WA lawmakers must limit potency of marijuana products

Chances are, most Washington lawmakers don’t frequent pot shops frequently. They may not be aware of the multiple oils, extracts, and other marijuana products containing ever-increasing doses of THC, the chemical responsible for most of marijuana’s psychological effects.

But ignorance does not excuse inaction. The legislature must deal with the considerable damage caused by these products.

When cannabis was legalized for recreational use in Washington from 2014, extracted cannabis, which includes concentrates, accounted for about 9% of the market. Concentrates now make up 35%, according to 2020 data from the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board.

While a typical cannabis flower contains on average around 20% THC, some very concentrated forms called “dabs” contain up to 90%.

As detailed by Hannah Furfaro, Seattle Times reporter, researchers are increasingly concerned about the impact of these highly potent drugs on adult health. The devastation on the children should ring the alarm bells even louder.

There is a lot of research linking frequent cannabis use in young people to psychotic symptoms. Anecdotally, pediatricians here are reporting an increasing number of adolescents in the emergency room suffering from psychotic episodes, disorientation and severe vomiting, called cannabis hyperemesis syndrome.

Pediatricians say some young people with little or no THC tolerance who try extremely potent products end up having psychotic episodes or experiencing temporary difficulty speaking or thinking. Long-term users of THC-rich products experience severe bouts of vomiting, dehydration, and stomach pain.

Dr. Cora Breuner, professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington and physician at Seattle Children’s Hospital, noted that she is referring more young people for cannabis use disorder than five years ago. . Demand now exceeds available resources.

Lawmakers gave researchers $500,000 to study potential regulatory measures. A report is expected by the end of the year.

Raising the purchase age to 25 from 21, raising taxes and adding warning labels were suggested as possible actions.

The best answer would be to cap the potency of THC.

Rep. Lauren Davis, D-Shoreline, proposed two THC cap bills that failed to make it out of committee in recent legislative sessions. One bill would have capped THC concentrates at 10%, the other at 30%.

Davis said lawmakers have been slow to grasp the public health ramifications of marijuana legalization.

“The vast majority of Washingtonians do not use cannabis and have never visited a cannabis retail outlet. They know nothing about cannabis-induced psychotic disorders. It sounds like science fiction to them,” Davis said “Asking lawmakers to be essentially ahead of public understanding on an issue is a tall order. I don’t think it’s impossible or insurmountable.”

Marijuana industry advocates say such regulations will simply force growers underground. By this reasoning, Washington is being blackmailed into encouraging an industry without rules or restrictions.

Twenty years ago, prescription opioids were considered a breakthrough in pain relief. We now understand the human costs of addiction and dysfunction. This state shouldn’t make the same mistake with high potency marijuana.

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