States that legalized recreational marijuana over the past decade are now confronting some unfinished regulatory business as they study the public health implications of new high-potency marijuana products, NBC reports. With THC levels as high as 85-90 percent, compared to 5 percent in the typical marijuana joint of 20 years ago, the newer marijuana concentrates may be linked to cases of psychosis, which has states like Washington and Colorado considering product warnings or potency caps.
“We are seeing a very significant rise in psychosis associated with the consumption of marijuana,” Dr. Nora Volkow, the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, said at a January forum. “And the higher the content of THC, the higher the likelihood of a psychotic episode.” Researchers have not determined whether such episodes can lead to permanent schizophrenia. Some public health experts have complained that industry backers of legalizing marijuana focus on the cannabis plant and fail to mention that legalization will be accompanied by a flood of cannabis concentrates. “We were not aware when we were voting [in 2012] that we were voting on anything but the plant,” said Dr. Beatriz Carlini, a research scientist at the University of Washington’s Addictions, Drug & Alcohol Institute. She has led the effort in Washington state to research high-potency pot and is now exploring policy options to limit access. Her team concluded in 2020 that “high-potency cannabis can have lifelong mental health consequences.” In a statement to NBC News, Bethany Moore, a spokesperson for the National Cannabis Industry Association, said, “The best way to address these concerns is through proper testing and labeling, as well as ensuring cannabis products are only sold to fully-informed adults through licensed facilities that are required by law to verify legal age for purchase.”