Rising Potency of Cannabis Leads to Dangerous Effects
By: Emily Wan
With the amount of stress teenagers face, many are turning to vaping cannabis as a source of relief. It has no distinct odor, making it easy to hide and is convenient to use. Yet multiple health conditions are associated with heavy use of cannabis, especially as its potency is increasing.
The psychoactive component of marijuana, THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol), causes people to experience euphoria and relaxation, along with increased appetite and laughter, along with several other effects that vary from person to person. However, high doses of THC can cause cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome, which induces recurrent vomiting.
Teenagers are especially vulnerable with their developing brains, many experiencing uncontrollable addiction, psychosis that can lead to long term psychiatric disorder, anxiety, and increased likelihood of depression and suicidal thoughts.
A study of users in Europe and Brazil also found that daily high potency cannabis users have five times the risk of psychotic disorder than those who have never used any.
The dangers of cannabis are exacerbated by the rising levels of THC in cannabis plants. For example, cannabis samples seized by the Drug Enforcement Administration in 1955 had around 4% concentration of THC. In 2017, it was around 17%, a significant increase. However, new cannabis products like oils, waxes, shatter, and edibles have THC levels exceeding to 95%. The concentration of CBD (Cannabidiol), the non-intoxicating component in cannabis, is also going down for plants that produce high amounts of THC, potentially making them more addictive.
Even though recreational cannabis is federally illegal in the US for people under 21, many states have legalized it, making it more accessible. The products are labeled and advertised in colorful containers that appeal to teenagers, and are becoming increasingly popular. Only two states, Vermont and Connecticut, impose THC concentration caps, banning any above 60% with exceptions of pre-filled cartridges and do not allow any plant material to exceed 30%.
Despite this, there is little evidence that these levels are safer in any way.