PHOENIX - Arizona could serve up new regulations for pot-infused foods.
State Health Director Will Humble said consuming cannabis oil is healthier than smoking the marijuana plant, but he wants dispensaries to be more proactive in warning patients about the potency and effects of edibles.
The Arizona Department of Health Services is currently looking for feedback on the rules surrounding medical marijuana and edibles on it's website. You can find them here .
It's also working with Poison Control to train the medical directors of Arizona dispensaries who will then train individual sales staff on how to best inform patients about the differing strengths of marijuana based on how it is ingested.
It's currently up to the patient to work with their doctor on figuring out an appropriate dosage.
A Mesa boy’s medical marijuana case opened the door to using cannabis oils in Arizona. Harvest of Tempe, which supplies marijuana oil to Zander Welton’s parents , was able to start using state-of-the-art technology to mass produce cannabis.
In the middle of a 12,000-square-foot “grow house” is a specially calibrated extractor. It pulls a gooey concentrate from the plant buds that then gets paired down. Cutting agents are added to turn the substance into oil.
That oil is the key ingredient in the dispensary’s brand new chocolate bar production. The cannabis oil is combined with chocolate chips in a tempering machine. The liquid is then poured into molds, cooled and packaged in Mylar pouches that go into a branded box.
The potency of the chocolate bars varies along with the flavor. Dosage is measured in squares. The dispensary said it tracks how many bars patients buy so they don't exceed the legal 14-day allowance of cannabis.
"We are seeing a trend away from smoking." said Steve White, of Harvest of Tempe.
White says with a client base mostly over 40, and as the largest pediatric patient supplier in the state, the focus of the dispensary is changing. He said growing the market for edibles and moving away from traditional smoking also helps change the image of medical marijuana.
"Just because someone is 18, or someone has tattoos or looks a little different, doesn't mean they can't have the same condition and pain as someone who's 74 years old does,” said White.
People said edible marijuana can help people with a variety of medical conditions, from seizures to Alzheimer patients with no appetite, even those who suffer from chronic pain, like Michael Broeker.
Diabetes left Broeker with a painfully debilitating leg condition and he said prescription pills weren't improving his quality of life.
"I had no energy, couldn't get out of bed in the morning. It's true the legs were numb but all the rest of me was numb too,” he said.
He got his medical marijuana card, but tries to be discrete about it in social settings. He was also a longtime smoker who kicked the habit, so having to smoke pot wasn’t appealing.
He says the chocolate helps mitigate all of his concerns and the medicinal properties have changed his life.
"I like the idea of being in my own house, being able to take a couple of bites of something that's really got a good flavor to it and have it do what it does for me."