to get water. Or even turn off the lights,” she wrote. “I was panting and paranoid, sure that when the room service waiter knocked and I didn’t answer, he’d call the police and have me arrested for being unable to handle my candy.”
Although Dowd admits in the column that she is “not a regular marijuana smoker” and “should have known better” (after reports came out that, contrary to what she stated in her column, she was repeatedly warned about the potency of the edible she purchased, she issued a statement admitting as much), the damage was already done.
As portrayed in the mainstream media by an influential, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, marijuana was dangerous, legalization was a regulatory disaster and edibles in particular were something to be feared rather than enjoyed.
Dowd’s column even sparked a larger debate piece at the Times, one simply titled “Did Colorado Go Too Far With Pot?” And although the op-eds therein had a more nuanced take than Dowd’s, the tone and timbre of each — even those in favor of legalization — were notably subdued and defensive.
Being the licensed owner of a Washington-based recreational cannabis production company, Dowd’s piece concerned me. But that being said, her main points with regard to potency and susceptibility struck me as both valid and earned.
As a new marijuana user, should she have taken more precautions? Sure.
But as she points out in her follow-up statement, “I was focused more on the fun than the risks. In that sense, I’m probably like many other people descending on Denver.”
That’s something that Dowd’s article gets absolutely right. Stringent regulations need to be put in place so that people who are seeking a good time over a body chemistry lesson know what they’re getting into before they get into it. Novice or expert, ingested or smoked, “panting and paranoid” should be no one’s marijuana experience.
One of the more interesting op-eds included in “Did Colorado Go Too Far With Pot?” came from Joe Hodas, the chief marketing officer at Dixie Elixirs and Edibles, Colorado’s largest edible marijuana company.
Hodas opens his piece with a question: “Are we moving too fast on legalization in Colorado?” His opinion is, essentially, no. Education is needed, but, as a legalized, retailer-sold substance, marijuana is doing just fine.
On this point I’d disagree with Hodas. Colorado’s highly publicized incidents related to over-consumption have, in my opinion, been the direct result of moving too fast, too soon.
If Colorado has been the hare in terms of marijuana legalization and sales, Washington is the tortoise. We may not have product on the shelves just yet, but our slow-and-steady approach has us ahead of the game with regulated labeling, set serving sizes based on THC content, and scientific product testing through licensed labs such as Analytical 360.
These requirements are all part of demystifying the marijuana edibles experience so that consumers know what to expect. In this way, our state is ready for legal marijuana sales in a way Colorado wasn’t; we have the necessary regulatory resources and measures to ensure that Maureen Dowd’s nightmare would never have occurred in Washington.
We’ve heard the numbers before — legalized marijuana has the potential to bring in as much as $2 billion to Washington in the next five years through tax revenues and sales. But that influx of cash shouldn’t, and frankly doesn’t need to, come at the expense of people’s safety.
Adam Stites is the founder of Mirth Provisions, a marijuana processor in Longview.