Throughout legalization efforts, concentrated cannabis products (such as wax, resin, or shatter) have always been a major concern among researchers. And the primary reason is simple—products with high concentrations of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are more likely to have harmful side effects.

However, the concern has only grown in recent years. In Washington specifically, concentrates made up about 9% of the market when initially legalized in 2014. In 2020, that number rose to 35%.

“This is a case of product development trumping science and trumping policy,” Beatriz Carlini, a scientific researcher who looks into Washington’s legal cannabis market, told The Seattle Times. “Nobody was aware we were legalizing this.”

Naturally, there have been arguments against these claims. With Burl Bryson, executive director at The Cannabis Alliance, noting, “Those products were envisioned. In a mature market, you’re going to see an increased use of concentrates over flower.”

And these arguments can be furthered considering concentrated cannabis products aren’t a new phenomenon. In fact, they’ve been around for thousands of years.

But research concerning concentrates is a very new phenomenon. With most federal government research being limited to regulations surrounding cannabis research.

Still, emerging evidence has given us some insight into the effects concentrates have on the general population. And it’s been determined that higher THC potencies lead to an increase risk of psychosis. Not to mention, a heightened risk of developing psychosis in individuals who would otherwise not experience this condition.

With this research, there’s naturally been a growing concern over how high-potency THC has an affect on the youth—notably, in the long-term. While research suggests frequent cannabis use leads to more psychotic symptoms among the youth, there’s hardly anything out there concerning the role concentrates play in this.

How Washington Plans to Circumvent Concentrate Sales

As mentioned, such concerns are nothing new to the cannabis industry. In fact, lawmakers have been trying to find ways to curb highly concentrated products from the marketplace.

One of the most notable ways is through THC caps—setting a limit on how much THC is allowed within a product. As of this time, only Connecticut and Vermont have gone through with such regulations. In both states, concentrates are not allowed to pass 60% THC.

Another measure is providing warning labels on products, as is being considered in California. These warnings would give insight into the potential mental health consequences of high-potency THC, in the hopes of providing customers with more insight into the risks they’re taking.

In order to figure out proper regulations, Washington gave Carlini and a group of researchers received $500,000 to study potential regulatory measures. While this report won’t be made public until December, it has been submitted to the Washington State Heath Care Authority.

Some efforts are already being made to place a THC-cap on cannabis products in Washington. With Rep. Lauren Davis (D-Shoreline) recommending on bill that would place a cap as low as 10%.

There’s also been some speculation that Washington may simply raise taxes on these products in the hopes of dissuading purchases.

Still, there’s no denying that more research is required in order to figure out what regulations would fit these circumstances. Even more so, it may be equally as important to simply inform customers of what a highly-potent THC product entails.

There have been previous reports of heightened emergency care admission due to cannabis poisioning. However, in many of these cases, the people being admitted were new to cannabis and had no idea what a reasonable dose looked like.

The concerns discussed here are likely due to the infancy of this market. A notable trait even we forget considering recreational cannabis has been around for almost a decade. However, when we look into the research and how little we still know about cannabis and our relationship to it, such concerns are only natural.



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