Experts: Regulate Marijuana Potency to Lower Psychosis Risk
There is a worldwide trend toward liberalization and increasing consumption of marijuana. One of the only real harmful side effects of the drug (not withstanding use by motorists) is the potential for transient symptoms of psychosis, particularly among novice users.
You may recall the 2015 “American Sniper” trial wherein prosecutors successfully countered a claim by the defendant who fatally shot the sniper and then alleged he suffered from schizophrenia. Prosecutors opined he was simply high. Also in 2015, there was the case of a 49-year-old Denver man accused of killing his wife after eating marijuana-infused candy he had just purchased legally at a marijuana dispensary. Defense attorneys have argued defendant was so high, he did not intend to kill his wife. Then there was a death of a college student who jumped to his death after reportedly eating a potent marijuana cookie.
In each case, questions have arisen regarding the potency of these drugs. In the wake of this, researchers with King College’s London’s Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience are urging regulators to fund scientific studies that will more accurately show how we can make marijuana safer.
Robin Murray, a professor at the institute, told London reporters at the briefing that we should expect that more people are going to be consuming marijuana globally – whether others support that choice or not – and the goal should be to explore if there are safer means and varieties.
There are some studies that show certain strains of the drug may be less likely to result in symptoms of psychosis, but further research is necessary to nail down exactly why that is and replicate it.
Murray and Amir Englund recently published a paper called, “Can we make cannabis safer?” which notes the average potency of THC in marijuana has doubled over the last four decades.
THC, or delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol – is the primary active chemical compound in marijuana. The other is cannabidiol. Some forms of marijuana are extremely potent, containing high levels of THC, but lower levels of CBD. There is some research to suggest that CBD acts as a neutralizer in terms of potency, reducing problems with memory loss or paranoia.
Canada is preparing to legalize the drug for recreational use this year. Many states in the U.S. – including California – now allow for medicinal and recreational marijuana. In some areas where the drug isn’t tightly regulated, researchers said, the potency of the drug can reach up to 75 percent THC.
Lawmakers in both Uruguay and the Netherlands (where marijuana is also legal) have raised the question of whether to cap THC potency at 15 percent. Another idea that has been tossed around was to tax the drug according to the content of its THC, charging more for higher-potency marijuana.
The strategy of creating strains of the drug with higher CBD levels to offset some of the effects of the THC are promising, but we still need more study to determine whether that’s really going to address the issue. Such research has historically been challenging in the U.S., where federal drug laws have severely restricted who can study the drug and to what extent.
The Los Angeles CANNABIS LAW Group represents growers, dispensaries, collectives, patients and those facing marijuana charges. Call us at 949-375-4734.
Regulate cannabis potency to reduce psychosis risk, experts say, March 2, 2017, Reuters
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White House Will Step Up Federal Marijuana Enforcement, Feb. 27, 2017, Marijuana Attorney Blog