Many states have enacted laws that allow the use of marijuana for medical and recreational purposes, as well as the production of cannabis-infused edibles. The state of New Jersey is currently debating a bill that proposes to legalize marijuana and cannabis edibles. This is a public health issue because cannabis poses health risks to children, has unknown long-term effects, might increase drug use among young people, and may result in a higher number of intoxicated drivers on the roads. The issue has attracted both opponents and proponents. Opponents argue that legalization will increase use among children and pose health risks while proponents argue that it will be used for medicinal and recreational purposes that are not harmful. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not yet provided regulations to guide the use of marijuana as a food additive.
The legal marijuana industry has in the past five years been growing at a rapid rate after the legalization of marijuana and cannabidiol (CBD) edibles in several states. In the states where marijuana possession and use have been legalized, many people are investing in the industry. Marijuana has also been legalized in certain countries. For example, Canada allowed its citizens to use the drug for recreational purposes in 2018. In the United States, cannabis use is gaining widespread acceptance.
For instance, in June 2018, the US Food and Drug Administration approved a drug that was derived from cannabis. After the introduction of the drug and the legalization of hemp and hemp-based cannabidiol (CBD) by President Trump, many states have legalized marijuana. In the state of New Jersey, one of the contentious public issues is the use of marijuana. Currently, the state is deliberating whether to legalize marijuana for recreational use. The lawmakers have moved closer to legalizing the sale and use of the drug, which will make New Jersey the 11th US state to allow marijuana use for recreational purposes.
Marijuana use and the inclusion of CBD in food products are illegal in New Jersey. However, lawmakers in the state are discussing a bill that proposes to legalize the use of cannabis for recreational purposes and the inclusion of CBD in food products.
In states such as New York, Maine, and Ohio, the use of recreational marijuana is legal. Nevertheless, law enforcement agencies are cracking down on business establishments that sell food products and beverages containing substances that have not yet been approved by the FDA (Williams, 2019). For example, the Department of Health in New York City has commenced an operation to arrest the operators of establishments that use CBD as a food additive. The operation includes hefty fines and the seizure of products. The state does not permit the use of additives that have not been approved for consumption.
According to research studies, the legalization of marijuana in various states has caused an insignificant increase in the use of cannabis. These studies are ineffective because of the restrictions and limitations of current study metrics.
For example, national surveys do not capture the immediate and long-term dynamics of marijuana use (Felstein Ewing, Lovejoy, & Choo, 2017). To study the dynamics of cannabis consumption, researchers need to obtain data on usage frequency, mode of delivery, and intake before or after risky behaviors. If Senate Bill 3445 (2019) is enacted into law, New Jersey will join 10 other states and the District of Columbia as places where marijuana is legal for recreational purposes. The bill allows the use of marijuana by individuals over the age of 21 years and illegalizes consumption by children (Senate Bill 3445, 2019).
The cannabis can be purchased from licensed dispensaries and growers, testing facilities, and wholesalers will be required to acquire permits. The bill decriminalizes the possession of small amounts of marijuana and marijuana-infused products (Senate Bill 3445, 2019). A study conducted by the Health District in the state of Arizona revealed that public notification measures and regulations for the processing of marijuana edibles were unavailable (Gaither et al., 2018). This posed a public health risk because it was impossible to determine the quality of products and the quantity of marijuana in different products.
Pros and Cons of Both Sides of the Issue
The issue of marijuana and infused edibles is hotly debated in the state of New Jersey. It has attracted two groups that have opposing views on the issue. One group advocates for the legalization of marijuana and CBD edibles while the other group advocates for the banning of marijuana and related products. As the legalization debate gains traction and the state edges closer to allowing recreational cannabis, several experts and lawmakers have presented their opinions on the matter. One of the major concerns that have been raised by stakeholders and the public is the possible effect of marijuana edibles.
Banning Marijuana and Edibles
One side of the issue involves individuals who support the banning of marijuana and edibles. The pros of banning marijuana and infused edibles include the enhancement of public health and the prevention of drug use by minors. The cons of the ban comprise an increase in marijuana-related crimes and the reduced use of cannabis for medical purposes.
One of the arguments for banning marijuana edibles is that legalization will promote drug use among children. Products containing cannabis such as gummy candy, cotton candy, and lollipops are appealing to children and they will encourage the consumption of marijuana (Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board, 2018).
In that regard, proponents of the ban argue that legal restrictions will enhance public safety by preventing the accidental ingestion of marijuana by minors. In certain states, products such as tinctures, baked goods, beverages, chips, and spices can be infused with marijuana (Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board, 2018). However, there is fear that legalizing marijuana will increase the consumption of marijuana.
Another argument for supporting the ban is the ease of children accessing marijuana. In the state of New Mexico, a nine-year-old student was caught with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)-infused candy gummies that belonged to the grandparent. One of the students that consumed the gummies was treated by the school nurse after experiencing dizziness (Mills, 2018). The prolonged effects of consuming THC include breathing problems and a lack of coordination. This occurrence indicates the possible risks that children will be exposed to in case marijuana is legalized in New Jersey. Studies have shown that THC edibles are more powerful than marijuana (Mills, 2018).
Cannabis-infused and non-infused edibles are similar in physical appearance. Therefore, it will be difficult for children to differentiate between the two products (Felstein Ewing et al., 2017). In states such as Washington and Colorado, it is illegal for business establishments to manufacture and sell edibles that seem tempting to children (Mills, 2018). Processors are required to provide proper labeling and indicate the level of potency for each product.
Proponents of banning marijuana and infused edibles argue that the US Food and Drug Administration has not yet provided clear guidelines about the use of CBD as a food component (Williams, 2019). Therefore, infusing marijuana into food products could compromise public health. Cannabis-infused products lack labeling standards and guidelines for users (Williams, 2019). In that regard, consumers are unaware of the amount of CBD they consume in restaurants and other food establishments that use marijuana as an additive. Moreover, it is difficult to differentiate between items that have been infused with the substance and those that have not been infused (Williams, 2019). The proponents of the ban argue that the lack of labeling and dosage information on CBD products is a risk to public safety, and therefore, marijuana-infused edibles should be banned.
Marijuana has several medical benefits: it is used as chronic pain relief and it reduces seizures in two types of childhood epilepsy. Several studies have been conducted to validate these benefits. Illegalizing marijuana and infused edibles will deny patients an opportunity to enjoy the aforementioned benefits. Instead of banning marijuana edibles, proponents should advocate for the implementation of policies and regulations that control the processing and sale of the products. Medical complications and side effects have not been reported in states that legalize recreational marijuana.
Banning marijuana will increase crimes related to its sale, possession, and use. In many states, selling and consuming illegal substances are crimes that are punishable by harsh prison sentences. Criminals convicted of crimes related to the sale and use of the drug will be denied the opportunity for integration back into society if the bill is rejected.
Legalizing Marijuana and Edibles
The other side of the issue includes people who oppose the ban. The arguments provided by this group include the medicinal benefits of marijuana and the potential decline in crimes related to the possession, sale, and use of marijuana. These arguments advocate for state regulation and control.
Opponents of the ban argue that in states such as Washington, Colorado, and Nevada marijuana use for medical and recreational purposes is legal. The state of Washington offers guidelines for the manufacture and sale of CBD edibles (Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board, 2018). A research study conducted by GW Pharmaceuticals revealed that cannabis has several medicinal benefits (Williams, 2019).
For example, Epidolex has been shown to reduce the frequency of seizures in childhood-onset epilepsy. The drug has been approved by the FDA. However, it has been approved for the treatment of Dravet Syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut only (Williams, 2019). Several research studies conducted in universities have suggested that marijuana can aid in alleviating pain during treatment. These studies have not been accepted by the FDA.
States that allow marijuana use for recreational purposes have implemented best practices about the use of the drug. For example, in the state of Arizona, the Health District provides three guides that contain best practices that regulate the processing of marijuana edibles. The Best Practices for Medical Marijuana Edible Processing, the Best Practices for Medible Labeling and Packaging, and the Physician Guide for Medical Marijuana outline rules that should be followed when processing and administering marijuana and related products (Gaither et al., 2018).
Marijuana has several economic and medical benefits that validate its legalization (Hasin, 2018). Charlotte’s Web Holdings and CV Sciences are examples of companies that offer marijuana products to retailers across the US. Investors expected that the enactment of the Farm Bill would expand the industry and attract more investors (Williams, 2019). However, a crackdown on marijuana-infused products has affected the company’s growth prospects. Both companies have made profits through their business operations. CV Sciences is comprised of two business segments that include consumer products and pharmaceuticals (Williams, 2019). The range of products that the company processes include beauty oil, drugs, and specialty foods.
In 2017, the state of Arizona discovered that some dispensaries were processing and selling hazardous food products infused with marijuana (Gaither et al., 2018). The discovery was made during a routine food service inspection. The dispensary did not test the products for biological hazards before processing (Gaither et al, 2018). The Health District initiated a recall for the marijuana edibles. These occurrences have been cited as some of the reasons why marijuana and marijuana edibles should not be legalized in New Jersey. Critics have expressed their fear that legalization will lead to the proliferation of hazardous marijuana edibles that will pose health risks to the public (Williams, 2019).
The legalization of marijuana and cannabis-infused edibles in the state of New Jersey is a contentious public health issue. Marijuana consumption is a serious matter as observed in states that have illegalized the sale of edibles containing CBD. This happened as New Jersey introduced a bill to decriminalize the recreational use of marijuana and cannabis-infused products. The health consequences of legalization include ease of access by children, poor processing, and a lack of guidelines regarding the content and dosage of marijuana in foods and beverages.
Felstein Ewing, S. W., Lovejoy, T. I., & Choo, E. K. (2017). How has legal recreational cannabis affected adolescents in your state? A window of opportunity. AJPH Perspectives, 107(2), 246-247.
Gaither, M., Peoples, M., Phillips, R., Lees, T., Corrigan, J., & Bohn, E. (2018). Medical marijuana edible voluntary recall in Arizona. Journal of Environmental Health, 80(7), 8-10.
Hasin, D. S. (2018). US epidemiology of cannabis use and associated problems. Neuropsychopharmacology, 43(1), 195-212.
Mills, K. (2018). Marijuana edibles and children: New dangers present. Web.
Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board. (2018). Marijuana-Infused Candy. Web.
Williams, S. (2019). 3 legal marijuana states are banning CBD edibles. Here’s why. Web.