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As more countries and local governments implement legalization initiatives, it is important that they be able to build their laws, rules & regulations on a solid set of standards. “Standards” will be an ongoing conversation within the cannabis industry as we strive to ensure quality and consistency.

There are literally hundreds of strains of cannabis and thousands of growers—each of whom has varying farming techniques such as fertilizer, time of harvest, amount of water, etc. These different components impact the chemical profile of the cannabis. As a result the consumer has no definitive knowledge of what they are consuming.

Driving: Standards for Measuring Intoxication/Impairment

First, the industry needs a sensible set of standards for detecting & measuring impairment due to cannabis consumption.

The current set of laws, rules & regulations, which have a standard based on THC in the bloodstream, are nonsensical as they measure THC accumulated in the blood, which is completely uncorrelated with impairment (THC accumulates over periods of days and weeks, whereas impairment is a function of the cannabis consumed only in the last few hours). Every day we read news stories about someone being arrested for having THC in their system from marijuana consumed several days prior. So, while TCH/blood tests are one element, they are an imperfect and unreliable guide relative to impairment.

There are blood tests which have been developed which measure the acidic cannabinoids or their metabolites, which may be a better indication of how long ago the person consumed cannabis, how much they consumed, and the THC level, which could ultimately be used to measure the current intoxication level. New technologies are emerging and some are not yet readily available. There will also be concerns about scalable levels of affordability/practicality. But the primary concern remains—there is no reliable standard or test for measuring cannabis intoxication.

Edibles: Dosage

There is also a need for standards regarding the number of “portions” which can be included in a package of edibles (or should there be a “single serve” only standard?). The problem is that the effects from consuming edibles are delayed as compared with inhaling.

We need to talk openly about what typically happens when a first-time consumer eats their first edible: they “titrate” their consumption, eating a little more, waiting a few minutes, eating a little more, waiting a few minutes… And they often end up eating five times the amount that they “should have” for their first ever consumption.

So, just as food products have a “serving size” recommendation, cannabis edibles also require safety standards to be developed for edibles portions, servings per package, time delay warnings, and many other factors.

The International High Unit, or IHU

The industry also needs an “international high unit” of measurement, such that regardless of the form the cannabis takes, or the method of ingestion, one IHU is as close as possible to an absolute uniform measure of “one unit of highness”. For example, one IHU might be ANY of the following:

  • 25 mg of THC of raw cannabis (blended in a smoothie for example)
  • 10 mg of THC smoked
  • 7 mg of THC via tincture
  • 5 mg of THC via edible oil-based extraction (e.g., coconut or butter)
  • 2 mg of highly bioavailable THC

Conclusion: Amount of THC alone is not a reliable measure of how “high” a certain amount of cannabis or cannabis derivative will get a person. What basis would determine what constitutes an IHU? (e.g., why not double the above numbers, or quadruple?). Perhaps the standard could be based on the amount of cannabis it takes to get an average adult of 30th percentile body weight, who has never before consumed cannabis, to feel the effects of the cannabis (a “mild buzz”).

But again, there needs to be reliable standards so that a consumer is aware, both from a recreational and medicinal perspective, of the recommended dosage for any given cannabinoid product.

Medical Standards for Diagnosis and Treatment

One area that has not even been address is the need for dosage standards for medical treatments. More and more patients are turning to cannabis for a host of medical issues from epilepsy to MS to glaucoma to cancer. The question that everyone should be asking is: what is an appropriate dose to achieve clinical effect? Obviously, this will change based on the chemical profile of the specific cannabis consumed. And therein lies the problem from a medical standpoint. Clinicians need to know exactly what they are prescribing and they need to know what dosage levels correspond to what clinical effect.

Until we have set standards for growing, testing, and labeling, the efforts to establish cannabis as a medicinal product are going to suffer.

Other Standards

We’ve really only begun to scratch the surface as it relates to cannabis standards. You should realize that this is an entirely new industry and one that has operated outside the law for the past hundred years.

Some of the things to consider:

Human Rights Standards -

  • Fair trade
  • Violence-free
  • Corruption-free
  • Child-labor-free
  • Workers’ rights

Workplace Testing Standards & Ethics -

  • Is it reasonable to discriminate against workers who consume cannabis in their free time? If so, should the same standards apply to discriminating against workers who consumer alcohol or other licit substances in their free time? What about medical patients who consume cannabis?

Advertising Standards

  • What standards exist for limiting the potential adverse impacts of advertising?

Health and Safety Warnings on Packaging

Shape, Form, Taste of Edibles Products -

  • Different from alcohol, cannabis edibles can be removed from their packaging, put on a plate or in a Ziploc bag, and may appear to be “normal food”, thus imparting the risk that unsuspecting guests might accidentally consume cannabis, and potentially a large amount of it, and potentially under dangerous circumstances (e.g., they are about to drive).

Conclusion –

Hopefully we’ve given you some things to think about as it relates to cannabis consumption and legislation. It is easy to get frustrated by the slow pace of legalization, but there is a lot to consider. And the importance and need for standards in the industry has never been greater.

- Plandaí and Cannabis – What is Our Role?
- Cannabis Law
- The Need for Standards in the Cannabis Industry
- Cancer
- Epilepsy
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Parkinson's Disease
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder


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