The clamor for marijuana legalization is growing with each passing day in the United States. At present, nine US states and the District of Columbia have allowed cannabis for recreational purpose and several others are considering to join the legalization wave. However, they have ignored the need to limit the potency of the drug, which has grown significantly in the last few years. Now, a recent study has linked the increased potency to higher risk of addiction and impairment, which, in turn, may trigger more public health problems.
The study, published in the journal Psychological Medicine in January 2018,.analyzed the level of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive substance in cannabis, over a 16-year period. The findings revealed more than two-time increase in marijuana potency over a period of four years, from 8.6 percent in 2000 to 20.3 percent in 2004.
The increase in the potency, as researchers suggested, was succeeded by a significant rise in the number of people who sought treatment for problems associated with marijuana use. In the following years when potency declined to 15.3 percent THC, the number of people seeking addiction treatment declined too. Researchers predicted a surge of one person per 100,000 population seeking marijuana use disorder treatment, with every 3 percent rise in THC level.
High potency THC products in US
Although the study was conducted in the Netherlands where marijuana is legally sold through coffee shops, it holds relevance in the U.S. due to increased availability of THC products in several states. For instance, marijuana edibles sold in the state of Washington have an average potency of 20 percent THC, with some products having even higher level of the intoxicant.
While some people relate increase in potency to prohibition, experts say that the rise in potency is independent of the legal or illegal market. It rises simply because sellers want to make more profits. Pot users love high-potency drugs and sellers deliver the same to lure more customer base and multiply gains.
It is noteworthy that regulators impose strict limits on potency levels in other legal drug markets. For example, concentrations of alcohol beverages are regulated in multiple ways, including levying strength-specific taxes and imposing restrictions on labeling and place of sale. In most U.S. states, for an alcoholic beverage to be marketed and sold as “beer,” its alcohol content must fall within a specified range. Similarly, if alcohol content of wine rises during distillation, it has to be sold as spirits or “brandy.”
Unfortunately, no such potency limits are imposed on marijuana products available in the states that have legalized the drug. To ensure safe pot use in these states, it is important for regulators to apply potency restrictions, such as capping THC content or levying higher taxes on more potent cannabis products.
The Dutch study warned users against this regulatory gap, which may lead to adverse health consequences among consumers who are bound to use high-strength marijuana in the absence of proper regulatory guidelines. The researchers have urged governments to place limits on marijuana’s strength just as they do for other psychoactive products. It will not only protect public health, but also save the treatment expenses. According to New Frontier Data, U.S. legal cannabis market is set to touch $24.1 billion mark by 2025. In such a scenario, it makes even more sense to put restrictions on the concentration of THC in marijuana products.
Health hazards of cannabis
Marijuana use is associated with many negative consequences, including impaired attention, memory, and learning. Cannabis abuse may also contribute to mental health ailments, such as anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts, especially among teens and young adults. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), in 2016, 6.5 percent of adolescents aged 12 to 17 were current users of marijuana, while 20.8 percent young adults aged 18 to 25 were using the drug in the same year.
Notably, addiction to marijuana or any other drug can be treated with timely medical intervention. Sovereign Health’s drug detox centers in California help people with addiction recover in a systematic manner. Call at our 24/7 helpline number (855) 682-0103 or chat online with one of our counselors for more details on our drug detox clinics in California.