Proposals to cap the quantity of THC in hashish flower and concentrates have been gaining traction in plenty of state legislatures, and earlier this week the concept reached the federal degree.

In a report launched on Wednesday, the US Senate’s Caucus on International Narcotics Control beneficial trying into THC caps on state-legal, regulated merchandise. Politico was first to interrupt the information of the report, which was led by Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), co-chairs of the Senate caucus. Cornyn and Feinstein are longtime opponents of hashish legalization.

Most hashish flower in America’s authorized regulated markets ranges between 18% and 23% THC. Cannabis concentrates, together with vape cartridge oils and dabbing merchandise like wax, shatter, and distillate sometimes comprise THC ranges from 70% to 90%.

Proposals to restrict THC ranges usually purpose to cap the allowable degree of THC at 15% or decrease. THC is the primary psychoactive ingredient in hashish, however it’s not the one psychoactive cannabinoid. The authorized definition of hemp, which can not go above 0.3% THC, is the fullest expression of a THC cap at present in place within the United States.

Public security at problem

Proponents of those THC caps—who are usually the identical politicians who stood towards legalization and misplaced—contend that limiting THC ranges will enhance public security. Pushing back are many hashish specialists and legalization advocates, who say THC caps will trigger far larger hurt by forcing consumers back to unlawful markets.

A return to unregulated marketplaces is troublesome, notably with regards to vape cartridge oils. The 2019 EVALI/VAPI well being disaster was attributable to illegal-market vape cartridge producers introducing  poisonous thinners into their merchandise. 

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Forcing patients to buy extra

Florida for Care Executive Director Ben Pollara, the legalization advocate who helped lead Florida’s profitable medical marijuana marketing campaign in 2016, identified one other downside in a recent op-ed revealed within the Fort Myers News-Press.

Florida State Sen. Ray Rodrigues (R-Fort Myers) is championing a invoice that may impose a restrict of 10% THC on all medical marijuana merchandise. Doing so, Pollara wrote, would successfully power a 50% to 150% tax on patients. Here’s how Pollara defined it: 

The math is fairly easy. THC is one in all many chemical substances in marijuana however is by far and away essentially the most energetic one. It can be the one which produces essentially the most and strongest medicinal results for patients. A current blast textual content message from one of many main MMTCs (Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers) in Florida listed six completely different strains of smokable marijuana on the market: the bottom THC focus was simply over 16%; and the best was slightly below 26%. That means to realize the identical or comparable medical impact beneath these proposed 10% caps, patients must spend — and smoke! — 60% to 160% extra marijuana.

“Patients will feel the effects of THC caps almost immediately,” Pollara added. “Many will be priced out of what patients already complain is a too expensive medical marijuana program, instead seeking out the black market.”

Another method to prohibit hashish

Historically, the concept of THC caps stretches back to 2016, when hashish prohibitionists in Colorado, having didn’t cease adult-use legalization, tried to drift a statewide initiative to restrict THC efficiency to 15%. 

That effort failed to make the poll, however the concept survived. In 2019, Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID), then chair of the US Senate banking committee, indicated he was contemplating a 2% THC cap on hashish merchandise produced or bought by companies that want safe monetary companies beneath the SAFE Banking Act, which continues to be in movement. Such a cap would render the SAFE Banking Act all however ineffective, as most hashish merchandise comprise way over 2% THC. 

Crapo’s arguments for the cap had been just like these being expressed by Cornyn and Feinstein within the caucus report earlier this week: THC-related impaired driving, and the “harmful effects of THC use during pregnancy and on young developing brains.” Crapo provided no proof indicating {that a} THC cap would result in decrease utilization ranges by pregnant girls or minors.  

Revival of cap payments in 2020

The concept of imposing THC caps on hashish gained additional momentum in 2020 when legislators in a number of states, together with Florida, Arizona, Iowa, Washington state, and Colorado, launched payments to restrict THC ranges in each flower and concentrates. None of these efforts handed, partially as a result of early closure of many state legislatures following the coronavirus outbreak. 

A invoice to cap THC was shot down within the Florida Legislature final yr, however state Sen. Rodrigues re-introduced the measure in 2021, and it’s gaining some traction in Tallahassee.

State Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, whose company regulates hemp cultivation (however not medical marijuana), not too long ago spoke out towards the proposed THC limits. 

Previous caps didn’t work

Paul Armentano, deputy director of NORML, has seen plenty of completely different THC caps tried by states over time. “Vermont’s adult-use law imposes caps on retail products,” he wrote in an e mail to Leafly. “30% for flower, 60% for concentrates.” The 30% THC restrict on flower approaches the pure restrict for any hashish plant, whereas the 60% THC restrict for concentrates is way beneath what most concentrates comprise. 

Armentano noticed that New Jersey’s medical marijuana legislation was initially enacted years in the past with a provision putting a 10% THC cap on hashish merchandise—however it didn’t work. “That cap was quickly abandoned and the law was amended,” Armentano famous. He added: “Some of the states with limited low-THC/high-CBD only access options also include caps, such as Georgia, but these are not traditional medical cannabis laws.”

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Iowa’s THC cap: Limiting affected person selections

Iowa is one state that started its medical marijuana legalization program with extraordinarily tight THC limits. In 2014, lawmakers established a THC cap at 3% or much less for qualifying patients. In June 2020, the law was modified so as to add qualifying situations and change the three% THC cap to a per-patient buy restrict of 4.5 grams complete THC over a 90-day interval. Iowa doesn’t enable the sale of smokeable  flower, so patients are restricted to tablets, capsules, and vape cartridges. That 90-day restrict works out to 50mg per day per affected person, which isn’t a lot for patients managing continual ache or different situations. 

Here’s how that THC restrict could negatively have an effect on medical marijuana patients. Numerous research have discovered that some patients managing continual ache have been capable of transfer off opioids, which carry the chance of dependancy and overdose loss of life, by utilizing medical marijuana in its place. Cannabis carries a a lot decrease danger of dependency, and zero danger of loss of life by overdose. By limiting a affected person’s THC entry to 50mg per day, Iowa’s cap could stop continual ache patients from transferring off opioids through hashish substitution. That 50mg dose could merely not be sufficient. 

Zero probability of overdose loss of life from THC

It is unattainable to fatally overdose from ingesting an excessive amount of THC. High concentrations have proven opposed results in some individuals, together with elevated anxiousness and nausea. It is extensively accepted each inside the hashish group and past that hashish use might be dangerous to creating brains. In authorized US states, entry to hashish has been restricted to these 21 and older in adult-use markets. In Canada, the minimal authorized age varies—in some provinces it’s 18, in some it’s 19, and in some it’s 21. 

Old discredited tropes repurposed

According to NORML officers, the concept of imposing THC caps depends on previous and discredited prohibitionist tropes.

“Sensationalist claims alleging that today’s marijuana is far more potent, and therefore inherently more dangerous to society than the cannabis of the prior generations are nothing new,” mentioned a NORML press launch on the problem. “Such claims first emerged in the 1980s and continue to this day. That said, there exists little data substantiating fears that these products pose any sort of unique health threat. In fact, higher potent cannabis products, such as hashish, have always existed and essentially, marijuana is still the same plant it has always been — with most of the increase in strength akin to the difference between beer and wine, or between a cup of tea and an espresso.” 

Instead of trying to control THC content material, NORML officers say, lawmakers ought to productively handle public well being concern by “arming the public the with better public safety information about the effects of more potent products” and supply “further diligence on the part of regulators to ensure that legal products do not get diverted to the youth market.”

NORML State Policy Manager Carly Wolf referred to as THC caps “arbitrary, and [they] are not in the best interest of consumers and especially medical marijuana patients who need and deserve the legal option to access varying strains of cannabis in varying potencies. Alcohol and other prescription medications are already available in a variety of potencies, and similarly to cannabis, consumers self-titrate their dosages accordingly, consuming lesser amounts of higher potency products.”

Stigma persists round THC

 While the increasing hashish legalization motion exhibits that a lot of the world believes hashish to be a comparatively secure substance, the stigma round hashish use, notably the intoxicating excessive attributable to THC, persists. But Ben Pollara, amongst others, argues that THC is likely one of the most useful elements of the plant.  

“THC is one of many chemicals in marijuana but is by far and away the most active one,” Pollara writes. “It is also the one which produces the most and strongest medicinal effects for patients.”

Ellen Holland

Ellen Holland is an Oakland-based journalist who has written about hashish since 2013. A former senior editor at Cannabis Now journal, she additionally edits books about marijuana strains and cultivation.

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