VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Virginia Beach City Public Schools confirmed three Tallwood High School students went to the hospital after eating THC gummies, but what is the real danger in doing that?

THC, tetrahydrocannabinol, is what makes an individual euphoric and intoxicated (or high). 

A morning announcement was made reminding students of illegal drugs that are not allowed at school, and if you need drug counseling to see your counselor.  

“I am kind of concerned, we didn’t have this problem last year,” said Brooklyn Fisher, a student at Tallwood. “It was just vaping, and it is getting worse with fentanyl. I am concerned about the safety of my friends at my school.” 

Portsmouth’s Columbia Care Cannabist dispensary was the first cannabis dispensary to open in Hampton Roads. 

Pharmacist Ray Hernandez says the danger is the sometimes-delayed reaction to gummies.

“So what a lot of people will do is eat a gummy, and 30 minutes later they don’t feel anything, so they aren’t getting the relief they are looking for, so they eat another one before the first one had a chance to kick in.” 

Suddenly a person can be disoriented, sensing danger. Hernandez says panic can set in.

“There could be paranoia and anxiety, and there are consequences for over doing it, and we see that with the oral edible formulations.” 

Hernandez says it is in that moment with too many edibles digested that bad can get worse.

“It is very hard to convince yourself when you are in that moment and people think they are dying, or they are having a heart attack, or they need to get to the doctor, or the emergency room right away.” 

Hernandez thinks it is possible that is what happened to the three students, but he doesn’t know for sure because he has no firsthand knowledge of the incident.  

WAVY spoke with a mother who doesn’t want to be identified, but wants quicker notification when things are going on at the school, 

“They didn’t notify us for what happened on Wednesday, they didn’t notify us until 3:30 p.m. Thursday … it is scary they didn’t notify us for 24 hours we thought, is it one student and now it is several students that ingested it and their waiting 24 hours to tell us.” 

Hernandez also makes this point about edibles — slow reaction less likely to happen with smokable or inhalation because of the immediate response you are getting.

“Usually, they can wait 8-10 minutes and they will know whether they need another dose of the inhalation formula, but with edibles you need a lot of patience. Patience is required to not over consume before the first one has time to take effect.” 

We first met Hernandez in July 2021 when Columbia Care opened the first cannabis dispensary in Hampton Roads, and according to the company their three locations are still the only medical cannabis dispensaries in Hampton Roads.  

Edibles are strictly regulated.

“Edibles cannot exceed 10 milligrams per dose in the medical marijuana program, so this is highly regulated generally a 10-milligram dose will not produce hospitalization-type effect,” Hernandez added.  

That’s what the regulation is, but those who went to the hospital likely have no idea what they were eating, 

“And who knows what, perhaps unregulated gummies were they 100, 500? That’s way too much for a teenager to consume even if they are to be consuming it in the first place,” Hernandez said.

Hernandez points out legal medical cannabis, which is highly regulated, safe, and lab tested.

“You couldn’t get them without a doctor’s certification letter, and even at that, the maximum dose per edible is 10 mil.” 

Fortunately, all three of the Tallwood students were treated and released from the hospital, but hopefully Ray Hernandez has shed more light on why you need to be concerned about what THC gummies do and why you need to be concerned.