Spot's cookies and pot brownie bites are dosed with exactly five milligrams of THC, an amount that leads to a considerably more mellow high. Pictured: Smaller-dose pot-infused brownies are divided and packaged at The Growing Kitchen, in Boulder, Colo on September 26, 2014. (Brennan Linsley, The Associated Press)

How tiny pot brownies and edibles help newbies from overdoing it

At Seattle's Spot bakery, cookies and pot brownie bites are dosed with exactly five milligrams of THC, an amount that leads to a considerably more mellow high

“Well, you know the Maureen Dowd story,” sighed Tim Moxey. “And it’s just not a good story.”

True, Dowd’s experience was less than ideal: She ate a couple bites of a pot-infused candy bar, then curled into a ball in her Denver hotel room and had a panic attack. The next day she discovered the bar was supposed to have been broken into 16 pieces, not munched on bite by bite.

Two years after that story went viral, it still haunts edible marijuana bakers like Moxey, the co-founder of Seattle edibles producer Spot, who says the New York Times columnist’s mishap was bad for the entire industry.

At Spot, Moxey is crafting edibles that will get people high enough-but not too high-and testing them to ensure the dosage is correct. Just 17 percent of edibles are accurately labeled with the proper THC level, according to a June 2015 research letter published by the Journal of the American Medical Association. As a result, many cannabis consumers have no idea how much they’re ingesting and are subject to a multitude of unpleasant effects.

Spot’s cookies and brownie bites are dosed with exactly five milligrams of THC, an amount that leads to a considerably more mellow high than what Dowd experienced. “It’s not going to make you lose control,” Moxey said of the amount. “It’s my belief that five milligrams is the right level to be at.”

It’s not all about being at the “right level.” Spot launched the line of microdosed edibles in part to adhere to state laws. Washington is effectively a microdose state, because the legal limit is 10 milligrams of THC per serving, with a limit of 100 milligrams in an entire package. Each serving must be individually wrapped, which prevents producers of edibles from selling a mega-brownie and saying it has 10 servings within.

Not all states that have legalized some form of marijuana use are so strict. In Colorado, the limit is 100 milligrams per unit. In California, which has no limit at all, a vaguely terrifying 700 milligram brownie is available for purchase. Such a brownie contains more than 35 times the amount of THC necessary to feel a high, but it’s unlikely that the brownie’s purveyor will eat only one 35th of it.

Even though the move to microdosing came out of legal necessity, Spot found these products were perfect for first-time cannabis customers-a gateway to a gateway, if you will. “No one is going to get weirded out at five milligrams,” Moxey explained. “That’s why these products are selling so quickly.”

A five-milligram peppermint produced by Moxey was the top-selling edible in Washington State last quarter, according to data reviewed by the cannabis analytics firm Headset. “For routine customers, eating a five-milligram mint isn’t always to get high, but more about overall wellness and mood enhancement,” explained Jess Henson, Headset’s lead market analyst. “More low-dosage edibles will emerge as cannabis attracts a larger mainstream audience.”

Spot is planning to expand to Oregon and, pending recreational legalization, to California, where the company could theoretically sell higher-dosed edibles. But given the success of microdosed products in Washington, the company plans to continue hawking these little bites in every new market it enters.

“There are vastly more people that don’t consume cannabis that do,” said Moxey. “You have to make it an enjoyable enough experience that someone will say, ‘Oh, I’ll have another.’ ”