With so many rules constantly changing around the use of cannabis, it can be challenging to keep up. Especially when the laws are not the same in every state or country and will undoubtedly change again in the future.
It is legal to carry edibles anywhere in Canada – even on a plane. But edible cannabis is not legal everywhere. Currently, 34 jurisdictions have legalized the use of medical cannabis in the United States, while 12 have legalized the use of recreational cannabis for adults (1).
However, you need to pay close attention to what is classified as medical and recreational cannabis. You also need to be aware of the differences between CBD and THC. Due to laws varying between states and countries around the types of cannabis, what is legal in one area may not be permitted in others.
What are edibles?
Edibles are supplements or food products like cannabis gummies that contain cannabis or compounds like CBD or THC that are extracted from cannabis.
Cannabis edibles are a delicious and straightforward way of consuming cannabis. An easy method of making edible cannabis is by creating cannabis gummies with extracted CBD or THC. Other cannabis edibles include:
- Baked goods like brownies or cookies.
Over 400 different compounds have been identified in the cannabis plant. However, CBD and THC are commonly extracted from cannabis and added to edibles.
The amount of CBD and THC you add to your cannabis gummies can be altered to suit your needs. For example, you may want CBD only and no THC. Or, you might like to experiment with both and try different ratios of CBD and THC.
Before you try making your own cannabis gummies, you might wonder if this product is legal. Or, you might be wondering what the consequences of being caught with this product could be.
What is the difference between CBD and THC?
Before we discuss what is legal and what is not, you must first understand the difference between CBD and THC. These two compounds have different effects on your body, and both are not always legal.
Cannabidiol, shortened to CBD, is referred to as the non-psychoactive compound of cannabis because it does not make you high (2). CBD is becoming increasingly popular due to its beneficial effects on health. It is commonly used for:
- Muscle tension
- Vomiting and nausea
Tetrahydrocannabinol, shortened to THC, is referred to as the psychoactive compound of cannabis because it can make you high. Despite this effect, THC is also becoming increasingly popular due to several beneficial health effects that it has. THC is commonly used for:
- Muscle tension
- Vomiting and nausea
- To increase appetite
Overall, you must know the difference between CBD and THC because cannabis is only partially legal in some places (3). This means that one compound is legal in some areas and the other is not. Or, in other places, both compounds are permitted, but there are different rules for each one.
Another factor to consider is that some states have different laws on the amount of CBD and THC you can use (4). For edibles, this is especially important because these laws were put in place to prevent people from overdosing with edible cannabis products.
Beware of general statements that say ‘cannabis is legal’ because this does not specify exactly which compounds from cannabis are legal.
More often than not, CBD is likely to be legal, and THC is not (5). Or both are legal, except there are more restrictions on THC than CBD.
However, there are some exceptions where both CBD and THC are fully legal. So you should pay special attention to what is permitted by your state or country in regards to CBD and THC.
Medical cannabis versus recreational cannabis
To confuse things further, you may have instead heard of cannabis being labeled as either ‘medical cannabis’ or ‘recreational cannabis’. But what is the difference and what does this mean in terms of the law?
Medicinal or medical cannabis is cannabis that has been prescribed by a doctor for a health-related problem (6). Medical cannabis comes from a reputable manufacturer and is regulated tightly to ensure that you are getting the right product.
Recreational cannabis is cannabis that is not prescribed by a doctor, and you source this cannabis yourself (7). Depending on where you live, recreational cannabis is sold at a specialized store, it is homegrown, or sourced some other way.
Recreational cannabis is typically used to get high, although some people source their cannabis to self-medicate. However, if you are using cannabis to self-medicate a health-related issue, it may not be classified as medical cannabis in some areas (8).
Regardless of the purpose, you should ensure that it is legal to source your own cannabis.
Which one is legal?
You might be thinking that medical cannabis refers to CBD since it does not make people high. However, this is not always true.
For example, some prescription medications like dronabinol contain low doses of THC (10). However, just because it is available via prescription does not necessarily mean that it has been approved yet in your area, so it might not be available even though it is legal (11).
Therefore, what is deemed medical or recreational is not straightforward. Ensure that you keep this in mind when investigating what edible cannabis products are legal in your area.
Why are there laws placed on edible cannabis?
Firstly, edible cannabis is regulated because it is easy for people to mistakenly ingest edible cannabis without being aware that they are doing so (12). In particular, there are huge concerns around children eating cannabis edibles because it looks similar to non-cannabis-related food.
Secondly, some people overdose on edible cannabis because they get impatient since it takes longer to work (13). Because of this, they do not allow enough time for it to work and then take more.
While it may feel frustrating that there are so many different laws put in place, keep in mind that this is to keep everyone safe.
The consequences of being caught with edible cannabis
Suppose edible cannabis is legal in your area, and you have not broken any of the rules around it. In that case, there will most likely be no consequences. As long as you follow the rules and do not supply underage persons, you should be fine.
There may also be laws around whether you can or cannot sell or distribute edible cannabis. You will also need to be careful not to break any rules around this either (14).
But if edible cannabis is not legal in your area and you get caught then there will most likely be consequences. Or if you have not packaged your edible cannabis correctly then there may also be consequences. For example, in 21 jurisdictions, the packaging that you keep your edible cannabis in must be childproof (15).
If you are caught, it will go on your criminal record (16). From this, you may have issues with finding future employment or be rejected from traveling to other countries.
Again, like the laws vary between states and countries so does the punishment one might get if they are caught (17). For example, you could be faced with a fine, jail time, and/or be made to go through a drug rehabilitation program (18, 19).
Ultimately, your punishment will depend on the situation you are in. If more laws have been broken, then you could face greater punishments.
It cannot be stressed enough that you need to beware of the laws and rules around edible cannabis in the area that you live in or that you are traveling to with it. Laws vary between states and countries, and so does the punishment you might get if you are caught with illegal edibles.
If you have any concerns, it always pays to check the current legal status around edible cannabis in your area before using it. Remember to check for differences in laws around CBD, THC, medical cannabis, and recreational cannabis.