The legal cannabis industry in the USA was estimated to be worth $24 billion in 2021, with a large percentage of that money being spent on edibles that contain cannabis.
A YouGov poll in 2021 found that 27% of Americans were interested in trying edibles, in comparison 21% said they were interested in smoking cannabis in a joint or pipe.
Cannabis edibles, or simply ‘edibles’ as they are more widely known, usually contain the cannabinoids THC, CBD and others. These cannabinoids are extracted from the cannabis plant and baked or infused into a food product.
People use edibles over other methods of consuming cannabis for a variety of reasons: the consumer may not like or be able to smoke due to health reasons, or perhaps the smell that is produced from combusting cannabis is regarded as a nuisance by neighbours or other people in the consumer’s environment, or maybe because it is supposedly easier and more accurate to dose the amount of cannabis one consumes in a legally purchased edible due to the amounts of cannabinoids being displayed on the package.
Edibles come in a variety of forms, including gummies, baked goods such as brownies, butter and even cannabis infused honey. The Alice B. Toklas Cook Book was one of the first cookbooks available to those interested in cooking with cannabis, it was published in America in the early 1960s and contained recipes for brownies and other baked goods, and also explained how to extract the cannabinoids and decarboxylate correctly.
In 2021 another poll found that over half, 52%, of Americans had consumed some form of cannabis, out of this figure, 72% had taken cannabis in the past month. The people that did use cannabis in 2021 spent an estimated $1.38 billion just on edibles with over $1 billion being spent on gummies alone. This figure represents a year-on-year increase of 20%, with the overall cannabis market in the USA growing by 18.4% in the same period.
However, because of the way that the cannabinoids are extracted, due to the way the body absorbs and processes ingested THC, edibles infamously produce much stronger effects compared to smoking cannabis.
Recently there have been concerns raised by members of the public and people involved with the cannabis industry about how these products are branded, specifically how branding can be seen to attract children due to the colours and designs used.
The attraction of edibles to children is not just from the branding however, sweets, gummies, brownies and other baked goods can be very desirable to children, and it is often difficult to differentiate between a sweet that contains cannabis and one that doesn’t.
Perhaps due to the above reasons there has been a huge increase in the accidental ingestion of edibles by children in America in the five years from 2017 to 2022. The data comes from a study published in the American Journal of Pediatrics which looked at all incidents reported to the National Poison Data System.
The study found that in 2017 there were 207 cases of edible ingestion by a child, this figure rose to 3054 in 2021, which is an increase of 1375%.
The increase is significant, but to put the total figure into perspective, there were nearly 75 million children in the USA in 2022, this means that only around 0.004% of the total number of children were affected by accidental ingestion of cannabis edibles.
Responding to what he considers to be ‘scare-mongering’ by the press that has reported on this story, Peter Reynolds from CLEAR Tweeted “@DailyMailUK and tabloid rags worldwide are hysterically reporting that in USA more than 3,000 children a year are now “poisoned” by #cannabis. In fact, over 136,000 children per year are treated for poisoning by all causes.”
@DailyMailUK and tabloid rags worldwide are hysterically reporting that in USA more than 3,000 children a year are now "poisoned" by #cannabis. In fact, over 136,000 children per year are treated for poisoning by all causes. https://t.co/OIBSOwweit pic.twitter.com/2fyJmdmNvu
— Peter Reynolds (@TweeterReynolds) January 4, 2023
Out of the total number of children affected by accidental edible ingestion, 22.7% were admitted to the hospital for treatment of symptoms including drowsiness and sleepiness. Most children admitted to the hospital were deemed ‘non-critical’, and there were no fatalities.