THC levels in edible marijuana products have become a significant hazard of marijuana use, particularly for new users. Over time, the average level of THC in marijuana has increased (see article). On top of this, people have become more adept at distilling more concentrated THC out of the plant, particularly by making hash oil. This can be very dangerous for people ingesting marijuana, especially if they are not very familiar with it, because they may consume more than intended.

For frequent users who have built tolerances for the drug, ingesting something a little stronger than they are used to isn’t such a big deal. But for people who have never used marijuana, or only use it infrequently, these concentrated forms can be dangerous. Side effects can include hallucinations, panic, paranoia, and short-term depression. In more serious cases, THC can impair breathing and heart functions. In a recent story, New York Times reporter Maureen Dowd relayed her own experience with these side effects. She writes that she tried a marijuana candy bar, and when she felt no effects, ate a little more. She then “lay curled up in a hallucinatory state for the next eight hours” and “was thirsty but couldn’t move to get water. Or even turn off the lights… was panting and paranoid, sure that when the room-service waiter knocked and [she] didn’t answer, he’d call the police.” In her follow-up piece Dowd says that the founder of Marijuana.com contacted her to say that stories like hers are increasingly common.

While Dowd’s story fortunately ended without consequence, there have even been reports of people killing themselves or others after consuming far more THC than they realized, and there are increased reports of children unknowingly eating, and being sickened by, harmless-looking edible marijuana products. Edible products containing marijuana are also often not labeled as to their THC content or what appropriate serving sizes should be, increasing the likelihood of ingesting more than intended.