Study Suggests Edibles Safest Way to Consume Cannabis

According to a recent survey of more than 16,000 adults by California researchers, edibles are the safest way to consume cannabis. The study was funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health and led by researchers from the Northern California Institute for Research and Education, the Department of Medicine at the University of California, and the San Francisco Veterans Administration.

Cannabis Use Statistics

The survey, first reported by Marijuana Moment, found that 24.5 percent of respondents said edibles were safest, followed by 15.6 percent who said smoking was safest, while 6 percent said vaping flower and oils were safest. Dabbing concentrates was viewed as the least safe, with just 0.5 percent of respondents believing it to be the safest method.

Vaping has long been lauded as a safer method than smoking because there is no combustion, which creates carcinogenic byproducts; however, a marijuana study last year by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine “found evidence that suggests smoking cannabis does not increase the risk for cancers often associated with tobacco use — such as lung and head and neck cancers.” The data for that study came from 10,700 previous cannabis-related studies.

Cannabis Study Survey Results

In all, the recent NIH-backed study found that 53 percent of those surveyed indicated they believed there was no safe way to consume cannabis; but it’s worth noting that survey participants were chosen from both legal and non-legal states. The researchers point out that, according to a September study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, “one in three Americans believe that smoking one marijuana joint a day is safer than smoking one cigarette a day.” In that same study respondents indicated cannabis was safer than e-cigarettes, a traditional pipe, cigars, and chewing tobacco.

“While other national surveys assess perceived risks, there is no data about perceived safety or differences in attitudes towards marijuana’s different forms,” the authors of the recent study, titled Perceptions of the Comparative Safety of Different Forms of Marijuana Use Among the Adult US Population, wrote.

Interestingly, a 2014 NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found most respondents believed that cannabis was less harmful than alcohol and sugar.

In a report released earlier this year, Colorado’s Department of Public Health & Environment found that cannabis consumers in the state are increasingly turning to edibles. According to their Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance system, in 2017, 40.4 percent of cannabis users were purchasing edible products, up from 35.2 percent in 2016.

Cannabis Edibles – Start Low

However, just because edibles are perceived safer, many edible cannabis products contain a very high THC content and novice and new consumers need to be extremely careful with dosing. Inexperienced edible consumers should start with a very small amount dose – 5 milligrams of THC or less – when starting out with edibles and wait until that takes effect before consuming any more. Smoking and vaping cannabis is usually easier to meter because the effects are often felt immediately, unlike edibles which can take up to an hour.

For inexperienced consumers, vaping or smoking also leads to some THC loss. A study published in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association notes:

“Given that some THC is lost to combustion, side stream, and exhalation, a person smoking 500 mg of this sample would inhale a dose of THC somewhere between 25 and 35 mg. By contrast, if someone was to smoke 500 mg of a concentrated cannabis extract that is 70 percent THC by weight, he or she would be exposed to between 87.5 and 122.5 mg of THC.”

The NIH-backed study was published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

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