Although impossible to have a toxic overdose of cannabis, it is quite possible to consume more than necessary. When you smoke too much marijuana or eat too much pot food, you may have symptoms of ataxia/dizziness, sweating, nausea, vomiting, possible crying, and sometimes a sensation of dying. But don’t be concerned; ingesting too much cannabis is not fatal or injurious to any organs. The best antidote is to crawl in bed, turn off the lights and go to sleep; all will be normal in the morning.
Indeed, eating cannabis is not for the novice or faint of heart. I am “experienced” with practically every hallucinogen known to man, but I have never hallucinated stronger and longer on anything the way I did from ingesting cannabis. While I’ve only known of one person who actually called an ambulance while freaking out from a chronic food experience, I have known of several serious tokers – including myself – who’ve endured long, strange trips from ingesting too much THC.
In 1982, I was invited to be partner in an outdoor grow near Gainesville, Florida. The crew who invited me had begun growing in this location six years prior after returning from a round-the-world seed gathering expedition. We grew a pure Thai, a pure Durban and the fabled Afghani-Laotian, Florida’s first premium hybrid with genetics at the root of Soma Seeds family tree. We were on a lake complete with pump irrigation, drip feeders and permission from the local Sheriff. The harvest was premium. Wishing to maximize profits off my share of the crop, I hustled up a couple of lieutenants from the streets of Tampa to help me retail it. Man, did it move. At that time, few people had ever seen such weed. My boys were getting $10 a gram, unheard of in the early 1980s. People went so crazy for the shit, I sold 18 pounds and barely had time to set back my own stash.
I’m sure many of you are aware that when you gram out 18 pounds of fresh herb from large storage bags, you end up with a lot of crystal resin shake at the bottom. When I had sold out the buds, there was about 1.5 ounces of this sparkling gold flake remaining. I decided to bake the entire lot into a batch of brownies that I offered to share, in appreciative celebration, with the friend whose apartment I had used for the stash house and distribution hub.
After splitting the entire pan between the two of us, and in search of a good hibernation cave, I decided to bicycle over to my girlfriend’s apartment, thinking I might be seductively awoken from my slumber when she returned home from work. By this time, my friend could barely form a sentence to bid me goodbye. He stared from his couch in seeming bewilderment over seeing me able to stand and peddle off on my bicycle. It was a mistake I would soon live to regret. After only a few minutes on the road in the humid Florida heat, I noticed a police officer conversing with a woman just three blocks from our stash house. Then, like cheesy ’60s TV segues, I felt my mind warp into another dimension. I’m not sure how much of the rest of the story is hallucination or reality. I’m sure there was a serious amount of hallucinating, but it all seemed terribly real to me. At that moment, for some reason I convinced myself that I had narrowly escaped a raid on the stash house, and now the hunt for me was on.
My first thought was to bike as quickly as possible to the nearby University Hospital, where I could admit myself to the mental ward. At the time, I didn’t think I was crazy, but I imagined that if I could get to the hospital I’d stand a good chance at building an insanity plea to beat the dope peddling charges. When I turned down the road to the hospital, it was blocked by six police cruisers with lights flashing. I made an immediate U-turn, believing that they hadn’t yet spotted me (though I thought they could somehow read my mind), and headed for the local mall, where I ditched my bike. Inside the mall, drenched in sweat, I searched out the nearest pay phone. After clumsily pawing at the phone for what seemed an eternity, I managed to dial up one of my “lieutenants” who lived on the other side of town. As soon as he answered, I saw uniformed officers talking on the adjacent pay phones relaying to superiors that I had been sighted. I muttered to my friend, “I’m at the University Mall and I’m very ‘sick’. Come and get me!” He knew ‘sick’ was our code word for “the shit has hit the fan with the law.” Message conveyed, I dropped the receiver and ran. As I reached the mall exit feeling hotly pursued, I jumped a city bus pulling away from the stop.
To make a very long story short from here, let me say that I finally warped back into reality in a hotel room nearly 50 miles away from the mall, with little memory as to how I had ended up there. I only knew that I had spent the last twelve hours, and more than $400 on cab fares, being imaginarily chased across the entire county by ghost riders. My girlfriend, pissed off that I had stood her up for a date we had planned, refused to believe the story and snubbed my suggestion that she join me to finish off the night with kinky hotel sex. So, I had to pay for another 50-mile cab ride to her place to plead for forgiveness.
When I got to my girlfriend’s place, she began laughing hysterically and rushed me to a mirror, saying, “Take a look at your face!” Eyes swollen shut, face all puffy, sweaty and red, I looked like I had gone ten rounds with a champ, but at least it offered proof of my ordeal. My poor lieutenant, however, had spent hours searching for me at the mall, even going to the jail in the hope of bailing me out. He had also gone by the stash house, but our friend who had eaten the brownies with me slept peacefully through the banging on the door. I originally chalked up the whole affair to some sort of cannabis anomaly brought on by weed-peddling paranoia, but I began hearing of similarly frightening brownie experiences from other hard-core potheads. A couple of years later, I had a slighter and much shorter freak out after eating some really strong Afghani hash, so I learned to be careful with dosage amounts when baking, as I enjoy edibles very much.
However, I went through another too-intense high decades later, in 2001. I was prescribed Marinol (synthetic THC) for treatment of congenital nystagmus, an eye/brain disorder, and working my way up to 60mg a day as my doctor and I searched for the most effective and tolerable dosage. One night, I forgot to put the bottle of pills back in the refrigerator and woke the next morning to find that fifteen of my 10mg gel cap pills had melted together. I thought, “Well, I’ve got a 150mg blob here with no way to separate it… let’s see how effective and tolerable a dosage of 150mg at once might be.” Again, this was a mistake I would live to regret.
Soon I was sure that helicopters were landing on my front lawn and a SWAT team was on a megaphone threatening to break in my front door. Luckily, I was still aware enough to place a cell phone call to my doctor’s office, frantically explaining my situation to the nurse who answered. Without hesitation, she calmly directed me to sneak out my back door, assuring she’d come “rescue” me if I could just make it to the corner store. She stayed on the phone as I snuck my way through alleys and between buildings to reach the store on a mission of survival.
When I finally exclaimed I had made it, she asked me if the store sold chocolate chip cookies. Though I felt this was a silly question, I searched the shelves. “Yes! Here they are!” I shouted. Her calm voice replied, “Okay, now I want you to buy a pack of those cookies, and a quart of milk.” Strange, I thought, but at this point I was just following orders. After I made the purchase, the nurse instructed me to take a few gulps of milk and eat a couple of cookies. It was a miracle cure – with the food and drink in my stomach, my mind suddenly warped to normalcy.
At a later doctor’s visit, I thanked the nurse again and told her I wished I had known of this antidote when I first began experimenting with cannabis edibles in the early ’80s. She was a great sport, and made me promise to always keep a ready supply of milk and cookies on hand in case I again consumed too much marijuana. So, dear readers, I pass this sage medical advice along: When eating pot food, always remember the milk and cookies!
• www.Erowid.com is an honest, fact-based website about plants and drugs, including information about how to deal with “bad trips”, the effects of too much cannabis or psychedelics. Erowid is the most comprehensive archive of drug information online, and highly recommended reading for properly and safely trying any new substance.
• www.CannabisCulture.com/forums has a section in the Cannabis Café area called “Drug Use Problems, Questions” where users can ask questions about cannabis and other drugs’ effects, and seek help if they or others experience any problems or strange reactions from their cannabis and/or drug use.
The Cop and the Brownies
Officer Edward Sanchez, a Dearborn, Michigan police officer, resigned after he used marijuana confiscated on the job to make brownies which he ate with his wife. Apparently, the high didn’t turn out so well; he ended up calling 911, and the resulting conversation, five minutes in total length, has been played repeatedly on television, radio, and the Internet. You can listen to the entire recording almost anywhere online; simply look up “cop, brownies” and you’ll find videos and audio. The following is a partial transcript of the infamous 911 phone call.
Edward Sanchez: I think I’m having an overdose and so is my wife.
911 Operator: Overdose of what?
Sanchez: Marijuana. I don’t know if they had something in it. Will you please send rescue? I think we’re dying.
Operator: How much did you guys have?
Sanchez: I don’t know. We made brownies, and I think we’re dead. I really do.
Operator: Who made the brownies?
Sanchez: My wife and I did… She’s lying right down in front of me. Time is going by really, really, really slow.
Operator: Do you know how much of it you bought and put in the brownies?
Sanchez: Just please send rescue.
Operator: They’re on the way, but I’m trying to find out how much you bought and put into the brownies, sir.
Sanchez: Probably like a quarter ounce.
Operator: Did you eat all the brownies?
Sanchez: Yeah, we did… please come! What time is it?
Operator: It’s 9:37, when did you guys eat the brownies?
Sanchez: Like an hour and a half ago… Are you coming?
Operator: Yes, they’re on the way; they’ve been en route for two minutes. It’s 9:38… Do you do this on a regular basis?
Sanchez: No, this is our first time we’ve ever done it… What’s the score on the Red Wings game?
Sanchez: What’s the score on the Red Wings game?
Operator: I have no clue. I don’t watch the Red Wings.
Sanchez: Okay. I just wanted to make sure that this isn’t some type of, like, hallucination that I’m having.
Operator: Why? What does the score say?
Sanchez: 3 to 3.
Operator: What channel is that?
Sanchez: Uh, channel two.
Operator: It’s 2 to 2.
Operator: The score, it’s 2 to 2.
Sanchez: Okay. Tell your officers they just passed me… My mother-in-law just got here too.
Operator: Oh, okay.
A Hashish Overdose
From The Natural Mind by Andrew Weil, pages 50-51:
“In 1968, when I was studying marihuana in Boston, I deliberately consumed an overdose (6 grams) of potent hashish in order to experience this reaction. I took it orally, under observation, and kept notes as long as I was able. The effects of the drug were felt within forty minutes and were pleasant but strong for about a half-hour. Thereafter, things became quite confusing. I could not understand what was said to me, felt physically sick, and soon was unfit to do anything but lie in bed and wait for morning. Auditory hallucinations were prominent, especially threatening voices that rose in volume to a crescendo, the faded out. For about twelve hours I remained in a stage of consciousness between sleeping and waking, marked by vivid nightmares. Lucid intervals were rare; for much of the time I did not know where I was, even thinking I was six years old and sick from measles. By morning, most of the worst symptoms had disappeared, but I had a powerful hangover that left me prostrate for another twenty-four hours. I would not willingly repeat the experience.”