Colorado is one of the biggest success stories in the history of US weed legalization. Last year alone, the state's legal weed market made over $2.2 billion in sales, bringing the state a hefty $400 million in additional tax revenue.
But, despite the unprecedented success of this ever-growing industry, state lawmakers are proposing a new bill to rein it in with additional restrictions and regulations. This bill would create new data collection regulations on dispensaries to ensure that people are not violating the purchasing limits imposed by the adult-use law, and would also prohibit doctors from issuing medical marijuana cards to new patients via telemedicine services.
These limitations have raised some concerns in the industry, but advocates are even more concerned about a provision to cap the potency of THC concentrates. State Rep. Yadira Caraveo (D), one of the bill's primary sponsors, is arguing that this provision is necessary to keep high-potency weed out of the hands of children. Proponents of the bill are arguing that concentrates now account for about a third of all legal weed sales in the state, up from about 11 percent in 2014.
“In the last couple years, I’ve seen much more frequent use among teenagers, to the extent that I just saw a patient — young lady, cheerleader, great kid all around, but she’s been using these (high-potency) products daily and ended up in the hospital because she was vomiting constantly and lost 25 pounds,” said Caraveo to The Denver Post.
It is true that a very small percentage of weed users can develop cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome (CHS), an unknown disorder where nausea and vomiting are triggered by weed use. This rare illness can be brought on by any form of cannabis, though, and there is no known evidence suggesting that high-potency weed products increase the risk of CHS. At present, researchers have not even found any conclusive evidence that high-potency THC products are more dangerous than low-THC pot – and one study has found that these concentrates don't even get you higher than regular weed.
Caraveo actually already tried to propose a bill to impose a 15 percent THC cap on all concentrates, but this proposal was shot down by the state's Democratic leadership before it even hit the floor. But although a 15 percent cap is definitely off the table, Caraveo is still working to include some sort of THC potency cap in this new bill.
Legislators have yet to decide exactly what percentage they want to cap concentrates at, or whether they will attempt to impose a similar cap on flower or other products. Fortunately, the state's Democratic leadership is wary of imposing too many restrictions on such a successful industry, and may decide against including the cap in the final bill.
This new legislation is part of a growing trend across the country to re-criminalize high-potency weed products. Rep. Caraveo admitted that her bill was informed by lobbying efforts from notorious prohibitionist groups like Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM). In Washington state, lawmakers are now pushing a new bill that would impose a 30 percent THC cap on concentrates and limit sales to adults over 25.
“Unlike alcohol — which is routinely sold in lethal dose quantities at liquor stores throughout America (e.g., a handle of vodka) — THC, regardless of potency or quantity, cannot cause death by lethal overdose,” explained NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano in an op-ed. “Currently, the United States Food and Drug Administration regulates the production and sale of dronabinol, a pill containing 100 percent THC. Several years ago, the agency rescheduled this drug from Schedule II to Schedule III because of its remarkable safety profile.”
“Fifteen states regulate adult-use cannabis access; virtually none of these impose [THC cap] restrictions,” wrote NORML State Policies Manager Carly Wolf in a written testimony opposing Washington's proposed THC cap. “That is because such a cap is arbitrary and is not in the best interest of consumers who deserve the legal option to access varying strains of cannabis of varying potencies. Imposing such a blanket ban on these higher-potency products will not eliminate demand for said products, but it will succeed in driving this market underground — making it unregulated and unsafe.”