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How do we solve a problem like high-potency marijuana?

Trimmed flower is seen in the final stages of processing at a facility in Medway.Erin Clark/Globe Staff

Harms of high THC content can be avoided through education

The Jan. 25 editorial “High-potency marijuana carries health risks” misses several important realities about cannabis users. I agree with most of the harms stated in the article, many of which can be avoided by educating consumers to “start low, go slow,” and by scrupulously avoiding cannabis use in vulnerable populations, such as teens, pregnant or breastfeeding women, and people with a history of psychosis.

As a cannabis clinician and participant in the legalization movement for the last quarter century, I have found that, in my experience, most cannabis users regulate their consumption, or self-titrate, to their own level of comfort. Your editorial makes it sound as if cannabis users typically use more and more of the product, but cases of marijuana use disorder are rare. It is uncomfortable to consume too much. This is where the anxiety and paranoia come in, and cannabis users tend to try to avoid this.

I agree that we fetishize high THC levels and that both the cannabis experience and the health of cannabis users might be better with lower THC consumption. We should incorporate the other components of cannabis more, such as CBD and other minor cannabinoids, not just THC. Yet if we limit the potency, people are likely to consume larger amounts to reach the same desired effect. All this accomplishes is to make the cannabis experience less healthy (people will smoke more) and more expensive for medical patients on fixed incomes, such as veterans and seniors.


I believe that the main harm of products that are high in THC is accidental overconsumption. For example, baby boomers who take the same three bong hits they did in college, when cannabis was more like 3 percent THC, now take the same three hits of 20 percent THC and have an awful, anxious experience. Though, of note, no one dies from cannabis overconsumption, which is untrue of other drugs. I agree with the risk you cite that imposing potency limits would drive consumers to the illicit market, which is more dangerous on all levels, since the cannabis is unmonitored, unregulated, and unlabeled.


Dr. Peter Grinspoon


The writer, an instructor at Harvard Medical School, is the author of “Seeing Through the Smoke: A Cannabis Specialist Untangles the Truth About Marijuana.”

Setting caps on potency would be poor policy

Imposing arbitrary potency caps on THC content is not in the interest of either public health or safety.

Higher THC products, like hashish, are hardly a new phenomenon. Typically, when consumers encounter higher-potency products, they consume lesser quantities of them. This self-regulatory process is known as self-titration.

Unlike alcohol, THC is incapable of causing a lethal overdose in humans. This fact is acknowledged by the US Drug Enforcement Administration, which has concluded, “No deaths from overdose of marijuana have been reported.”

Prohibiting adults from accessing these products from state-licensed retailers will not eliminate consumers’ demand for them. Rather, it will encourage consumers to seek out higher-THC products in the unregulated market. It will also move the production of these products exclusively underground. This undermines the primary goal of legalization, which is to provide patients with safe, above-ground access to lab-tested products of known purity, potency, and quality.

Rather than banning these products, regulators should provide the public with better safety information about the effects of more potent products, and they should continue to ensure that legal products do not get diverted to the youth market.


Paul Armentano

Deputy director

National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws

Washington, D.C.

Youth and young adults are especially vulnerable to drug’s ill effects

Your editorial about the dangers of cannabis is important to read. I’m concerned, for example, about the dispensary that has been planned for the Cleveland Circle neighborhood, across the street from a public park.

Research is clear about the detrimental effects of cannabis on youth as well as on people at least into their mid-30s. City officials may point to state law that prohibits sales of cannabis to individuals under 21. Yet, as the editorial notes, Boston Children’s Hospital reports a significant increase in children admitted with dangerous symptoms associated with marijuana use.

Many cannabis users respond that cannabis is less dangerous than cocaine or alcohol. Dr. Yasmin Hurd, a cannabis researcher at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York and a panelist in an event last year at Harvard Law School, responds, “Do you prefer jumping off from the 10th floor or the fifth floor?”

Cheryl Weinstein


The writer is board certified in clinical neuropsychology.