How to Read Labels on Cannabis Edibles

As of January 1, 2020, Illinois became the eleventh state in the U.S. to legalize the recreational use of cannabis. Yep, that means anyone who is 21 or older can walk into a dispensary and try out whatever they’re feeling that day. For some people that’s cannabis-infused edibles; we’re talking cookies, gummies, chocolate, coffee drinks, and so on. It may seem like all fun and games, but reading the labels on edibles is vital to an enjoyable high. 

cannabis edibles labels

What’s included on edible labels?

According to Carson Shipley from Lux Pot Shop in Seattle, recreational cannabis regulations are similar across most states but there are some differences in edible products regarding dosage and possession limits. 

Kate Morgan, co-founder and CEO of Live Lilium, a cannabis education company in Massachusetts, adds that even though it is up to each individual state, many states create their regulations parallel to FDA guidelines. 

In Washington, Shipley shares that the following items must be included on all edible labels:

  • Cannabis disclaimer: these vary by state
  • “Not for Kids” and “21+” stickers
  • Child-proof packaging
  • Tamper-proof seal
  • Ingredients and nutritional facts
  • Serving size and total cannabinoids in products (commonly showns as THC and CBD milligrams)
  • Processors ID information
  • Retailer ID information
  • Manufacture date
  • Best by date
  • Printed barcode for retail sale

What’s most important?

Whether it is your first excursion into the world of cannabis or you’re a seasoned participant, the number one thing to look at on edible labels is the dosage. 

“Make sure the dosage you desired matches the label on the packaging,” Shipley says. “In Washington, infused beverages can range from 10mg to 100mg of THC in a single bottle. Drinking a full 100mg soda could be the best or worst decision of the day. Note that a single serving edible is considered 10mg in Washington, and a good starting point for most beginners.”

Another thing that is incredibly important to keep in mind is that the intoxicating effects of cannabis edibles may be delayed by two or more hours, depending on many factors. Be sure to consider this if you’re planning on taking some edibles to an event. We know, those sour gummy worms taste delicious, but don’t be fooled. Read the labels and be patient. You can always eat more later.

The second most important thing to look for when purchasing edibles, according to Shipley, is the retailer and processor information. 

“This ensures that you are consuming a legal, regulated product rather than a knock-off sold in the black market,” he says.

And lastly, check out the “best by” date. The last thing you want to do is pay top dollar for a fudge brownie only to get home and realize it’s expired and stale, let alone way less potent. Heavy sigh. 

Ok, but how do I know how much I need?

So this is where a bit of mindfulness comes into play. If it is your first time trying an edible, take it slow. And even if you are a religious cannabis smoker, you may not necessarily have the same reaction to an edible — you may even find out you’re strictly a joint smoking kind of person versus an edibles person, or vice versa, and that’s totally okay! 

If you don’t know where to start when it comes to looking at the THC and CBD percentages on a label, or are skeptical of getting too high, just know that an edible with more CBD than THC will have a more relaxing effect without being overly intoxicating, Shipley explains. 

“When one becomes more confident taking edibles, trying a product with more THC than CBD can make a walk around the block feel like a magical journey,” he says. “Cannabis affects everyone uniquely.”

Morgan shares that everyone’s bodies metabolize cannabis differently.

“For example, I know I can have gummy edibles and be totally fine, but if I have a piece of a chocolate bar with the same percentage of THC, I have a much stronger experience,” she says.

What’s not on the label?

Now that we know what to look for on edible labels when shopping, some aspects that are also important to consider don’t even show up on the labels. This is where asking your budtenders some questions can be super helpful. Who grew the cannabis used to make the edible? Were pesticides applied to the plant? Was it tested for mold or other contamination? How is the cannabis extracted?

Some dispensaries, like Lux Pot Shop, include this information on its labels even though it’s not required by law in order to be as transparent as possible.

“When choosing your next edible, it’s really important to start off with a reliable shop. Quality retailers should help you make the right choice more than a label can,” Shipley shares. “Most companies that are providing quality service will have great Google reviews and a clean store front. Once you find a shop that seems friendly and helpful, the buying experience should become exciting and easy.”

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About Alana Stramowski

Alana moved to Chicago from Milwaukee in 2011 to study Journalism at Columbia College Chicago. During that time, she discovered the importance of taking care of her body, and received her 200-hour yoga teaching certification in 2014. At aSweatLife, Alana is able to combine her love of writing with her passion for wellness, nutrition, and sustainability. By day you can find her working as a Content Manager at a Chicago tech startup. Outside of her 9-5, catch Alana taking yoga classes throughout the city, supporting local agriculture at her neighborhood farmers market, and leading volunteer events for a Chicago-based nonprofit, The Honeycomb Project.

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