It’s official: creative people and companies have managed to put cannabis in pretty much everything you can imagine. From the rise of medical cannabis products with precise dosage instructions like topical creams, pills and soft gels that can be taken orally or rectally, or a reliable tincture, to more recreational products like cannabis-infused drinks and snacks, it’s clear that edibles are here to stay.
As the cannabis industry has grown over the last two decades or so, we’ve seen entrepreneurs within the cannabis industry take things to a whole new level. Gone are the days when the primary form of consuming cannabis was via an unmeasured, loosely packed joint your buddy rolled in the backseat before a concert or a cannabis-infused brownie that might hit you like a truck or may not have any real effect.
While the pandemic has devastated countless industries, the sales number for cannabis edibles has absolutely exploded. In fact, an end-of-the-year analysis of 2020 sales figures showed that adult-use and medical edibles grew by 60 percent across seven state markets, generating $1.23 billion in the process. That’s an astounding 54 percent growth from the same time last year, outpacing the legal cannabis industry as a whole.
So what changed over the past twelve months? It’s not like people have only recently discovered edibles, right? Why have they all of a sudden exploded into popularity? Well, when you break it down in detail, like we’re about to do in this article, the rise in edible sales will make perfect sense! Let’s get right into it, shall we?
Why Are Edibles Suddenly Selling Like Hotcakes?
First of all, it’s important to note that cannabis and the compounds found naturally within it – like THC and CBD – have shown some potential to impact COVID-19. While the research is early, studies have linked the use of medical cannabis with reducing the severity of COVID’s impact on the lungs thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties, reduction of pain and anxiety often associated with a COVID diagnosis, and help reduce blood coagulation, a key negative symptom of COVID-19.
Prakash Nagarkatti is a researcher at the University of South Carolina and co-published a study which shows the potential positive impact cannabis can have when it comes to COVID-19. The study shows that the THC in cannabis could prevent a harmful immune response that leads to Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS).
“Whether it occurs at home or at the hospital, ARDS can be fatal. People who survive ARDS and recover from COVID-19 may have lasting pulmonary scarring,” according to Johns Hopkins.
Incidences of ARDS in the United States is 78.9 per 100,000 people a year and the mortality rate is 38.5 percent, the study said. “The underlying mechanism is your immune system goes haywire and starts destroying your lungs and all your other organs,” Nagarkatti said of ARDS, according to The State.
“It’s like a car where you’re putting on a lot of accelerator, but the brakes aren’t working,” Nagarkatti said. “What’s going to happen is your car is going to crash because you can’t stop it. And that’s basically what’s happening with ARDS.”
In dozens of experiments in three separate studies, including the study published in Frontiers in Pharmacology, 100 percent of the mice given THC survived, Nagarkatti told The State.
That’s an incredibly exciting headline, especially for medical cannabis patients with simple and easy access to cannabis.
With that in mind, however, a prominent researcher that tested the links between cannabis and reduced COVID-19 severity still doesn’t recommend smoking cannabis. According to Nagarkatti, smoking cannabis could worsen the impact of the disease on the immune system and make it worse.
Health officials from Canada, a nation where cannabis is both medically and recreationally legal, have released guidance suggesting that people should refrain from smoking or vaping cannabis during the pandemic. Interestingly enough, however, that guidance doesn’t mention edibles anywhere.
So what does all of that mean when it comes to edibles?
The Health Impact of Edibles
Now more than ever, it’s so important to focus on maintaining your physical and mental health. As many have battled with ways to stay fit and active while on lockdown, unable to go to the gym, people have been forced to get creative with the ways they consume their cannabis.
After all, plenty of world-class athletes and fitness-minded people use cannabis in some form or another. It would make sense that the fittest among us need to thoroughly explore ways to consume and get the benefits of cannabis without all the downsides that come with smoking any type of organic matter.
So, with this information in mind, what’s the best way to consume cannabis without having to smoke it? Remember, it would make sense that an illness that ravages the respiratory system probably would be worse in those who choose to smoke, right? It would only make sense for people to show up at their local dispensaries and explore the edibles that were available.
But what exactly makes edibles healthier than smoking cannabis the old fashion way? Well, as we mentioned before, it’s all about avoiding the act of actually inhaling something into your lungs.
As a general rule, nearly all health guidelines around the world universally urge cannabis users to avoid smoking burnt cannabis due to its negative impact on the lungs and respiratory system. That part should come as shock to no one. But what surprises many is that those same governments recommend vaping or edibles as the safest and healthiest way to consume cannabis at all! Since we used Canada as an example before, here’s a look at their guidelines that endorse edibles as the best way to go, even before the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Downsides of Edibles
The biggest downside of edibles is that they might take a little longer to work, since the cannabis-infused treat needs to be digested and then absorbed by the body for the effects to kick in, which can lead to user error. We all either know someone (or has been that someone) that takes an edible, thinks, “I’m not feeling it. Maybe it didn’t work!” then takes another portion and ends up way higher than they should.
Thankfully, recreational cannabis companies and especially medical cannabis products are well labeled and portioned so as long as you take the time to read the packaging or labels, you won’t be stoned out of your mind at an inopportune time.
Other than that relatively minor issue, there are really no downsides to edibles. You’re getting all of the positive impacts of using cannabis without the biggest health downsides that come along with having to smoke it. Especially during times like these, that’s a major win-win.
When you keep all of that in mind, it makes perfect sense that edibles have absolutely exploded in popularity amid the COVID-19 pandemic.