Armed with what can only be described as willful ignorance, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd went to Colorado to sample some marijuana edibles. She chose to follow none of the basic advice you can find during a two minute web search, took way too much, and proceeded to have a very bad time. From NYT:
But then I felt a scary shudder go through my body and brain. I barely made it from the desk to the bed, where I lay curled up in a hallucinatory state for the next eight hours. I was thirsty but couldn’t move to get water. Or even turn off the lights. I was panting and paranoid, sure that when the room-service waiter knocked and I didn’t answer, he’d call the police and have me arrested for being unable to handle my candy.
I strained to remember where I was or even what I was wearing, touching my green corduroy jeans and staring at the exposed-brick wall. As my paranoia deepened, I became convinced that I had died and no one was telling me.
It took all night before it began to wear off, distressingly slowly. The next day, 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; but that recommendation hadn’t been on the label.
This incident shows two things. First, it is a reminder of how relatively safe marijuana is. Even when you consume way more than you should, the worst that normally happens is an unpleasant evening in bed. By comparison, if you consume way too much alcohol you die.
More importantly, it shows the world is full of idiots and idiots come in all shapes, sizes, and ages. Even supposedly very smart New York Times columnists can be idiots. Almost anyone can be an idiot occasionally.
If legalization advocates want to avoid a potential political backlash the regulations don’t just need to be sensible and easy enough 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.
To this end, I suggest the “Maureen Dowd test” be the new, unofficial metric by which regulations are judged. If the new packaging rules won’t stop her from consuming too much and blaming the manufacturer’s label, it is still not idiot-proof enough.
Jon Walker is the author of After Legalization: Understanding the future of marijuana policy
Photo of Maureen Dowd via Wikimedia Commons