San Diego

Doctor Sees Increase in Marijuana Poisoning

The California Department of Public Health established a legal dosage of marijuana as 10 milligrams — the equivalent to one marijuana gummy or edible

Heading into the first weekend where marijuana is legal in California, some adults may be experimenting with pot for the first time — and one doctor says it is sending more people to the emergency room.

There is no medical research on marijuana as potent as what is currently being sold to show what amount or how many doses can make a person sick. 

One doctor warns that many first-time users overdose with edibles.

The California Department of Public Health established a legal dosage of marijuana as 10 milligrams — the equivalent to one marijuana gummy or edible.

A bag typically contains 100 milligrams, though, and many first-time users get confused and consume the whole bag, Lev said.

“That’s the danger,” said Dr. Roneet Lev, the Chief of the Emergency Department for Scripps Mercy. “People feel like ‘Hey, I took a bite of this cookie and I don’t feel anything.’ And then they take another dose and another and another and now they end up in the emergency room department with marijuana poisoning.”

Lev says the number of times a night she has to treat someone in the ER because of marijuana is increasing at an alarming rate.

“San Diego experienced an 830 percent increase in emergency room visits over the past few years for marijuana-related illnesses,” Lev said.

But, when it comes to smoking marijuana, there’s no way to know how much a person has inhaled in a hit.

“There are no limits to the inhaled content and we see a lot of marijuana poisoning due to inhaled products, which are 25 to 30 percent THC, and there’s no regulation on that,” Lev said.

Some waxes are 90 percent THC, she said, and very dangerous.

At Mankind Dispensary in Mira Mesa, Bell Bennett said they’re seeing more first-time customers.

“I always tell everyone to go slow,” Bennett said. “Wait and see how things affect you before you add more. Especially with the edibles because you can always eat more but you cannot un-eat them. So that advice is always good.”

Bennett said if you are very concerned about consuming too much THC, keeping a CBD pen on hand could be a remedy.

“CBD can help reduce the feeling of being “too high” if you accidentally take too much,” she said.

NBC 7 was unable to confirm that with any medical professionals.

Mankind distributes a pamphlet of safety guidelines that includes always making sure your dispensary is licensed where the marijuana is more regulated, and you are more likely to get the dose advertised.

Also, wait between one hour and 90 minutes before taking any additional doses, the pamphlet said.

Dr. Lev said most medical research on how marijuana impacts people's motor functions is not helpful because it’s done with extremely low levels of THC - at 3 to 5 percent THC levels.

Marijuana sold in stores today has 25 to 30 percent THC, and some waxes have 95 percent THC.

“So, they can’t do scientific experiments on people with such high dosages because they know that’s dangerous, so that would be an unethical experiment. So, when they are doing testing and research on marijuana and how it affects the body, they’re using much lower dosages,” Lev said.

Lev said the type of marijuana-related ER visits she sees range from falls to bumps and bruises to "scromiting," which is screaming and vomiting after chronic and heavy long-term marijuana inhalation.

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