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A range of synthetic marijuana chemicals linked to hospitalizations, comas, and deaths have been found in CBD gummies and vape cartridges. Compared to smoked marijuana, edibles can have more potent and dangerous side effects. Learn about the types of edibles and associated risks.

Synthetic Marijuana Found In CBD Products Across Multiple States

CBD gummies and vape cartridges laced with synthetic marijuana have been found in Maryland, Louisiana and 11 other states, according to a new AP investigation.

CBD edibles and vapes spiked with a variety of synthetic marijuana compounds have found their way to consumers in Louisiana, Maryland and nearly a dozen other states, according to a nationwide Associated Press investigation into unregulated cannabidiol products. Synthetic marijuana, often marketed as K2 or Spice, has been linked to mass hospitalizations and other health emergencies across the U.S. and Europe. While they have nothing to do with cannabis plants, synthetic marijuana chemicals somewhat mimic the activity of cannabinoids, but they are significantly more potent. Adverse reactions to synthetic marijuana range from fainting and dizziness to vomiting, heart and lung illness, coma, and even death.

Investigation Uncovers CBD Vape Cartridges and Edibles Spiked with Synthetic Marijuana

The U.S. hemp-derived cannabidiol industry is growing rapidly, thanks to the lifting of the ban on hemp products. But unregulated, untested CBD products still dominate the market. And while many products come from reputable companies that are as transparent as possible about their manufacturing processes, some originate from sources that are lacing products with dangerous synthetic chemicals.

The term synthetic marijuana is somewhat of a misnomer. It’s a catch-all term for unknown chemical mixtures sprayed on or added to smokable herbs and flowers and typically inhaled or ingested, hence its association with cannabis. These drugs provide a cheap, intense and dangerous high. And now, investigators are finding them in CBD vape and edible products.

AP’s investigation began with a nationwide survey of law enforcement. That survey revealed that at least 128 of 350 CBD products labs tested contained synthetic “marijuana.” Gummy bears accounted for 36 of those 128. The rest were vape products. AP says most of the testing occurred in Southern states. And in Mississippi, labs detected fentanyl in some products labeled CBD.

Through the survey, AP obtained a list of brands and products containing synthetic marijuana. It then sent reporters to purchase those products in retailers across the U.S. and have them tested. In all, AP turned up contaminated CBD products in 13 states. Some of the products could be purchased online and shipped anywhere in the U.S.

Because the investigation focused on suspect brands and products, its results don’t represent the CBD market as a whole. Still, the report highlights the dangers of untested cannabidiol products at a time when the U.S. is still dealing with a string of vape-linked illnesses and deaths.

Green Machine, Yolo Vape Cartridges Found Containing Synthetic Marijuana

AP reporters have so far tested about 30 suspicious cartridges purchased at convenience stores mostly located in Southern states. Lab tests showed that 10 of the 30 contained synthetic marijuana, including Juul-compatible Green Machine CBD pods and Yolo CBD vape cartridges. Test results found the cartridges contained chemicals linked to multiple deaths in Europe and dozens of hospitalization in the U.S., spanning states from Utah to Louisiana to Maryland.

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One of those cartridges, sold at a mom-and-pop convenience store, the 7 to 11 Store, put a young man in a coma in South Carolina. Jay Jenkins said two puffs of a vape cartridge he thought contained CBD induced hallucinations and made him feel like he was dead. According to Jenkins’ medical records, he suffered acute respiratory failure after being rushed to the hospital, where he fell into a brief coma.

There are no consistencies in terms of the chemicals found or the products contaminated with them, either. Products found to contain no synthetic marijuana in one state tested positive for them in another. For Green Machine CBD pods, for example, four of seven tested positive for synthetic marijuana.

Furthermore, investigators had little luck tracking down anyone to hold accountable for the spiked CBD products. Retailers typically point higher up the supply chain, placing blame with producers and manufacturers. The absence of any regulatory oversight makes it very difficult to track down the people behind the laced CBD products. As a result, the American Association of Poison Control Centers has listed CBD as “an emerging hazard.”

The 11 Dangers of Marijuana Edibles

By The Recovery Village | Editor Melissa Carmona
Medically Reviewed By Dr. Jessica Pyhtila, PharmD A licensed behavioral health or medical professional on The Recovery Village Editorial Team has analyzed and confirmed every statistic, study and medical claim on this page. | Last Updated: May 06, 2022

Edible marijuana is processed differently in the body than smoked marijuana, sometimes leading to overconsumption and dangerous side effects.

While consuming marijuana in the form of a candy or cookie may seem harmless, many users’ experience has shown the opposite. Although marijuana itself has rarely been linked to serious side effects, the same is not true for marijuana edibles. Experts think this may be due to the different way your body processes marijuana edibles, leading to a more potent and longer-lasting high.

What Are Edibles?

Edibles refer to any edible food or drink containing marijuana or any of its active ingredients, most often tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). Generally, the edible product is infused with cannabis extract. Marijuana is heated in an oil-based liquid to obtain the extract.

Compared to other ways of consuming marijuana, edibles are known for producing a delayed high. Further, they may be more discreetly consumed than marijuana from a blunt, vape pen or bong. Edibles are often broken down into four categories:

  • Sativa only: Sativa strains of marijuana contain both THC and CBD and are known for a high that makes the user feel more energetic or creative.
  • Indica only: Indica strains contain both THC and CBD and are known for their sedating effects.
  • Hybrids: Hybrid edibles include both Sativa and Indica and contain both THC and CBD.
  • CBD only: CBD is a component of marijuana that can relieve pain or anxiety without providing the psychoactive high associated with THC.
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Types of Marijuana Edibles

There has been some concern that the legalization of recreational marijuana may translate to increased use of marijuana in new forms. Marijuana edibles are not new, but a variety of edibles have become available in recent years. Some common types of edibles include:

  • Marijuana baked goods: Marijuana brownies and marijuana cookies are among the most common baked goods, but nearly any baked item can have marijuana.
  • Marijuana chocolate and candies: Chocolates, truffles and hard candies, including lollipops, can have marijuana in them.
  • Marijuana and CBD gummies: Marijuana gummies are popular, as are gummies with CBD.
  • Infused beverages: Cannabis-infused drinks have become popular in recent years. Soda, coffee drinks, juice, sports drinks and flavored or unflavored water can all have marijuana infused into them.
  • Other types of edibles: Ice cream, breath mints and even beef jerky can contain marijuana.

Notably, some marijuana edibles have several servings in them. For example, one bar of marijuana chocolate may have multiple 10 mg servings. If someone has a low marijuana tolerance and eats an entire bar of chocolate, they may experience unpleasant side effects, like:

  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Facial flushing
  • Dry mouth
  • Tremor

Importantly, homemade edibles can have highly variable amounts of marijuana and can easily lead to a marijuana overdose.

11 Dangers of Edibles

It is easy to underestimate the dangers of edibles, especially when people are not familiar with edible marijuana products. Given the increasing legality of marijuana edibles, it is important to be aware of the risks to use them safely.

1. Delayed Onset

Unlike smoking marijuana, which has a relatively fast onset, eating marijuana products leads to a high with a delayed onset. This effect can cause someone to consume much more marijuana than they are ready for. When an expected high is slow to appear, a person may take more than they should, erroneously thinking that they need a higher dose. Taking too much marijuana at once has led to overdose.

2. Longer-Lasting Effects

Because of the way edible marijuana is metabolized in the body, it becomes water-soluble, meaning that it can last longer and may have more pronounced effects. This was the case with New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, who experienced an unintentional overconsumption with unpleasant and long-lasting side effects. She wrote an op-ed about her experience.

3. Enhanced Negative Side Effects

Extensive data is available documenting the increased side effects edible marijuana has compared to smoked marijuana. The reason for this discrepancy stems from how THC is metabolized. When marijuana is eaten, more THC makes it to the liver. The liver breaks it down into several byproducts, including 11-hydroxy-THC, which may be more psychoactive than THC itself.

4. Variable Potency

Particularly when black market marijuana is used for homemade edible products, marijuana’s potency can vary widely. This may lead to unpredictable side effects, especially if the person consuming the edible is not used to marijuana.

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5. Inconsistent Regulations

Labeling requirements for marijuana edibles vary widely by state, leading to inconsistencies in how edibles are packaged and sold. Further, those attempting to make their own homemade edibles may accidentally overindulge due to the inconsistent potency of marijuana products. It is difficult to ensure a uniform consistency of marijuana throughout a product.

6. Easy to Confuse with Regular Food and Candy

A marijuana edible may look and taste very similar to products without marijuana, so it can be easy for a person to unintentionally be exposed to marijuana. If pets and children accidentally consume marijuana-laced edibles, it can be dangerous.

7. Unintentional Overconsumption

For people who have never used marijuana, the biggest danger associated with edibles is eating too much, too quickly. In Colorado, where marijuana edibles are easily available to residents over the age of 21, there have already been numerous medical events related to marijuana edibles. Two Denver residents died after eating marijuana-laced products, and hundreds of others have gone to the ER in need of treatment after ingesting too much. Why? Because it’s easy to take too much. Most people are used to eating a cookie or two without a thought: but a serving of a marijuana-laced cookie may be as little as one-sixth of the cookie. For this reason, the uninitiated may easily eat too much attempting to get high.

8. Harm to Self or Others

While under the influence, users can become violent or unaware. They may hurt themselves or hurt others while in this state, behaviors they may never have engaged in while sober. One man allegedly shot his wife while she was on the phone with 911 after she told the operator that he had ingested some marijuana-laced candies.

9. Unknown Effects on the Brain & Body

Many known side effects of smoking marijuana exist, including the possibility of long-term lung damage and changes in mood. However, few studies exist on how edibles may impact brain growth and development, especially in adolescents and teens. Unfortunately, marijuana research in the United States is difficult to pursue due to federal regulations.

10. Drug Mixing Risks

Consuming marijuana edibles in combination with other drugs, particularly alcohol, is a bad idea. THC may worsen the effects of alcohol, increasing the likelihood that someone will participate in risky behaviors like drunk driving or binge drinking.

11. Addiction

Because it’s easy to eat too much and comes in a palatable and easy-to-use form, regular use of edible marijuana may follow. Marijuana addiction can quickly become a problem for the user, with all the social and mental health issues that characterize the disease.

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