The stories people tell about consuming cannabis-infused foods, simply referred to most commonly as edibles, range from one extreme end of the spectrum, to the other. You’ll hear of the scrawny guy that claims to ingest a few hundred milligrams of THC in a few brownies without batting an eye. Or you might know that big dude who has psychedelic experiences after a half of a pot cookie.
More often than not, we are satisfied to chalk that range of effects and experiences up to basic physiology – metabolism, diet, that sort of thing. But occasionally, the morals of the maker of the edibles can come into question, particularly if patients are consistently let down by a certain brand.
A recent expose by the Denver Post showed how some edible companies are taking advantage of retailers and customers in a relatively regulation-free environment.
The entire article is well worth a read, but it basically boils down to a handful of key players, all of whom, we are led to believe, represent larger factions of the cannabis industry.
The first to take the stage in the story is one of Denver’s largest edibles makers, Dr. J’s Hash Infusion. Available in a variety of candies, and an even wider variety of flavors, Dr. J’s is one of those edibles that also produces a varied response when it comes to the effects it delivers.
So the Post took some samples from Dr. J’s, all labeled and advertised to contain 100mg of THC, to Denver’s state-regulated cannabis testing facility, Steep Hill Halent Labs, to see if the tests would match the wrappers’ claims.
They tested two candy bars, the Star Barz and the Winter Mint bar, and they came back after being tested twice, showing .37 and .28 milligrams, respectively.
No, not 37mg and 28mg out of the 100 they were supposed to carry, but well under a half of one milligram.
Joseph Evans, the lab director over at Steep Hill Halent put it politely by saying, “I don’t know that it’s irresponsible, but it’s nonprofessional.”
Dr. J’s CEO Tom Sterlacci wasted no time firing back with the same argument that labs like Steep Hill have dealt with from the start, stating, “I would be in shock (if those tests were accurate). We’re one of the top businesses in Colorado. I wouldn’t be in business this long if we weren’t doing things right 99 percent of the time.”
Steep Hill’s lab testing results are prominently displayed by edibles makes, hash makers, growers, retailers, and everyone else – when they suit their marketing needs. When it doesn’t, it is often demoted to some sort of pseudoscience, or weed-witchcraft, unworthy of much consideration.
But the problem with Dr. J’s chocolate bars doesn’t lay on Steep Hill’s doorstep. In fact, the two bars in question were purchased from doorsteps over forty miles from one another. On top of that, one was purchased over two months after the other. To give you an idea of the size of Dr. J’s reach in the market, two months of production equals over 282 batches of potentially barely-medicated chocolate bars – something like 70,000 units.
As it stands now, testing of cannabis infused products is not mandatory, but is left up to each grower, or maker. That is potentially set to change in May of this year, when every production batch of edibles could be forced to be tested for potency, according to Daria Serna, the Colorado Department of Revenue communications director.
In the meantime, shops were already dropping Dr. J’s products from their shelves even before the story dropped in the Denver Post. The stories are plentiful, but one shop told the Post that they finally stopped doing business with the edibles maker, cancelling a $3,000 order after receiving over 20 complaints. They say that Dr. J’s is the only edible product they have ever received a complaint about.
To be fair, the Post named several edibles companies in the article as having pulled a bait and switch with customers when it comes to dosing and value. In addition, there were some retail outlets who stepped up in defense of Dr. J’s, like Herbs 4 You manager Roman Tsyporyn who said, “Dr. J’s has worked great for us. We make money, and people are happy with it.”
The full list of edibles companies tested by Steep Hill Halent for the Denver Post article can be seen by clicking here.
Sterlacci, of Dr. J’s, and others in his position, are quick to question the science behind laboratory testing, but even he changed his tune quite literally in the midst of the Post’s investigation.
Once he realized that even a generous margin of error assigned to the lab would never cover the fact that his company is off on their claims by about a 300:1 ratio, Sterlacci backpedaled with claims that he just discovered a flaw in his recipe, and that all is well now, and that anyone with an old, unopened candy bar is free to trade it in for a new, allegedly properly dosed one.
As for everyone who already, you know, ate the edible they bought and got no relief from, Dr. J’s offers no solution for them. Also, as of this report, still no word on whether or not Sterlacci has issued a public apology to Denver’s Steep Hill Halent, after conveniently discovering that many of his edibles were, in fact, almost pot-free for at least two months.
Standardized testing of all cannabis-based products is needed, and is coming, and despite the sensational sub-heading on the Post article, or the predictable player-hating from low-testing edibles makers, labs like Steep Hill Halent are blazing that trail.
The results of the study by the Denver Post show that when it comes to marijuana infused products, where accurate dosing can directly impact the next several hours of your life, there is still a lot of work to do by the cooks in the kitchen to legitimize an edibles industry that makes up nearly a quarter of the sales in Colorado’s hyper-lucrative recreational weed rush.