For some years now, particularly in the U.S. as the marijuana legalization movement gathers national steam for the first time, one issue that continues to be mis-characterized (and by both sides of the debate) is the topic of the increased strength of marijuana in even its natural form.
That most marijuana and even other ‘drugs’ are more potent than they used to be is not a question. It is fact. Growers are deliberately increasing the strength and concentration of plants for several reasons.
The first is profit. A strain of high potency means a higher price. It also means that growers can start to sell crops to either direct wholesale outlets or other buyers (like manufacturers) based on THC content rather than just weight, which is how the market has existed to date.
On another front, the rise of the corporate and formal edibles market (which is about 50% of the entire U.S. market today) means that such equations are also no longer valid. It is possible to create products with an exact measured “dose” of THC and this also is starting to challenge the conversation about overdosing and labelling.
While it has long been a truism that has worked its way into the reform conversation, the fact of the matter is that the marijuana that people use is not the same plant or proposition it used to be.
This is an issue that the reform movement is facing front and centre, particularly given the high stakes of further forward reform. Several national reform groups have already launched social media enabled educational campaigns.
In the United States, the federal government does in fact maintain one grow facility (at the University of Mississippi) and where contractors to take over an expansion of the crop have so far been very hard to find this year. One of the biggest reasons is because the government only wants to grow a strain of marijuana that is far weaker than that found in every legitimate state market now in operation across the country.
Because there has been no real understanding, testing or debate about these issues in most places, thanks to ongoing federal interdiction and the scheduling of marijuana as a substance with no medical efficacy, such issues already devolved this year in ways that will continue to undermine forward progress until honestly and directly faced.
There is little conversation, in the public sphere, for example, and outside helpful dispensaries and pot shops in fact, about even the differences, medically and recreationally between Indica and Sativa strains. This is also very significant in the U.S. in particular as hemp crops, (low in THC and high in CBD) are also being grown specifically for medical use and for paediatric use (specifically childhood epilepsy).
On the packaging, dosing and labelling front, these issues will continue to hold reform back unless honestly faced by reformers. The fact that Colorado left so much of the edibles industry unregulated until after market start was a big deal politically this year as well.
Early in the year, at market start in Colorado, one of the un-addressed issues in fact was dosing and labelling of edible products. That began to spread out in every state and was echoed by national reform organizations who have taken a leading role in public education in the face of ongoing obstruction at the federal level ever since.
This is also, clearly, a debate for a time when the basic issues of legalization have been cleared off the table.
That time, particularly given sovereign national government movement globally and not only in forward thinking U.S. states is now here.
One thing is certain as the U.S. for one, enters a bold new year with four recreational states now moving towards full operation and a host of others who changed regulatory policies just in 2014, not to mention what is about to happen next year and as the nation moves towards a presidential election two years hence.
The conversations that have taken place about the efficacy and potency of marijuana, for any purpose, are becoming one of the hotter new issues of the face of reform.
By Marguerite Arnold