A Police Officers Guide to Marijuana Edibles

States are marching towards legalization and decriminalization of marijuana at an alarming rate. So far 20 states have either marijuana legal for recreational purposes or marijuana used for medicinal purposes. This has caused an uptick in entrepreneurship among some that have left police officers behind the learning curve. This entrepreneurship has brought new marijuana products ranging from higher potency pot to very effective edibles.

There has been a lot of press given lately to marijuana edibles. Those wishing to legalize marijuana tout it as a way for “patients to medicate” without smoking while the press has had numerous stories of crimes being committed by people under the influence of edibles or have become medically ill due to the edible’s potency. You may have gone to a call yourself where edibles were involved and you left the call scratching your head. The following tips should help anyone, from the rookie on the street to the grizzled narc, to have a better understanding of edible marijuana.

People can’t dose marijuana edibles like they can with smoked marijuana


Marijuana edibles can come in a variety of forms. They can come in the form of candy, like gummy bears or chocolate bars, or soft drinks, energy drinks, or baked goods like brownies. There are even some marijuana “pills” that contain butane hash oil and coconut oil. But, how does it make people act so crazy? It comes down to how your body metabolizes the THC in the marijuana. THC is the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana that gets you high. When you smoke marijuana, you get an immediate high. If you smoke too much, you know to stop. Unfortunately by eating marijuana, it takes anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours to get high. The user does not have the luxury of feeling that immediate high and knowing that they took too much or not enough. So, where a user takes a toke and knows when to stop immediately, edibles don’t offer that luxury. Some inexperienced users will eat a little bit, feel nothing and think that the edible is a weak product, then eat more and more. But, as the edible starts to take effect, they are hit with the multiple doses they have eaten in a short time.

Marijuana transforms to a different drug after eating it

Edible marijuana also takes on a transformation when the user ingests it. Marijuana transforms in the liver into 11-hydroxy-THC. Essentially, it is a different drug that is twice as potent and lasts twice as long as smoked THC. That is why so many police officers are responding to calls for service with people that have eaten marijuana.

You can’t eat dried out marijuana and then get high

People don’t just eat marijuana to get high. If you were to take a bunch of dried out marijuana and eat it, you would get nothing but a stomach ache. Marijuana contains THCA which is not psychoactive. To make THCA psychoactive, you have to convert it into THC through decarboxylation or “decarbing.” When you smoke or vaporize marijuana, the cannabis is decarbed by the heat. To cook marijuana, you have to decarb it first to convert the THCA to THC.  Some do this before by hand by cooking marijuana in an oven at a specific temperature for a specific time (ex: 110 degrees for 110 minutes). Some do it during the cooking process. Many do it while mixing the marijuana with a lipid. So, In layman’s terms, people that eat their marijuana will combine the marijuana with a fat, like oil, butter or milk. Most people make canna butter and then use that to bake with. By doing so, the fat, oil or butter makes it easy for the THC to cross the blood brain barrier to get high.

A new defense at trial to be aware of

There is a new defense making the circuit in criminal courts where the defendant is making a claim that they had so much marijuana on hand that they were “Juicing” it. Essentially, this is a marijuana smoothie. Some people claim that by “juicing” marijuana that it has a therapeutic effect. There is no credible study that I have found that shows this to be true. With that said, users that claim to make marijuana smoothies for medical purposes cannot use dried marijuana. They must use fresh marijuana. If they do “juice”,  they would use 15 leaves and two buds per day. They will also need to combine that with some type of vegetable juice because the taste of marijuana is very bitter and the juice suppresses that somewhat. This would provide three servings per day over three meals during that day. This process does not cause the user to get high.

As you can see, there is a lot of information to absorb (pun intended) when it comes to marijuana edibles. The best information, however, comes from the users themselves. Take time out to talk to them about how they use and their use habits. How they make edibles, how it affects them, how long they are high, and so on. They may not understand some of the science behind why they are high, but this guide, along with their insight, can help you better understand as more marijuana edibles come to market.

Author: Keith Graves
Keith is a retired Police Sergeant and worked in the San Francisco Bay Area for 29 years. Keith was named as California’s Narcotics Officer of the Year and is a prior winner of MADD’s California Hero Award. He has years of experience as a Narcotics Detective and a Narcotics Unit Supervisor and is a Drug Recognition Expert Instructor (IACP #3292). Keith teaches both the DRE course and the Drug Abuse Recognition Course and has taught at the Police Academy. He has developed several drug courses for the California Narcotics Officers Association, California POST and California Colleges and currently consults POST on drug investigation procedures. Keith has held other assignments besides narcotics including Training Sergeant, Patrol Sergeant, COPPS Officer, Traffic Officer, and 20 years as a SWAT Team member and Sniper Team Leader. Keith has taught thousands of officers and businesses around the world about drug use, drug trends, compliance training and drug investigations. He is recognized as an international drug expert and has testified as an expert in court proceedings on drug cases, homicide cases and rape prosecutions. Keith earned a BA in Business Management from Saint Mary's College of California and a MA in Criminal Justice. Keith is the Founder and President of Graves & Associates, a company dedicated to providing drug training to law enforcement and private industry.


  • Deb

    My husband is a longtime LEO…with similar experience to you! He is a cancer survivor, and has been hearing about the benefits of cannibis oil. Is it legal for him to use this? We are in Florida

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