Lethal edible epidemic on the rise


Photo courtesy Lynn Gallagher

Marijuana cookies and candy. The bright colors and similar packaging to normal foods can cause confusion at times with the presence of marijuana.

Multiple ambulances have arrived at Walter Johnson this year for edible-related medical incidents which have become widespread across students. But how are so many marijuana edibles getting into high schools, and why are students using them?

“I don’t know why kids are doing it. Is it just the curiosity of it, the stress, the pandemic? I wish that we had more information about that, because there’s other ways of dealing with it,” Assistant Principal Jeff Leaman said.

For students who haven’t tried drugs, curiosity may be a large factor of why students try them for the first time. The easy access leads consumers, including teens, to buy them easily and use them regularly.

“I’d say there has been an increasing wave of edible usage in the school by students because they are so easy to access. I have heard of people who buy them online very easily and can sell them to students,” senior Matt Uhl said.

It is legal for Delta 8 marijuana products to be shipped to people over 18. Many of the edibles at Walter Johnson are purchased that way.

Another aspect that affects the taking of these drugs is the different forms and packaging that they are being manufactured in. Edibles can come in a wide variety of normal foods such as candy, gummies and brownies.

“The increased usage of edibles is probably in part because they look really easy to take. It doesn’t seem like a whole deal and they could just be eaten,” freshman Meher Parsinni said.

Whether it’s a brownie, gummy or any other form of edible, it’s essentially impossible to know its dosage even with labels stating an estimated number of milligrams.

“Almost all of the edibles seen at WJ are Delta 8, just ranging in potency from 25 to even 750 milligrams,” an anonymous student said.

Besides the risk of regular marijuana on students, a large factor which makes this issue much more prevalent is the prospect of the opioid fentanyl being laced into the properties of the marijuana.

“There’s not a lot of regulation, and you don’t know where it’s coming from, who generated them. Sometimes people have the best of intentions, of making things okay, and they’re not. It’s very easy to have things manipulated or chemically changed including fentanyl,” Leaman said.

All MCPS schools carry the drug Narcan, which saves lives during the event of an opioid overdose. It can come in the form of an injection or nasal spray and has been used in Montgomery County schools as well as across the country to save lives in danger of opioid overdoses. Three Montgomery County students have been revived with Narcan after an opioid overdose at school this year.

“I think this is a bigger issue than underage drinking, than vaping, it only takes one time. The chemicals that are in these, what it’s being laced with and how potent fentanyl is, this is a major issue,” Leaman said.

In relation to edibles, another widely used form of taking marijana is known as carts. Comparable to vapes, they contain similar chemicals as edibles such as THC, which is part of the marijuana plant, and the lungs are taking in the marijuana.

“Edibles last much longer than marijuana carts, so they can lead to panic attacks. Another thing is that edibles take around an hour to kick in, you don’t know how you’re going to react to the edible compared to a cart whose effects are seen right away,” an anonymous student said.

With the rise of marijuana edibles as well as other paraphernalia, students should be aware of what these drugs are and what they can do, as well as the risk of other laced drugs.

“I would love to see kids getting more involved with the legislative side of things and say, ‘This is bad, we are being marketed to, and you all adults are not protecting us enough.’ I would love to see that,” Leaman said.