Imagine buying a 100-milligram edible that unknowingly only contained .2 milligrams of THC — less than 1/500th of the amount promised on the edible’s label.
Would you feel ripped off? Confused? Disoriented? Suckered?
All of the above?
The Denver Post and The Cannabist conducted a study last week on the potency of edibles as compared to their label-promised amounts, and the results were staggering. None of the 10 brands hit their promised amounts exactly, though a couple came close. Others were 20-40 percent off. And yet others were even more off, proving what an inexact science the potency of legal recreational marijuana is in Colorado more than two months after legal sales began in the state.
The biggest offender in the study was Dr. J’s, one of the largest producers of edibles in the state. Of the four Dr. J’s products we tested, each of which supposedly contained 100 milligrams of activated THC according to their labels, they contained .2, .3, .4 and 5 milligrams apiece. Best case scenario was 5 milligrams of 100 promised — that’s 1/20th of what they said was in there. Worst case scenario, it’s .2 milligrams of 100 promised – or, appallingly, 1/500th.
Would would happen if you got 1/500th of what was promised on the label when you bought a bottle of Advil?
More: Read the full report on THC levels in marijuana-infused edibles
See the actual tests: See every one of the 36 tests conducted by state-licensed Steep Hill Halent of Colorado on behalf of The Denver Post and The Cannabist
Read the reaction to the story: How has Colorado’s marijuana industry reacted to The Post study? And exclusive comments from the veteran chemist who conducted the THC tests
Editorial: How much THC is in that brownie? Oversight is necessary for industry credibility, says The Denver Post Editorial Board.
Since sometimes the story behind a piece of journalism can be interesting, we’ll share with you on The Cannabist this week bits and pieces of our reporting — including our introduction to Dr. J’s and copies of the actual tests conducted on the marijuana infused products.
Today: How I first met Dr. J’s.
In early January, my fiancee and I were driving west to spend the weekend with friends in Granby. I’d emailed earlier that week with Dan Volpe, owner of Serene Wellness in the tiny town of Empire, as he wanted his shop to be listed on our map or medical and recreational marijuana shops. And since we were driving through Empire on U.S. 40 to reach Granby, we stopped by for a visit — and our first recreational marijuana purchase.
It was good meeting Dan, and we left his shop with two edibles we’d never tried — a Star Barz chocolate bar and a package of Jelly Stones gummies, both made by a company called Dr. J’s. I tried the Dr. J’s bar that evening, my normal lightweight dose of 10 milligrams — and I felt nothing. I dosed up another 10 — nothing. And another 10 — nothing. And another 10? (This was over the course of three or four hours.) I was straight as an arrow after 30-40 milligrams? Something was off. But it was bedtime, and I was surrounded by friends who had been vaporizing all night and were feeling just fine.
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When we got home from Granby, I packed the two Dr. J’s packets in my fridge and forgot about them. I’d see them out in a dispensary or rec shop and ask the budtender, “How do you like those?” And he or she would come back with any number of responses — they liked them, they didn’t. The reactions were pretty evenly split. I called Volpe in Empire just to let him know about my experience with them. He was genuinely surprised.
Fast forward six weeks and I’m getting an email from Northglenn dispensary owner Robin Hackett telling me that she’s seen more than 300 complaints on Dr. J’s products. (That number of complaints would eventually near 450 individual customers, involving thousands of products, Hackett said.) We talked on the phone that morning, and she told me about her test results. I knew I needed my own — and I already had the product. And so I was at Steep Hill Halent’s state-licensed lab less than 12 hours after Hackett’s initial email with two Dr. J’s products in hand.
I also called Volpe back in Empire — and it turns out that my complaint to him on Dr. J’s was the first of 20 others. It was enough for him to stop carrying the brand entirely.
By Tuesday, my test results were in: The pot chocolate bar had .4 milligrams of THC, and the gummies had .2 milligrams of THC. We needed more tests — and not only of Dr. J’s products. Would other brands test as poorly?
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We grabbed nine other edibles from all different companies and dropped them off at the lab — plus two more Dr. J’s chocolate bars, these ones purchased from central Denver rec shop Herbs 4 You where manager Roman Tsyporyn told me in early March, “Dr. J’s has worked great for us. We make money, and people are happy with it.”
The results of the tests speak for themselves, and we’ve heard from a number of the companies involved who are curious to see how the same product would test in a different state-licensed lab. More telling has been the email response from customers.
“I purchased two different kinds of supposedly THC-infused Dr J’s candy, and they were both a complete ripoff. The Flying Aces peach hard candy was edible but didn’t have any effect on me. And the Caramelloz cinnamon pieces were so defective, liquid at room temperature and the thin foil wrapper was impossible to peel off, they weren’t even edible. I ended up throwing them out. Now that I know there’s a systemic problem I’ll inform the shop where I bought it in the hopes that they stop patronizing that company. Please continue your reporting on infused edibles. I hope it weeds out (no pun intended) the crooked companies like Dr. J’s and results in some oversight and regulation of infused edibles.” – Myra
“Unfortunately, as in any business, there are the ones who are in it for a fast buck and screw the consumer … State-run testing labs must be in place for the advertisements put out by these businesses, and if they do not comply take away their license, put them out of business and let the legitimate ones fill the gap. No excuses, zero tolerance, Dr.J’s sounds like a total ripoff.” – Duane
“Looks like a low-budget baller scamming Americans.” – Mike
Out of curiosity, I called Herbs 4 You’s Tsyporyn on March 10, the day after The Post’s study originally ran, to see if the findings and test results from bars purchased at his shop changed his opinion on Dr. J’s. But Tsyporyn remains pleased with the product and how fast it sells.
“I’m still happy with it,” Tsyporyn said March 10. “Because people still like it. I’ve had people buy three of four each, and they’ve come back to get more. They said, ‘It works great, and the price is great.'”
We’ll share more of the behind-the-scenes throughout the week, so check back.