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Questions about edible pot reached new heights on Monday after CBC Toronto learned that two Toronto police officers had been suspended for allegedly ingesting marijuana edibles, hallucinating and calling for help while on duty. People using marijuana edibles should be cautious. Edibles are 268 times more likely than inhaled marijuana to cause users in Colorado to seek help at an ER

Can pot cause hallucinations? Report of officers who allegedly ate edibles fuels debate

Questions about edible pot reached new heights on Monday after CBC Toronto learned that two Toronto police officers had been suspended for allegedly ingesting marijuana edibles, hallucinating and calling for help while on duty.

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2 experts share different views on whether or not pot can cause hallucinations

There has been much debate about whether pot can cause hallucination when inhaled or ingested (Brennan Linsley/Associated Press)

Questions about edible pot were begging for answers on Monday after CBC Toronto learned that two Toronto officers were suspended after allegedly ingesting marijuana edibles, hallucinating and calling for help while on duty.

The two officers, who both work at 13 Division, were on duty not far from the station at Eglinton Avenue West and Allen Road when they allegedly ingested pot edibles late Sunday.

Police sources told CBC Toronto the officers began complaining of “hallucinations” and one made a call for an officer needing assistance. Both officers were found in a police vehicle and later treated in hospital.

That incident has fuelled debate about whether marijuana can actually cause hallucinations.

Ryan Vandrey, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioural sciences at Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore, says there have been very clear demonstrations and scientific studies proving it does.

“Folks tend to be more prone to have hallucinations if they have a family history of psychosis, but there have been cases, even one recently in my laboratory, where somebody without a family history of psychosis has had hallucinations following acute dosing with cannabis,” he said.

Ryan Vandrey says there have been very clear demonstrations and scientific studies of acute dosing of cannabis causing hallucinations. (Ryan Vandrey)

People tend to believe that edibles are more potent, says Vandrey. He argues that is a misconception.

“It comes from the fact that people have a tendency to eat more than they would smoke or vaporize,” he asserted.

The main difference is in the timing, he says.

“When you eat it, it usually takes a lot longer for the effects to have an onset and the effects last longer.”

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Vandrey also said there are individual differences in both the type and magnitude of drug effects with any drug. Cannabis is no different, he says.

“You are more apt to laughter and feeling giddy; in some cases you can become anxious or paranoid. Hallucinations in particularly high doses are a possibility,” he explained.

Windsor doctor Christopher Blue is adamant that cannabis that is obtained from a source that has been inspected and approved is not a hallucinogen. (Jason Viau/CBC News)

But Christopher Blue, a Windsor, Ont., doctor, says cannabis in its raw form does not cause hallucination.

He concedes, however, that there is a possibility illegal cannabis could be laced with hallucinogens.

“They often use cutting agents in it like salvia, or K2, or spice,” which can have hallucinatory effects, often blamed on cannabis, he said.

Salvia is a psychedelic plant, while spice and K2 are synthetic cannabis compounds.

While Blue stresses that in the purest form, cannabis is not hallucinogenic, he says certain strains of cannabis can impair cognition and judgment.

CBC News has learned that Const. Vittorio Dominelli is one of two Toronto police officers suspended pending the outcome of an investigation by the force’s professional standards unit. (Toronto Police Service/Facebook)

In an interview with CBC Radio’s Metro Morning on Tuesday, Coun. Shelley Carroll of the Toronto Police Services Board said the news of the incident involving the two officers was troubling.

“These are officers who should be trained such that they know how dangerous these things are because they do deal with people who have over-imbibed when they have a prescription for edibles,” she added.

Carroll said the side effects that the officers experienced are the very reason why the federal government is moving in stages and hesitating to make edibles widely legal at this point, other than by strict prescription.

CBC News has learned that one of the officers under investigation is Const. Vittorio Dominelli, but has not confirmed the name of his partner.

Five things you should know about marijuana edibles

The Rocky Mountains beckon. So, too, do the pot shops.

Many visitors to Colorado come for the state’s natural beauty, but also are curious about marijuana dispensaries.

Marijuana edibles can send people to the ER if they take too much or have a bad reaction. Photo: Getty Images.

Before indulging in edibles, take some advice from Dr. Andrew Monte, an emergency medicine and toxicology specialist at UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital and an associate professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. Monte cares for patients in the ER and has done extensive studies on marijuana use.

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His advice: be very cautious about edibles. While Monte says some edibles may help patients for medical problems like pain, they’re not a good choice for recreational users, especially for novices who haven’t used weed or tried edibles in the past. For some people, edibles can cause scary symptoms like a racing heart, anxiety, and hallucinations.

If you are planning to try marijuana edibles, here are five things you should know:

  • Start small. Go slow.Edibles affect individuals in different ways. It can take up to four hours for the high from an edible to take effect. The biggest mistake new users make is continuing to ingest edibles if they don’t feel high right away. Then, the high hits hard and can last for several hours, leading some people to feel sick or anxious and seek help in ERs.
  • Edibles are much more likely to cause people to seek medical help compared with inhaled marijuana. In a new study to be released in the Annals of Internal Medicine, Monte found that ER visits due to edibles were 33 times higher than expected, when controlled for product sales in the state. That’s true even though inhaled forms of marijuana are much more common than edibles.
  • The state-recommended dose for edibles is 10 mg, but even that dose can make some people feel sick or anxious. Monte has had patients who have consumed the recommended dosage and still suffered negative side effects. He does not recommend recreational use of edibles. But, if people are trying them, they should start with no more than 2.5 to 5 mg. and see how they respond before eating or drinking more. Never mix edibles with alcohol or other drugs.
  • The negative side effects from edibles can be scary. For those who have a negative reaction to edibles, the symptoms can include a racing heart, excessive sweating, anxiety, paranoia, hallucinations and delusions. “They can cause people to freak out. Clearly edibles have a more severe toxicity than inhaled forms and the effects are psychiatric in nature,” Monte said. Sometimes people flying out of Colorado decide to finish all the edibles they’ve purchased before heading to the airport. Then, the high hits right when they’re going through security or trying to board a plane. Some end up in the ER instead of catching a flight home. In extreme cases, three deaths in Colorado have been linked to consumption of marijuana edibles. A l9-year-old college student from Wyoming jumped to his death after consuming six times the recommended dosage of edibles. A 23-year-old graduate student killed himself in Keystone and his family blamed the marijuana edibles he consumed. And a Denver man killed his wife after consuming as much as 50 mg. of edibles. He blames the edibles for his psychosis and violence.
  • Kids and dogs accidentally ingest edibles. Safe storage is essential. Both toddlers and canines are notorious for popping whatever they find into their mouths. And edibles are designed to taste and smell good. They come in a variety of forms from brownies, cookies and candies to drinks and popcorn. Both veterinarians and doctors in Colorado, like Monte’s colleague at Children’s Hospital Colorado, Dr. George “Sam” Wang, have seen an increase in accidental poisonings linked to edibles. Users should keep edibles locked up and out of reach from children and pets.
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About the author

Katie Kerwin McCrimmon, UCHealth

Katie Kerwin McCrimmon is a proud Colorado native. She attended Colorado College, thanks to a merit scholarship from the Boettcher Foundation, and worked as a park ranger in Rocky Mountain National Park during summer breaks from college. She is also a storyteller. She loves getting to know UCHealth patients and providers and sharing their inspiring stories.

Katie spent years working as a journalist at the Rocky Mountain News and was a finalist with a team of reporters for the Pulitzer Prize for their coverage of a deadly wildfire in Glenwood Springs in 1994. Katie was the first reporter in the U.S. to track down and interview survivors of the tragic blaze, which left 14 firefighters dead.

She covered an array of beats over the years, including the environment, politics, education and criminal justice. She also loved covering stories in Congress and at the U.S. Supreme Court during a stint as the Rocky’s reporter in Washington, D.C.

Katie then worked as a reporter for an online health news site before joining the UCHealth team in 2017.

Katie and her husband Cyrus, a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer, have three children. The family loves traveling together anywhere from Glacier National Park to Cuba.

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