Stay calm and take one bite at a time. Now that cannabis edibles are hitting retail shelves, Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) has a number of tips for people to avoid the unpleasant consequences that can come from accidental over-consumption.
“We’ve seen for many years that it’s easy for people, especially those who have less experience with cannabis, to consume more cannabis than they mean to with edibles,” says VCH Medical Health Officer Dr. Mark Lysyshyn. “Because the psychoactive effects of cannabis are a little different and take longer to kick in when digested, people often make the mistake of taking additional doses. But once the effects kick in, they can find themselves dealing with unpleasant sensations and feeling more impaired than they expected to be.”
Although edibles pose less risk to the respiratory system, they come with their own specific risks. To mitigate unintended consequences, VCH recommends people take the following steps:
Use small amounts: It’s ideal to use as little cannabis as is necessary to reach the desired effect. Many people find a small dose to be enough. If new to eating cannabis, start with a dose of 2.5-5mg of THC. Always check the amount of THC in the edible as this might mean cutting an edible into halves or quarters.
Wait to feel full effects: Dosage can make a big difference between getting the desired effects and feeling uncomfortable or anxious. Wait at least an hour to feel the full effects of eaten cannabis and then decide whether you want to use more.
Avoid toxic effects: Eating too much cannabis, using strong extracts, or mixing it with alcohol can cause extreme anxiety, vomiting and fainting. Avoid consuming cannabis with alcohol. Using cannabis on a full stomach can help moderate the intensity of negative effects.
Stay safe if impaired: Don’t drive or engage in other potentially dangerous activities as it increases the risk of injury or death. Cannabis can impair coordination, reaction time and other cognitive abilities. Wait at least six hours after ingesting cannabis to drive.
Don’t panic: If you feel too high, don’t panic, stay hydrated, eat something and find a safe place where you feel comfortable. The effects will wear off within two to eight hours.
Label and store all cannabis securely: Edible cannabis often looks like regular food such as baked goods or candy. To reduce the risk of accidental consumption label your cannabis edibles and store them securely away from food products and out of the reach of children and pets.
Obtain cannabis and cannabis products from a legal source.
If you or someone you know has accidently consumed cannabis or consumed too much cannabis and is not well, seek immediate assistance:
Call BC Poison Control Centre: 1-800-567-8911 or 604-682-5050
Call 911 or go to your local hospital emergency department
These harm reduction tips, and more information on responsible cannabis use, can be found in Take Care With Cannabis, a free, easy-to-read brochure developed by Vancouver Coastal Health and the University of Victoria’s Centre for Addictions Research of B.C. More information is also available on British Columbia’s Get Cannabis Clarity website.
Non-medical cannabis products such as edibles, extracts and topicals started becoming available in B.C. in late December 2019 and are expected to become more widely available on as distribution ramps up throughout 2020.