In the tome of legal American cannabis, the chapter on marijuana-infused edibles is where the narrative turns complicated and, at times, bleak.
For the most part, legalization’s rollout in the U.S. has gone off without a hitch. Many of the dastardly hypotheticals the public once feared have since turned into success stories—proof that this newly legal substance could be regulated responsibly without putting our youths and communities at risk.
And then came the pot brownie—and the weed chocolate, the marijuana gummy, and the cannabis cookie. Their unusual high, which kicks in long after smoked or vaporized cannabis and often lasts much longer, baffled many new users. Some found out the state-recommended dose was too much THC, while others ignored the product directions entirely and overconsumed. While we could laugh along with some of these stories of harmless-but-scary overconsumption, others ended tragically—with law enforcement linking a couple high-profile deaths, in part, to the marijuana-infused candies.
Thankfully our current bookmark rests in a positive place: Fast-acting state regulators in Colorado, Oregon, and Washington state rewrote rules on how these adult-use edibles were labeled, packaged, and sold, and ultimately marked as individual, single-serving pieces so that they would be recognizable outside their original packaging. The public is doing its part, too, as it continues to learn important lessons about an edible’s singular high.
Of course this particular chapter is far from complete, but one of the latest edible cannabis trends we’re seeing is also a lesson in responsible consumption: microdosing. Because an edible’s stone is so dissimilar to that of smoking or vaporizing pot, some consumers are ditching state-defined doses of 10 milligrams of THC in favor of smaller serving sizes.
As for me, I enjoy a solid microdose of edible weed before yoga practice or a long walk with the dogs. It helps me keep focus, and it prevents me from ever feeling too high. And I’m not alone in my penchant for microdosing marijuana, because now the commercial market is following suit.
One shining example is the Buttermelt, a 2.5mg candy styled after old-fashioned dinner mints made by Colorado edibles company Sweet Grass Kitchen. The business developed the product after hearing from customers who wanted a smaller dose but didn’t want to chop a crumbly cookie into four quarters.
“The Buttermelts have helped educate people to know what a good, comfortable serving is for them,” said Sweet Grass marketing director Jesse Burns. “We did some research and found this comparison that 2.5 milligrams of THC, for a lot of people, felt like the cannabis equivalent to a glass of wine or a beer. So these products make edibles more approachable, and we’re finding that they really alleviate that fear some people had with them.
“And now you’re seeing a lot of other companies starting to release low-serving products.”
One of those businesses is fronted country music legend and ganjapreneur Willie Nelson—or rather his wife, Annie Nelson, whose line of Willie’s Reserve-branded, low-dose edibles are now available at select retailers in Washington state.
“I’ve been microdosing for years, and I’ve also been showing people how to microdose for a really long time,” Annie Nelson told me recently.
Nelson first started making low-dose chocolates for her husband: “He was really sick and couldn’t smoke, of course, and so I started making chocolates, and that really helped him. It helped him sleep, he got better faster, and everybody was at peace because he had his cannabis medicine.”
Years later Nelson shared her infused chocolates, not to mention her all-important consumption tips, with friends suffering from cancer. And it wasn’t long before her stash of edibles became nearly as legendary as her husband’s stash of weed.
The Annie’s Edibles products now on sale are thoughtfully assembled. The Fine & Raw Chocolate is infused with whole-plant cannabis extracts, and the final result is gluten free, vegan, and 100 percent raw. Each piece of chocolate has 5mg of THC, a.k.a. half of the state-defined dose.
“If you want to feel high, you can always eat more,” Nelson said. “But if you’re just dealing with anxiety or in-laws, you don’t need to be high—you just need the edge taken off. It also works better for pain relief for me, because you’re not high and you can still function through your day.”
Nelson is clearly a microdosing veteran—and when I asked her if she would walk me and my readers through the same microdosing tutorial she gives her family and friends, she happily obliged. “More people need to know about how low-dose edible cannabis products can help them,” she agreed.
And so here is your very own Introduction to Microdosing 101, as taught by professor and chef Annie Nelson.
Step 1: “Always, always, always start low,” Nelson warns. “If you’re not a smoker, I’d start with 1-2mg of whatever it is, 2.5mg at the most. That’s it, and don’t take anything else. Then set your alarm for an hour and a half later. Seriously, set the alarm, because you might forget.”
Step 2: “Think about what your goal is. Are you trying to relax or rid yourself of anxiety? Are you trying to get high? Are you trying to sleep better?” (More on microdosing for sleep in a minute.)
Step 3: “When your alarm goes off 90 minutes later, ask yourself these questions, and answer them honestly. How do I feel? Do I feel high? Do I feel the way I want to feel? Do I feel like I can function?”
Step 4: “If you feel unchanged after 90 minutes, you know that wasn’t enough—and next time you can try twice as many milligrams. So next time you’re trying 5mg of THC, but remember to set your alarm for 90 minutes again.”
Nelson also had a side note for the sleepless: “For my friends who are using cannabis to help them sleep better, and that’s a huge issue, here’s my advice to them: Try a small piece, roughly 5mg, about an hour before you’re ready to lie down. When you’re doing this for your first time, do it in your own space. When you wake up later that night or the next day, take stock: Did you notice a difference at all? Check in with yourself in the morning: Do you feel any better than you normally do? If not, try a little bit more the following night—but not too much.”
As the old edibles adage goes: You can always take more, but you can never take less.