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Lawmaker Proposes THC Limits In Legal Marijuana

Assemblyman Mike Lawler, R-Pearl River, speaks at a news conference in May.

At least one state lawmaker wants to see limits on the potency of legal marijuana sold in New York state.

Rep. Mike Lawler, R-Pearl River, proposed A.8123 recently to make revisions to the state’s newly-passed Cannabis Law to cap THC levels at 15% for marijuana flowers and 60% for solid concentrates and edibles.

“Frequent consumption of high-potency cannabis can result in serious health conditions, including neurotoxicity and substance use disorders,” Lawler wrote in his legislative justification. “Capping the potency of recreational marijuana will allow New Yorkers to use marijuana as they see fit, while working to reduce the risk of long-term health impacts, including the impacts on our health care system.”

Florida lawmakers have proposed a 10% THC limit on marijuana flowers and a 16% THC limit on edibles sold in Florida’s medical marijuana marketplace. California limits the THC in edible products but not in products that can be smoked while Illinois places a 15% tax on cannabis with THC levels of more than 35%.

U.S. Sens. Diannen Feinstein, D-California, and John Cornryn, R-Texas, are asking the National Institutes of Health to research the impacts of high-potency cannabis and to make a recommendation with the Food and Drug Administration if states should limit THC in marijuana sold in state-sponsored markets.

“Recently, the state of New York passed legislation to legalize recreational marijuana,” Lawler wrote in his legislative justification. “Sorely missing from this legislation were potency caps on the THC levels contained in cannabis products. Currently, very few states have passed legislation capping the potency of marijuana, though several are considering legislation that would.”

A June 2020 study by University of Colorado at Boulder researchers found that smoking high-potency marijuana concentrates boosts blood levels of THC more than twice as much as smoking conventional marijuana, but it doesn’t necessarily result in a greater high. The paper was published in JAMA Psychiatry and assessed the acute impact of cannabis among real-world users of legal market products.

“It raises a lot of questions about how quickly the body builds up tolerance to cannabis and whether people might be able to achieve desired results at lower doses,” said Cinnamon Bidwell, the study’s lead author and an assistant professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder Institute of Cognitive Science.

The researchers aren’t sure how the concentrate group could have such high THC levels without greater intoxication, but they suspect a few things are at play: Regular users of concentrates likely develop a tolerance over time. There may be genetic or biological differences that make some people metabolize THC more quickly. And it may be that once compounds in marijuana, called cannabinoids, fill receptors in the brain that spark intoxication, additional cannabinoids have little impact.

“Cannabinoid receptors may become saturated with THC at higher levels, beyond which there is a diminishing effect of additional THC,” the researchers wrote in their paper.

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