Dowd’s column—and her admirable willingness to talk frankly about her experience in all its inglory—raises real issues about the process by which pot legalization will be vetted. The fact is, there’s a societal learning curve that’s every bit as real as individual learning curves. It takes a while, and oftentimes a lot of trials and errors, for a society to figure out how to deal with major changes (divorce, gender and racial equality, etc.).
The sooner we acknowledge that the end of pot prohibition will require a lot of conversation about what works well and what doesn’t, the faster than the new normal of “marijuana on Main Street” will be accepted for the huge leap forward in freedom and peace that it really represents.
Jon Walker suggests that “the ‘Maureen Dowd test’ be the new, unofficial metric by which [edibles] regulations are judged”:
If legalization advocates want to avoid a potential political backlash the regulations don’t just need to be sensible and easy for a regular person to understand, they need to be idiot-proof. They need to be so clear that even someone who goes to buy edibles with a Maureen Dowd level of ignorance can’t say they misinterpreted the instructions.
The Colorado legislature has already approved new laws intended to do just that. While some people might find it annoying that future labels may have extra large instructions, edibles won’t come in certain shapes, and that packaging will need to clearly separate individual doses; that is what is necessary to make something idiot-proof.
Alyssa is more sympathetic:
She got much higher than she wanted to because she made the not-unreasonable assumption that a candy bar was a single serving, eating the whole thing in one go. “A medical consultant at an edibles plant where I was conducting an interview mentioned that candy bars like that are supposed to be cut into 16 pieces for novices,” Dowd explains that she finds out later. “That recommendation hadn’t been on the label.”
It is one thing for experienced consumers to scoff at Dowd’s lack of knowledge. But she is not going to be alone, and asking for labeling or instructions is not unreasonable. Similarly, new marijuana consumers may look to analogous delivery mechanisms and social rituals when they are smoking joints for the first time, and expect that they ought to treat joints exactly like cigarettes.
Charles Pierce recalls “two less-than-pleasant experiences with marijuana and both of them involved eating the stuff rather than smoking it”:
These two episodes taught me two things — a) that, in terms of how quickly it hits you and how hard it hits you, eating dope is radically different than smoking it and, b) the only way to cope with the difference is to get the hell out of where you are and get out into the world in one way or another until your head settles down. The worst thing you could possibly do is determine that you will have your first serious marijuana experience by gobbling down an electric candy bar and then sitting there alone in your hotel room while waiting for the newspaper taxis to appear at your door, waiting to take you away.
Weissmann uses the the column to argue that “the cannabis business is probably the sort of industry that would be better off dominated by big, name-brand manufacturers”:
It’s perfectly fine to have government-mandated product testing. But it’s even better to have companies that mass produce a highly standardized product and are willing to invest in the technology to get it right every single time. From a safety perspective, you want a Hershey’s or Entenmann’s of edibles, rather than a hodge-podge of pot boutiques and small companies distributing locally. At the very least, we’d be better off with companies the size of large craft brewers, which tend to be more attentive to quality control than their tinier cousins, in part because they have the money to spend on it.