The expansion of legal weed in the U.S. has ushered in a generation of newly minted marijuana businesses that sell some of the most refined cannabis products ever made. In Colorado and Washington state, people at least 21 years of age can now purchase in stores what was once available only on the black market or to medical marijuana card holders, and the transactions are as simple as buying groceries.
But not everyone can handle highly potent marijuana. In the era of legal – and really strong – weed, pot products have been mostly aimed at seasoned consumers, but retailers say many rookies do not want to go straight for the top-shelf merchandise. They need less intense products – ones that do not contain as much THC, the psychoactive ingredient – to help them figure out what they can tolerate.
Now, pot retailers are looking for new ways to welcome amateur marijuana consumers into the market. Some recreational weed sellers have started offering edible products that are milder than what’s popular among experienced users and won’t give beginners a debilitating buzz, according to the Associated Press.
"No one buys a handle of Jim Beam and thinks they should drink all of that in one sitting," Tim Cullen, owner of two Denver marijuana dispensaries, told the AP. “But people want to eat an entire cookie, an entire piece of chocolate. So these products allow you to do that and not have a miserable experience."
Most edible cannabis products have a recommended serving that requires just one or two bites to produce a high. Many of them contain as much as 100 milligrams of THC, enough to send people like New York Times columnist Maureen Down into a “paranoid” and “hallucinatory state.” Some stores in Colorado now sell products like the “Rookie Cookie,” a confection with just 10 milligrams total of THC, hardly enough to impair most adults. There’s now also a marijuana-infused soda that is 15 times weaker than comparable products.
Colorado and Washington are the only two states where recreational marijuana sales are legal. Voters in both passed referenda in November 2012 to regulate the growth, sale and consumption of pot and pot products, including edibles like chocolates and pastries and beverages like marijuana-infused sodas and teas. Colorado opened its first pot retail stores in January. Washington followed suit six months later, in July.
Since the 1970s, pot growers have pursued stronger, more potent weed, and with staggering results. Today’s pot is, on average, two to seven times more powerful than it was 40 years ago, but some strains can even be as much as 20 or 30 times more potent. As the U.S. becomes increasingly pot-friendly, those in the marijuana business know that more and more rookie consumers are experimenting with weed, and that will require reversing the trend towards creating bigger and bolder Buddha.
"For a long time, the medical market was a race to the strongest edibles,” Holden Sproul, who works for the company that makes the “Rookie Cookie,” told the AP. “Now it's a new market, and people want something that won't get them so inebriated they're not functional.”