Many within the industry have claimed that proof backing the widespread risks of high THC levels are scant and more research needs to be done.
With the legislation on cannabis at the federal level set to be brought forward in the Senate, marijuana legalized states are now undergoing new research on the risks linked with high-potency cannabis products. Among the questions being asked is the possible link between these high-potency cannabis products and psychosis.
These latest high-potency cannabis products circulating the market are commonly called shatter or wax and are known to have THC levels as high as 85%-90%. Researchers, via comparison, affirmed that the THC levels in a usual joint two decades ago were approximately 5%. Considering this high level of THC, Colorado and Washington are now looking to include potency caps in their legislation.
During a forum held in January, Dr. Nora Volkow, the director of NIDA expressed her concerns that young adults are increasingly consuming high-potency cannabis. Volkow affirmed that she is worried about the negative effects of high THC concentration on mental health. She noted that the higher the THC levels, the higher the chances of psychosis. While the research is still ongoing, Volkow affirmed that another question waiting to be answered is if such psychosis can cause permanent schizophrenia.
Bethany Moore, during an interview with NBC News, asserted that the best way forward is to tackle these concerns through adequate labeling and testing. Apart from that, she believes states should only sell cannabis via licensed dispensaries to fully informed and legal adults. By selling cannabis only via legal dispensaries, Bethany claimed the activities of the illicit cannabis market will gradually fade.
According to several public experts, proponents of the cannabis industry are responsible for the problem of high-potency cannabis products now flooding the market. This is because most industry backers were only focused on legalizing cannabis without considering a market boom in cannabis concentrates.
In fact, a research scientist, Dr.Beatriz Carlini affirmed that they were not fully informed in 2012 before voting on the bill. She believes a lot of people who voted in support voted for the cannabis plant and nothing else. In 2020, Carlini led a research team I’m the state of Washington to study high-potency cannabis. Upon research, the team concluded that high-potency cannabis can have a prolonged negative impact on mental health.
Carlini claimed that while there’s a better understanding of cannabis and its medical benefits, high-potency cannabis is just a different ball game. She compared the situation to strawberry icing marketing. She argued that while strawberries are healthy fruits, strawberry icing is not healthy.
Presently, the high-potency cannabis circulating on the market is legal for purchase for adults above the age of 21 years. However, teens have been able to easily get access to the products.
Efforts of State Legislative
The bill for cannabis legislation at the federal level has been introduced to the house. But while the politics play out, many now look forward to the promise of Chuck Schumer, the Senate Majority Leader he had earlier promised on the 22nd of April that he would introduce another version to the senate come April.
Meanwhile, things are moving fast in Colorado thanks to several doctors’ testimonies last yeast about the increasing cases of psychotic episodes linked to cannabis concentrate. To address the situation, a bill was unanimously passed to curb access to high-potency cannabis concentrates.
A section of the legislation also charged the medical school at Colorado University to carry out a full review of over 800 scientific articles. The articles are said to cover the effects of high-potency cannabis concentrated on both mental and physical health. The report is said to be due come July.
Heading the team is Dr. Jon Samet who is also in charge of the project. In his words, he affirmed the study won’t be an easy one given there is a lot of messy data to organize from the studies whose authors used different methods of measurement. However, he shared his anticipation of creating the latest public research database for the state.
In the state of Washington, researchers are a step further after completing a six-month review executed by 11 scientists in 2020. The research revealed that THC has a dose-response. This implies that the more THC one consumes, the higher the negative impact on mental and physical health. This research kicked off immediately after sales of THC concentrate increased from 9% to 35% between 2014 to 2020.
The researchers also revealed that young adults were most vulnerable to the side effects and getting addicted to high THC concentrations. They then concluded that there’s a need for more police declarations and considerations to support public well-being and general health.
Carlini, who led the Washington researchers, affirmed that other states looking for guidance have also reached out to her. She added that the initial mistakes are glaring for all to see and people are ready to learn from their mistakes. Researchers from both states are now keeping in touch and consulting each other when necessary
Regarding Seattle, researchers are looking for new ways to curb access to THC concentrate. Approaches under evaluation include tax established on potency level or cap on potency which is the approcahbuded in New York and Illinois.
The research team in Washington is considering warning labels like those employed in Canada. The warning label will explicitly state the risks of high THC levels to mental health. The Washington research team’s coming report is due at the end of the year.
As it stands, Vermont is the only state that placed a potency cap on legal recreational cannabis. Meanwhile, an attempt at such has failed woefully in Massachusetts and South Dakota.
Attempts at a long-lasting potency cap have proven difficult due to strong pushbacks from the cannabis industry. Many within the industry have claimed that proof backing the widespread risks of high THC levels are scant and more research needs to be done.
However, Carlini has stood by her team and the research they executed saying she and her team stand by the conclusion reached. The higher the THC levels of cannabis, the higher the chances of dangerous side effects.