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With the growing acceptance of the legal cannabis industry across the United States, more states are diving deeper into regulatory questions. The latest push around legislatures has been THC Caps, which would limit the potency of THC in various products depending on the state’s guidelines.
Lawmakers believe that limiting the strength of marijuana will be in the interest of public safety, which seems like a commonsense argument. However, when one looks at how manipulating the potency of THC would impact our bodies and society, it’s clear that they are not the answer to responsible legislating of the cannabis industry.
At the Blinc Group, we wrote a white paper, “Six Reasons that THC Caps Are a Bad Idea,” examining the implications of THC Caps on the vaping industry. It demonstrates, backed by existing research that THC Caps will endanger the public, lead to dangerous products entering the market, and keep necessary medicines out of patients’ hands.
It also would require manufacturers to dilute their concentrates with additives to meet the lower standards. While regulations are up in the air from state to state, the unsafe additives will pose a greater health risk to consumers, possibly resulting in an uptick in EVALI cases.
The Colorado Cannabis Manufacturers Association (CCMA) agrees that THC Caps are not in the industry or consumers’ best interests.
“Restricting THC levels drives the illicit market, thereby increasing access to youth. Such belligerent policy harms the wellbeing of law-abiding patients and adults. CCMA supports commonsense legislation to drive youth education and prevention while promoting product quality and safety,” Kevin Gallagher, Executive Director CCMA.
Here are some common arguments for THC caps that are not true.
Related: 4 Reasons Why States Shouldn’t Ban Delta-8 THC
1. Restricting THC levels will not prevent youth from accessing marijuana concentrates
Some are concerned that legal marijuana laws will make it easier for teens to access the drug. But teens have reported that even in states where marijuana is illegal, it is easy for them to obtain, indicating that restrictions will have little to no impact on teen usage. The overall percentage of teens reporting easy access to marijuana has decreased since 2000.
2. Restricting THC levels will not increase marijuana-related arrests
Despite proactive steps regulators are taking to ban dangerous substances found within marijuana products, illicit manufacturers will not play by the same set of rules. Imposing restrictions on THC concentrations will likely have a similar effect to Prohibition in the early 20th century; annual spending on alcohol during Prohibition was higher than pre-Prohibitions levels. Just as people turned to bootleg alcohol distillers, the illicit market of vape products would rapidly increase to fill the demand for high-potency products.
In states that have legalized or decriminalized marijuana, arrest rates have plummeted. Restricting THC concentration levels would create a larger illicit market, increasing marijuana-related arrests. If trends were to continue, communities of color would be disproportionately affected.
3. Restricting THC levels will not place young people at greater risk
Young Americans between 18 and 29 years old are more than twice as likely as adults 30 to 64 years old to vape, with younger adults less likely to say that vaping is bad for their health. In just two years, from 2017 to 2019, there was a doubling in the number of college-aged adults (19 to 22 years old) who reported vaping marijuana products. The prevalence of vaping among other young age groups is also on the rise, putting these young adults at a greater risk than their non-vaping counterparts if lawmakers impose THC caps.
4. Restricting THC levels will not increase risks for all marijuana consumers
During a 2020 raid of an unlicensed dealer in California, authorities seized 10,000 vape cartridges. Testing on the products revealed that 75 percent had undisclosed additives like vitamin E acetate and polyethylene glycol. These products were also inaccurately labeled. Studies showed that vape cartridges claiming to be highly potent, between 80 to 85 percent THC concentrations, only had 33 percent THC. This, along with the fact that 77 percent of EVALI patients bought vape cartridges from informal or online dealers, highlights the importance of maintaining availability to high potency, regulated vape products. Even with legal, regulated products, THC caps would require them to be diluted with additives as well, increasing health risks beyond what is found in a naturally derived product. This could likely lead to a similar response, causing consumers to suffer from vaping-related lung conditions and even death.
5. Restricting THC levels in the regulated market will place public safety at risk.
By 2018, concentrated THC products represented a third of all legal marijuana sales within the US, equating to $10.3 billion. Without access to regulated, highly potent THC concentrates, it will leave users left to find alternatives. While purchasing and using THC concentrates from illicit distributors can pose health risks to the consumer, other options put public safety at risk. To find the highly potent THC concentrates, some users will resort to making it themselves, which can turn into a hazardous process.
6. Restricting THC levels in the regulated market will create inaccurate and mixed messaging for consumers and youth
Placing restrictions on THC levels would only serve to create inaccurate and mixed messaging for consumers and youth. Despite no evidence showing that high-potency THC concentrates harm legal adult users, THC caps would inaccurately imply that higher levels are dangerous and pose detrimental health effects. Instead of implementing caps, legal adult users should be able to make their own decisions on what amount of THC they want in their products. At the same time, THC caps imply to youth that they can safely consume amounts of THC. Establishing an arbitrary THC limit based on perceptions of safety levels would only encourage more youth to believe that certain levels are safe.
While there are good intentions behind the concept of THC Caps, regulators have not looked at how they will adversely affect patients and consumers. THC Caps will endanger the public and keep the illicit market thriving. Rather than creating a safe market, imposing THC caps would strengthen the demand for unregulated, inferior marijuana concentrates.
Regulators need to work with researchers and scientists in the cannabis industry to understand the effects of THC on the body before arbitrarily creating standards that they don’t understand.