An employee restocks edibles at Denver Kush Club in Denver on Jan. 1, the first day of recreational marijuana sales in Colorado. (Seth McConnell, Denver Post file)

Opinion: Maureen Dowd’s peculiar tale misleading

Maureen Dowd asks us to believe that a highly intelligent, well-traveled writer for one of the world’s leading newspapers casually overdosed on a THC-infused candy bar in her Denver hotel room because she had no idea how much a novice should eat.

The experience was so bad, The New York Times columnist wrote earlier this month, that she “lay curled up in a hallucinatory state for the next eight hours,” convinced that “I had died and no one was telling me.”

This is a most peculiar tale. Does Dowd know how to divide by 10?

You wouldn’t know it from her column, but Colorado law requires edible marijuana products manufactured for retail sale to feature the total amount of THC in milligrams. Meanwhile, the labels also contain this advisement: “The standardized serving size for this product includes no more than 10 mg of Active THC.”

These rules have been in place since the first day of retail sales in January, according to a spokeswoman for the Colorado Department of Revenue, which oversees marijuana regulation. So a novice interested in avoiding an overdose would divide the total milligrams by 10 and consume an amount somewhat smaller than the “standardized serving size” — and perhaps significantly smaller if she were prudent.

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Dowd gives no hint that such information was available. She says she “nibbled off the end,” as if making a blind stab at the right amount, “and then, when nothing happened, nibbled some more. … What could go wrong with a bite or two?”

Did she wait “two or more hours” for the intoxicating effects to kick in before nibbling again? Retail edibles packages offer that warning, too, as mandated by state law.

What is still more curious about Dowd’s account is that before she returned to her hotel, she had been given a dispensary tour by My 420 Tours co-founder Matt Brown, who warned her how to use edibles. You won’t find that in her column, either. The Cannabist’s Ricardo Baca ran down this fact, and Dowd confirmed it when Baca inquired.

“What could go wrong with a bite or two?” Dowd wondered. How could anyone who had taken Brown’s tour and read the packaging not have some idea?

I’m no apologist for the edibles industry. After buying an infused ginger snap cookie in April, I described it as an “accident waiting to happen” because of its daunting THC content (100 mg) and its uncanny resemblance to a normal ginger snap.

I argued that stand-alone cookies (and, by extension, most other baked goods and candies) should only contain 10 mgs of THC to eliminate the tendency of consumers to break them up in rough approximation of what they desire. At the very least, portions should be demarcated on the product.

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I also put in a good word for a bill, since passed, that requires marijuana edibles to be “shaped, stamped, colored, or otherwise marked with a standard symbol.”

But my concern was primarily for children and for adults who encountered edibles, with no intermediary information, at parties, for example, or unpackaged at a friend’s home. I wasn’t thinking of those who ignore advice, discount labels or succumb to impatience.

It’s not only that columns like Dowd’s mislead out-of-staters. They also mislead Coloradans. Just this week, the dean of the school of medicine at the University of Colorado, Richard Krugman, sent an e-mail to colleagues in which he cited Dowd’s column before claiming the “failure to require labels [on edibles] with potency information or warnings … is a significant public health issue” in Colorado.

The edibles industry has some work to do, as its representatives will freely tell you. But if it’s going to be denounced for its shortcomings, let them at least be real.

E-mail Vincent Carroll at Follow him on Twitter @vcarrollDP

Read the original column: Dowd’s bad trip was a truly terrifying experience

Follow-up: Maureen Dowd reacts — “I was focused more on the fun than the risks”

What was Maureen Dowd was told about edibles before her overdose? Matt Brown of My 420 Tours spent hours with Dowd and warned her about edibles, he says

20 compelling reactions to Dowd via Twitter: Dowd pens column on edibles overdose, and the Internet loses its mind

The Wiki shuffle: Yes, there is a “Colorado candy bar incident” entry on Dowd’s Wikipedia

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