Guest commentary: Trick or Cheeba Chew? | AspenTimes.com

Guest commentary: Trick or Cheeba Chew?

Blair Weyer
Guest Commentary

Halloween generally means two things for kids of all ages: candy and costumes.

The tradition of trick-or-treating has been reduced mainly to the "treating" portion of the equation, but the first Halloween with Amendment 64 on the books has the potential to reintroduce the "trick" in trick-or-treating. Amendment 64 is the newly passed law that effectively legalized marijuana in Colorado.

Perhaps you're thinking, "Here comes more rhetoric from law enforcement and the government about reefer madness." I assure you that is not the goal of this article. It is a fact that the Aspen Police Department arrested a man this summer for tricking his coworkers into consuming a cannabis-infused drink, unbeknownst to them.

Although the department has no reason to think there is the threat of children being slipped marijuana-laced candy on Halloween, the potential exists. Our hope is that this article opens the door for a larger conversation surrounding the topic of edible marijuana products, how they affect the body and what parents need to know to recognize edibles and talk to their kids about this topic.

Since the implementation of Amendment 64, adults 21 and older may possess 1 ounce or less of marijuana for recreational use, while the use of marijuana in public is still prohibited. Marijuana can be consumed in a variety of ways, whether by smoking, vaporizing or eating marijuana-infused products, commonly known as edibles. Each of these methods produces a different effect on the body.

Edibles tend to produce the most unpredictable reactions in individuals, according to local biochemist Dr. Phyllis Bronson. Currently the science is limited about why this appears to be the case, but one explanation provided by Bronson is that the active ingredients stay in the body longer when eaten.

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Basically, this means users who eat edibles may experience a delayed and extended high, which can be problematic in multiple ways. First, inexperienced users may not feel an immediate high, so they eat more, which easily can lead to overconsumption. Second, an individual's biochemistry may cause undesirable reactions when cannabis is eaten. Also, unless edibles are purchased at a dispensary and their dose/potency is properly labeled, it is difficult to know how much THC you're ingesting. If it's really strong, it may be impossible to know until it's too late.

Any of these circumstances may cause an individual to experience intense feelings of anxiety, paranoia and dissociative episodes. Dissociative episodes are a feeling of being disconnected from the body or present moment. Some may describe it as if they are watching themselves from a distance or lack the perception of time. These types of experiences can be very upsetting for individuals.

For some of you, this may be a review — been there done that. For those of you on the opposite end of the spectrum, it may be helpful information when talking to your kids about marijuana. Although marijuana is legal in Colorado for those 21 and older, medical professionals generally agree that the effects of marijuana on the undeveloped brain are a valid concern.

By age 13, the area of the brain that relays reward and pleasure is highly developed, while the prefrontal cortex, which aids with thinking ahead and controlling impulses, has yet to develop. This combination may contribute to making choices without considering the long-term implications. The complete development of this area of the brain could be at risk. Some research suggests that early marijuana use also can lead to the slower completion of tasks, lower IQ later in life, higher risk of stroke and an increased risk of psychotic disorders.

Other issues, such as accessibility and ease of use, also arise with youth and edible marijuana products. Edibles can take the form of drinks, lollipops, gummies, baked goods and more. Edibles generally can be identified by their nontraditional packaging or homemade appearance. These products are relatively inexpensive, easy to conceal due to their lack of odor and discreet to ingest, even in public places such as schools.

Aspen Police School Resource Officer Tina Thompson is concerned that edibles could be a growing issue at the schools. She is working with multiple organizations in the valley to bring additional education to students and parents specifically about marijuana this year in light of Amendment 64.

Perhaps Halloween is just the segue needed to start this conversation for kids of all ages!

Blair Weyer is the community relations specialist for the Aspen Police Department and welcomes questions or comments at 970-920-5400.

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