BY DEANNA DEBARA
Photo by Fanette Guilloud / Death To The Stock Photo
The path to medical cannabis legalization in Florida has been a long one; while over 70 percent of citizens voted for a constitutional amendment to allow medical marijuana consumption back in 2016, a law was passed by then-Governor Rick Scott that banned all marijuana usage—including medical marijuana. It wasn’t until 2019, when the law was overturned by current Governor Ron DeSantis, that medical marijuana was legalized in the state.
And just last month, there was a new milestone in Florida’s cannabis legalization journey and it’s one that’s set to open the door for more diverse care for patients.
“On Aug 20, 2020 the Florida Department of Health officially released the production standards for THC-infused cannabis edibles,” says Dr. Tina Discepola, MD, an integrative physician who specializes in plant-based therapies. “This has been 3 years in the making and the day is finally here where qualified MMJ card holders now have access to an additional delivery system of medical cannabis.”
Edibles offer patients a different option and experience for their treatment. “It broadens the possibilities for many folks who are ill and require medical cannabis for their disease process,” says Discepola. But what, exactly, do Florida patients need to know about edibles?
Let’s take a look at all things cannabis edibles: why you might want to consider them, how Florida is regulating them, and things to keep in mind to ensure a positive (and safe!) consumption experience:
Why might medical patients in Florida consider consuming edibles over other types of cannabis products?
First things first—why might patients want to try edibles to begin with?
Medical marijuana patients might prefer edibles as their method of consumption for a number reasons, including:
It’s an Alternative to smoking
Prior to the legalization of edibles, many medical marijuana patients smoked their cannabis. And while that delivery method works for many patients, for others, it’s less than ideal and for those patients, edibles can be a great alternative.
“Smoking has its limitations; [for example] with work, certain social settings, and around children,” says Discepola. “There are also folks who simply cannot or choose not to smoke. [For those patients], the edibles are a nice option.”
Edibles have a slower onset and longer duration
When you smoke cannabis flower or hit a vape pen, the effect is near immediate. But the body processes edibles differently from other cannabis products, leading to a slower onset and longer duration—which could offer a better experience to some patients.
“Patients who have been using an inhalation form of medical cannabis and try an edible for the first time will notice that the onset of action takes longer because the body has to break down the food in the stomach,” says Discepola. “This process is more time consuming than when cannabis gets absorbed by the lungs or skin—but the effects will likely last a lot longer.”
So, how long can you expect edibles to last? “Generally, the effects of edibles can be felt for about 5-6 hours,” says Discepola. (Although she notes “this varies based on your individual biology and the type of edible consumed.”)
Edibles offer more accurate dosing
When you smoke cannabis, it can be difficult to precisely track how much THC you’re consuming. But because edibles are so carefully measured, you know exactly how much THC you’re getting per serving, which makes for more accurate dosing—and a more controlled consumption experience.
How is Florida regulating cannabis edibles?
When the State of Florida released their standards for cannabis edibles, it was clear that they were taking every measure to ensure a safe and compliant roll out. “The production and regulation rules from the State of Florida are quite extensive,” says Discepola.
Patients can access the state’s complete standards for the production of cannabis edibles online, but here are some of the regulations Florida patients will want to be aware of:
All edibles must be produced in one of seven shapes: square, circle, rectangle, triangle, parallelogram, oval, or diamond.
Edibles may one be produced in one of five forms: lozenge, gelatin, baked goods, chocolates, and drink powders.
Edibles must be marked with the universal THC symbol. You’ll see stamping where it’s appropriate while other products, like powders, will feature the symbol on the packaging.
Edibles can have a maximum individual serving of 10 milligrams. Multi-serving edibles may not exceed 200 milligrams.
There are also regulations to ensure that cannabis edibles are not mistaken for a “normal” treat. For example, edibles may not bear any resemblance to an existing candy or sweet treat or have any toppings like frosting, icing, or sprinkles. This regulation is often put into place to avoid accidental consumption, particularly from children.
But even with those regulations in place, if you are planning to consume cannabis edibles and have children in the household, it’s important to “to be super vigilant as to where the product would be stored in the home,” says Discepola. She recommends storing cannabis edibles in a locked location where children won’t have access.
Thinking about adding edibles to your medical marijuana regimen? Start low and slow.
While the State of Florida has regulations in place to ensure safe production, it’s also important for patients to take proper precautions on their end to find the right product and dose—and that means taking a conservative approach at the beginning.
“If this is your first experience or have low tolerance with medical cannabis in general, it’s always best to start with a low dose and work your way up to avoid prolonged uncomfortable effects,” says Discepola. “Each individual needs to find which edible and dosage works for them.”
Please note that like all other medical marijuana products, patients should refer to their physicians for a prescription.
And if you’re looking for edibles at your local MedMen Florida location, keep an eye out. They’ll be hitting stores soon.