Study: Strength of cannabis edibles regularly mislabeled

By Oscar Pascual |

You might not be getting exactly what you pay for when buying medical cannabis edibles.

An analysis of several edible marijuana products sold in dispensaries throughout Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles found that only 17 percent of all products were accurately labeled for their levels of THC, according to a study reported by the New York Times on Tuesday.

A test of local edibles in San Francisco last fall similarly revealed rampant mislabeling.

In the most recent study, an overwhelming 60 percent of all edibles had less THC than advertised, while 23 percent held more THC than claimed.

“The point is not to say, ‘Hey, X medical marijuana company, you’re bad,’ ” said said Dr. Ryan Vandrey, the study’s lead author and an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “We don’t have the kind of quality assurance for edibles that we have for any other medicine.”

The study tested cannabis-infused candy, drinks and baked goods from 47 different brands to find the discrepancies. Some labels were so far off that in one case, a product contained only three milligrams of THC even though its label claimed 108.

The analysis found geographical differences as well. Edibles bought in Los Angeles were found to be more likely of having more THC than labeled, while the likelihood of getting less THC than labeled was greater throughout Seattle dispensaries.

The study only proves that regulation is sorely needed in states with medical marijuana. Products with too little THC could fail to relieve symptoms, while overly potent levels can lead to unpleasant side effects like severe anxiety.

“We need a more accurate picture of what’s being offered to patients,” said Dr. Donald Abrams, who has done notable marijuana research and serves as the chief of hematology and oncology at San Francisco General Hospital, in an interview with the Times. “What we have now in this country is an unregulated medical marijuana industry, due to conflicts between state and federal laws.”

Abrams believes that regulations will only come into effect if and when the federal government actually recognizes marijuana as medicine.

“When that changes,” Dr. Abrams told the Times, “we’ll see the industry rushing to standardize dosing, as well as laboratory testing of products.”

Photo credit: Flickr.com/eggrole