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Medical marijuana is stronger than it needs to be, study suggests

Medical marijuana is stronger ...
US researchers found most medical marijuana contains THC levels above 15 percent, which is triple what studies suggest is necessary for medical uses such as pain relief
US researchers found most medical marijuana contains THC levels above 15 percent, which is double what studies suggest is necessary for medical uses such as pain relief
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US researchers found most medical marijuana contains THC levels above 15 percent, which is triple what studies suggest is necessary for medical uses such as pain relief
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US researchers found most medical marijuana contains THC levels above 15 percent, which is double what studies suggest is necessary for medical uses such as pain relief

A new study has tracked the potency of cannabis products across a number of American states, finding the majority of medical marijuana is stronger than it needs to be for pain relief purposes. The research suggests higher THC levels are unnecessary for medical uses and can increase the risk of negative side effects.

"We know that high-potency products should not have a place in the medical realm because of the high risk of developing cannabis-use disorders, which are related to exposure to high THC-content products," explains Alfonso Edgar Romero-Sandoval, lead author on the new study.

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the primary psychoactive compound in cannabis. Over the past few decades THC levels in herbal marijuana have been consistently rising. Between 2006 and 2016 one study suggested THC levels on average had risen from five percent to 10 percent. And following the spread of recreational laws, THC levels have further increased to over 20 percent.

A study from last year found higher THC concentrations could be linked to greater rates of psychosis, and as THC levels in plants have risen, CBD (cannabidiol) levels have dropped. CBD is suspected to be a potent anti-psychotic agent, and a balance between THC and CBD in marijuana is important in reducing the risk of negative long-term side effects.

This new research set out to understand what levels of THC and CBD are in a variety of legal cannabis products, and whether these products are suitable for medical uses.

"Several earlier studies showed that levels of up to 5% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – the main psychoactive compound in marijuana that provides pain relief as well as intoxication – were sufficient to reduce chronic pain with minimal side effects,” says Romero-Sandoval.

The researchers examined over 8,000 cannabis products from more than 600 dispensaries in nine American states. The results revealed the vast majority of products, advertised for either medical or recreational purposes, contained over 15 percent THC. The study also noted lower levels of CBD in products with the highest concentrations of THC.

Referencing one particular local study investigating the legal cannabis market in Washington state, the researchers note between 2014 and 2016 over 90 percent of all marijuana flower sales consisted of product with THC concentrations higher than 15 percent. This unsurprisingly suggests commercial markets prefer potent product, and it subsequently ends up dominating the market, both in recreational and medical circles.

Better regulation of the potency of medical marijuana products is critical
Alfonso Edgar Romero-Sandoval

“… our findings suggest that medicinal programs are operating in a similar fashion to recreational programs based on the products they offer online (high THC), which are not adequate for medical use and could contribute to risky misconceptions towards medicinal cannabis,” the researchers write in the conclusion to the new study.

If studies point to 5 percent THC concentrations as perhaps ideal for medical cannabis pain relief, and if there are possible increases in risk factors for negative complications as THC levels rise, then Romero-Sandoval suggests there needs to be clear regulation of medical cannabis products.

"Better regulation of the potency of medical marijuana products is critical,” says Romero-Sandoval. “The FDA regulates the level of over-the-counter pain medications such as ibuprofen that have dose-specific side effects, so why don't we have policies and regulations for cannabis, something that is far more dangerous?"

The new study was published in the journal PLOS ONE.

Source: Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center

10 comments
Rusty Harris
Gee, who didn't see that coming. Medical marijuana is a joke, from the standpoint pretty much anyone can get a "medial marijuana" ID card. It's for people that don't really have a condition that marijuana can help, to smoke pot, get stoned without getting busted.
Wombat56
Here's another article saying medical cannabis may be no good for acute pain at all.

https://sciencebasedmedicine.org/cannabinoids-for-acute-pain/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=cannabinoids-for-acute-pain
aki009
First, I'm sure there are cases where Marijuana makes a difference. However, there are enough wink-nod-smirk cases to know that "medical use" is a joke for the vast majority of the people I see and know using it. I'm also a bit surprised that the same cohorts of anti-smoking police aren't out in force against all the weedheads lighting up seemingly everywhere. I fail to see how one type of second hand smoke is so much different from another.
Bob809
Shame they are not so keen on reducing negative side effects in manufactured chemical drugs as much as they seem to be here.
piperTom
Who are these researchers? And who funded the study. The PLOS ONE site doesn't say; sounds like it might be the DEA. And why is more concentrated medication a problem? Surely, if you have advice of a doctor, you'll get as much as you need, not as much as would be fun. As for the kiil-joys who say there are false medical "needs" where the real intent is recreational, THAT problem is due to the ongoing drug WAR, not from users.
MJBadagliacco
Just like ANYTHING, including prescription drugs as well as non-prescription drugs, it is a case by case basis as to what dosage is applicable to that individual. All the naysayers are the same people who believe it is an addictive substance when virtually ALL credible studies refute the claim of cannabis being addictive. It is primarily a religious-based argument that demonized cannabis in the first place, along with a willing pharmaceutical industry (because they could not patent it) and a corrupt government... Cannabis is harmless depending on how you use it... but has excellent benefits as well for those to whom it applies.
PeteKK
Nothing wrong with the strength... just adjust the dosage. Besides, if you want it for just pain... then take CBD's which don't get you high. Personally... IMHO once the universities and big pharma get a hold of a natural substance... they'll dissect it, find the active ingredient, super concentrate it, manufacture it, distribute it and then when people start dying from what they created... the government will step in and ban it. These people need to stop trying to fix what isn't broken.
steveofthenw
Just like there's no such thing as too much horsepower, there is no such thing as too potent weed. And I especially love the self-righteous among us who decry its use under any circumstance. So what if people don't use it entirely to alleviate pain. God forbid anybody derive a little euphoria from the use of something so benign.
aksdad
I love reading the defenders of "medical marijuana" argue about dosage. Good stuff. Never mind that controlled studies that tested for pain relief found that it was on par with typical over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen; nowhere near as powerful as opioids, which have their own problems. Of course we all knew that "medical marijuana" wasn't about medicine. It was about legalizing a recreational drug. Take the ibuprofen and avoid the gateway drug of marijuana. What? Didn't know it was a gateway drug or that it increases the chances of psychosis or roid rage (without the 'roids)? Yep. Psychotropic drugs mess with your brain, usually permanently.
paul04
still safer with less side effects than 90% of legal(?) painkillers from big pharma, and safer with less side effects than100% of alcohol.