In Search of a Proper Dosage: Advocates Seek to Create a Standard Unit of Highness

By: Timothy Bidon

To say medical marijuana has made modest strides over the last year would be a gross understatement. With a total of 25 states and regions with legalized recreational and medical marijuana, the cannabis industry in America is hardly recognizable from where it once was. This is good news: more patients are receiving medical marijuana in the United States than ever before, which has spurred reduction in opioid dependence and bolstered research surrounding medical marijuana. One area that is lacking, however, is any standardization in terms of proper dosages and consumption methods.

Indeed, a standardized understanding of potency and dosage amounts may very well  be one of the final obstacles preventing a fully nationalized medical marijuana program, and with good reason. Medical marijuana patients are just that: patients. As other medicines and medical practices grow increasingly streamlined and personalized, don’t medical marijuana patients deserve the same luxury? Even alcoholic beverages, which have all but zero medical benefit, are highly regulated and standardized by the government. It is for this reason that all alcoholic beverages are required, by law, to display an alcohol content percentage. In doing so, consumers are able to monitor and control their intake and decide on a personal pace of intoxication.

Marijuana, unfortunately, is not as easily measured for a number of factors. As patients continue to learn, the effects of marijuana can fluctuate wildly depending on consumption method. In Colorado, for example, the state has begun to enforce more strict labeling laws on edibles, requiring that companies display units of active THC in measurements of 10 milligrams. The program has been met with much success, but is far from perfect in that edibles and THC effect every individual differently. Furthermore, a different consumption method (say, smoking or inhaling vapor) may result in a very different potency level for an individual patient.

Furthermore, many regulators are still simply too behind the times. A report issued by CBS News in 2015 found that marijuana is significantly more potent than it used to be. This presents a significant obstacle in that, for the most part, marijuana is still sold by mass or weight, without always specifying the specific chemical makeup of that strain. Unfortunately, this ends up leaving patients in the dark, especially older generations who have witnessed the potency of marijuana more than triple since the 1980s.

Until our country’s regulatory agencies agree on a system to adequately measure and regulate the potency of medical marijuana in all its forms, patients will be forced to experiment on their own. While we still have a long way to go, we shouldn’t be discouraged by this news. Indeed, the story of medical marijuana has been one of radical expansion in terms of access and understanding; this obstacle merely provides another opportunity to show patients, advocates and other industry experts just how serious the medical marijuana movement is.