With cannabis use growing, THC levels are rising.
There is a great deal of discussion surrounding the medicinal benefits of marijuana with an increasing trend of legalized weed usage in the United States. The medicinal benefits are well-documented with the Mayo Clinic listing such illnesses as Alzheimer’s, Crohn’s disease and glaucoma as conditions that may benefit from cannabis use. The growing issue facing regulators, however, is the psychoactive ingredient, THC. Years ago the cannabis on the market commonly had less than 1.5% THC content but today some products have THC levels in excess of 90%.
There is an undeniable spike in the potency of today’s marijuana as more and more strains are being grown. It has quickly become more than the comfortable high of years gone by to becoming ,in some cases, dangerously strong.
These more potent strains of marijuana are leading to a spate of weed-related medical emergencies and have also been linked with increased issues for those dealing with psychological disorders.
As with any industry seeing exponential growth, regulators are often in an ongoing uphill struggle to keep up. Companies who can legally sell marijuana understand its value in medicinal terms but they also understand the allure commercially for THC.
Certain California dispensaries have been known to post marijuana strains with up to 41% THC. It is hard to argue the need for such a potent strain medicinally but regulators seem powerless to set limits. Forty states plus the District of Columbia have legalized medicinal marijuana. Considering 22 of those states and DC also allow recreational use, this means there may be a problem.
In Vermont and Connecticut regulators have placed a cap on the THC levels that are permitted in cannabis products. These limits are 30% for flowers and 60% for THC concentrates. Pre-filled vape cartridges are still uncapped in both states.
Those looking to the FDA may be surprised to discover that the Food and Drug Administration does not officially endorse the use of marijuana. It does however endorse a select few medications that contain cannabis products.
The cannabis sold at dispensaries then is not FDA approved although the agency does welcome suppliers to submit their products for testing. Any research thus far done by the FDA has focused on the non-psychotropic CBD component of cannabis and not the psychotropic THC.
According to an FDA spokesperson, “The FDA is committed to monitoring the marketplace, identifying cannabis products that pose risks, and acting, within our authorities, to protect the public.”
The federal government’s response thus far is to allow individual states to control their own laws regarding the drug ,although President Biden did sign a bill late last year expanding research opportunity by federal agencies into the effects of marijuana.
This move is still viewed as not enough by some critics who feel the legalization of marijuana should be overturned. As is often the case with commercial products, the industry will push the boundaries of what is legal to make more sales.