Category Archives: Washington

The link between cannabis concentrates and psychosis | Guest View

By Lauren Davis, published in the Edmonds Beacon, February 18, 2021

In 2012, Washington voters approved Initiative 502, legalizing cannabis. Back then, the black market was dominated by dried cannabis flower, with a potency of approximately 10%.

Dried cannabis flower is biologically limited to about 30% potency, and I-502 capped the potency of edibles at 10%.

But in an oversight of extraordinary proportions, there was no potency limit established for cannabis concentrates like THC-infused vape oils, shatter, and dab wax. Enter science, industry, business investors, and profit motivation and, today, concentrates with 99 percent potency are readily available at cannabis retailers.

According to researchers, these concentrates are “as close to the cannabis plant as strawberries are to Frosted Strawberry Pop-Tarts.” Cannabis concentrate sales have soared from 14% of the market share in 2015 to 37% in 2019.

I have devoted my professional and legislative career to mental health and substance use prevention, treatment, and recovery.

Spurred by reports of youth with cannabis-induced psychosis filling emergency departments and psychiatric wards and high school students having psychotic episodes after dabbing (inhaling), I began to delve into the research on cannabis and psychosis.

The literature is both definitive and damning. Washington’s leading cannabis experts at the University of Washington and Washington State University recently released a consensus statement summarizing the science:

“High potency cannabis use can have lifelong mental health consequences, which often manifest in adolescence or early adulthood. Daily cannabis use, particularly of high potency products, increases the risk of developing a psychotic disorder, like schizophrenia, and is related to an earlier onset of symptoms compared to people who do not use cannabis.”

During the 2020 legislative session, I introduced a bill to cap the potency of cannabis concentrates at 10%. This figure matched the limit for edibles and was a starting point for negotiation. The bill included an exemption for patients using high potency concentrates for medical purposes.

I had numerous meetings with cannabis industry representatives, and no one was aware of the psychosis link. Though they disagreed with my proposed solution, industry leaders were emphatic in their commitment to coming to the table as thoughtful partners to address this issue.

So, you can imagine my surprise when, instead of proposing more palatable policy solutions as promised, cannabis industry representatives testified before the House Commerce & Gaming committee that the research implicating cannabis in psychotic disorders is unfounded.

Borrowing from the well-worn playbooks of their forefathers, big tobacco and opioid manufacturers, cannabis business leaders attempted to poke holes in the science and offer alternative explanations.

In 1957, tobacco industry director Clarence Cook Little wrote: “No one has established that cigarette smoke, or any one of its known constituents, is cancer-causing to man.”

Sixty-three years later, cannabis industry leaders testified to our legislature that “cannabis use [is] not independently associated with psychosis.”

Modeling after Purdue Pharma, the opioid maker that wrote that addiction “is not caused by drugs … it is triggered in a susceptible individual by exposure to drugs,” the cannabis industry tried to offer a counter theory – that it is people who have a genetic predisposition for psychotic disorders who are developing them and then using cannabis to self-medicate.

That theory has been debunked by studies that account for family history and still show a significant increase in psychotic disorders from cannabis use.

I never anticipated the cannabis industry would enthusiastically agree to a low potency limit. I only expected them to make good on their word – to show up as earnest partners in addressing their product’s role in one of the largest emerging health crises of our time.

When the industry’s opening move is to spit on the consensus of the scientific community in the spirit of climate deniers, it’s difficult not to question the sincerity of their espoused commitment to public health.

I’ve introduced House Bill 1463, which caps the potency of cannabis concentrates at 30% and raises the age of purchase for concentrates from 21 to 25. Washington’s cannabis industry now has a second chance to act with integrity and come to the table as problem solvers.

It is only the fate of our children with which we are gambling.

Rep. Lauren Davis (D-Shoreline) serves northern King County and a portion of Edmonds in the 32nd Legislative District. She was the founding executive director of the Washington Recovery Alliance and taught UW’s graduate mental health policy course.

Washington legislators propose curb on high potency marijuana concentrates

A bipartisan group of 22 Washington state legislators introduced a bill to curb the potency of marijuana concentrates.

Citing concerns about the connection between cannabis and psychosis, the lawmakers want to slash the potency of cannabis products, limiting THC levels to no more than 10%.    The ban would be limited, because it  doesn’t cover products sold as “medical.”

House Bill 2546, would outlaw the vast majority of state-licensed vape cartridges, dabs, wax, extracts and other concentrates. These products account for nearly 40% of state-regulated marijuana sales in 2019. 

In Washington, as in Colorado, typical strains of raw cannabis flower average around 20% THC. However, this bill only applies to extracts, and it would still allow the high-potency raw marijuana.

Hamza Warsame, a Seattle teen, jumped 6 stories to his death after smoking pot for the first time.  An older friend purchased the high-potency marijuana at a legal pot shop.  Investigators on the case called the 16-year-old’s death an accident, not a crime.  

In 2016, Colorado citizens introduced a ballot to cap the THC at 16%.   The industry objected and used hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy off the petitioners of this sensible public safety suggestion

Alex Berenson’s concerns about marijuana and psychosis

A year ago, writer Alex Berenson published Tell Your Children the Truth about Marijuana, Mental Illness and Violence.   The book will become available in paperback on February 18, 2020.

USA Today has published a provocative series on the links between marijuana and psychosis, as well as the problems related to vaping THC.   Although Washington did not ban vaping products, this bill would affect marijuana vapes.

Rick Steves Misrepresents Legalization Violations in Washington State

Yesterday Rick Steves was on C-SPAN and he misrepresented marijuana legalization. For a more truthful representation of legalization, we advise our followers to listen to Luke Niforatos of Smart Approaches to Marijuana who was also on C-SPAN recently. In Steves’s home state of Washington, there’s a terrible track record of legalization violations. 

According to the FBI, the murder rate in Washington rose 44% between 2013 and 2017.  Steves claimed crime did not go up.  Continue reading Rick Steves Misrepresents Legalization Violations in Washington State

Pot Poisonings and Legalization Violations in Washington State

Which will destroy Washington faster, cannabis or earthquakes?  Legalization violations run rampant, as the Washington Poison Control reported 378 cases of toxic exposure to marijuana in 2017.  Last week, the Washington Liquor and Cannabis Board announced announced rules to end the production of cannabis-infused gummy bears and candies that appeal to children.  On October 12, the regulators reversed their decision because of fierce opposition from the marijuana industry.

Once again the cannabis industry proves that it is hostile to all attempts at honest and sensible regulation.  In 2016, the cannabis industry bought off a ballot designed to cap the potency of marijuana sold in Colorado dispensaries to 16% THC. Continue reading Pot Poisonings and Legalization Violations in Washington State