States that legalized marijuana now researching mental health risks of high-potency cannabis

One of the risks marijuana poses is its potential to cause mental illness. Cannabis oil can have high levels THC, which has been known to increase anxiety and psychosis in those with pre-existing conditions. States that legalized pot are now researching how severe these mental health risks could be for their residents after it passed legalization.

The “long-term side effects of marijaus mayo clinic” is a study that found that states that legalized marijuana have seen an increase in the number of people with mental health issues.

States that legalized marijuana now researching mental health risks of high-potency cannabis



THC levels in wax and shatter may reach 90%, and states like Washington and Colorado are considering potency limitations and product warnings.

States that legalized recreational marijuana ten years ago are now examining the public health consequences of a range of new high-potency products amid concerns about a potential connection to psychosis, as a national cannabis legalization bill prepares to be filed in the Senate.

Marijuana concentrates, often known as wax and shatter, are the most recent products. THC, the psychoactive component of marijuana, levels as high as 85 percent to 90 percent have been found in them. According to studies, the amount of THC in an average joint 20 years ago was closer to 5%. To curb access, states including as Washington and Colorado are proposing product warnings or strength limitations.

Dr. Nora Volkow, the head of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, highlighted worries about youth smoking high-potency cannabis during a January meeting.

Volkow is concerned that “very high THC concentrations” might have significant implications.

“We are witnessing a huge increase in psychosis related with marijuana use,” she added.

“And the greater the THC level, the more likely a psychotic episode will occur.”

She said that the subject of whether such psychotic episodes may lead to persistent schizophrenia is still being researched.

“The best way to address these concerns is through proper testing and labeling, as well as ensuring cannabis products are only sold to fully-informed adults through licensed facilities that are required by law to verify legal age for purchase,” Bethany Moore, a spokesperson for the National Cannabis Industry Association, told NBC News.

Only until subterranean marketplaces are replaced with regulated markets, according to Moore, can effective public safety measures be implemented.

However, some public health professionals have protested that proponents of marijuana legalization focus only on the cannabis plant, failing to emphasize that legalization would result in a flood of cannabis extracts.

“We were not aware when we were voting [in 2012] that we were voting on anything but the plant,” said Dr. Beatriz Carlini, a research scientist at the University of Washington’s Addictions, Drug & Alcohol Institute. She has led the effort in Washington state to research high-potency pot and is now exploring policy options to limit access. Her team concluded in 2020 that “high-potency cannabis can have lifelong mental health consequences.”

The cannabis plant “isn’t so terrifying, and it has certain advantages,” according to Carlini, but “this [concentrated] stuff is simply a whole other beast.”

She compared it to strawberry icing marketing. “Strawberries are good for you, but a strawberry-flavored Pop-Tart isn’t.” 

In areas where recreational marijuana is permitted, the new high-THC products are not authorized for people under the age of 21, yet teens claim they are readily available.

Jasmin Block, 19, of Denver, told NBC News’ Steve Patterson that high-potency cannabis products were so easy to get by that she was handed a “wax pen” in the school toilet between classes. She said she couldn’t figure out “how much was too much” and ended up “too high.” She said that high-potency medications were a stepping stone to more powerful substances.

Sydney Block, her mother, claimed she had struggled with addiction herself and was taken aback when she saw her daughter high on marijuana concentrates and slurring her words, thinking, “There’s no way this is just cannabis.”

Will Brown, 18, of Colorado, claimed he began with conventional cannabis and quickly progressed to high-potency marijuana and “crazy dabs,” which left him speechless on his bedroom floor. He didn’t know there was an issue until he had been using it for two years.

“Everything around me was going apart,” he said Patterson.

Janet Corneil, his mother, claimed she started to believe something was wrong with her son when he failed to show up for sports practice.

“And I was like, ‘What the hell is wrong with you?’ Because, you know, I didn’t smell it. I wasn’t able to detect anything on him. He was also behaving strangely. And I didn’t have a clue what was going on.”

Both of the now-sober youngsters received treatment at 5280, a Denver public high school committed to supporting students in recovery.  

“There is a misunderstanding among kids that marijuana is harmless,” said Melissa Mouton, the school’s founder. “What we’re finding out today is that marijuana has a lot of detrimental effects on the teenage brain – because it’s still developing and growing.”

Legislative activities at the state level

Legalization of marijuana on a national level has already passed the House of Representatives. On April 22, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., told cannabis lobbyists that a Senate version would be introduced by August. Republicans are putting up a fight against him. 

However, when emergency room physicians testified last year that they were noticing an increase in instances of psychosis linked to marijuana concentrates, the Colorado Legislature overwhelmingly enacted a measure restricting access to high-potency products.

One of the bill’s provisions required the medical school at the University of Colorado to conduct a thorough evaluation of more than 800 scholarly studies on the physical and mental health effects of high-potency THC. In July, the report is due.

This week, the review committee convened. The endeavor is being led by Dr. Jon Samet, dean of the Colorado School of Public Health. He said the studies’ methodology and outcomes aren’t standard, making it difficult to categorize the “messy data,” but he said he plans to create a public database of research that would be maintained up to date.

Researchers in Washington state have progressed farther, having finished a six-month investigation headed by 11 experts in 2020, which determined that THC had a “dose response.” That is to say, the more THC you ingest, the harsher the side effects will be. Concentrate sales surged from 9% of the state’s legal cannabis market in 2014 to 35% by 2020, prompting the project.

The Washington researchers, lead by Carlini, came to the conclusion that young people are more prone to addiction and the harmful consequences of high-potency marijuana, and that “policy considerations and discussions to enhance public health and well-being are urgently needed.”

She added she has had requests for help from various jurisdictions since the work was released in 2020. “Our faults are on display for everyone to see, and people are attempting to learn from them.”

The researchers from the two state teams are conferring. Researchers in Seattle are looking at measures to limit access to the items, such as a potency cap or a prospective fee depending on potency level, which is currently in place in Illinois and New York.

“WARNING: Frequent and sustained use of cannabis containing THC may lead to mental health issues over time,” the Washington team writes on product warning labels similar to those used in Canada. Daily or near-daily usage raises the risk of addiction and may trigger or aggravate anxiety and depression problems.” The next report from the team is scheduled at the end of 2022.

Efforts by states to enforce potency limitations have had varied results.

Vermont is the only state with a potency restriction on recreational marijuana. Other attempts in South Dakota and Massachusetts failed.

The cannabis industry has fought back hard against efforts to restrict marijuana concentrates, claiming that the products are popular with consumers and that “scarce clinical or epidemiological evidence to suggest significant or widespread risk associated with those products for the vast majority of consumers.”

Carlini is accustomed to the insurance business downplaying the hazards. That’s why, she added, her team’s conclusion in its 2020 study was crystal clear: “The higher the potency of cannabis products, the greater the chance of adverse health effects.” “We really believe in this agreement,” she said.


The “what is considered a drug” is the first of many states that legalized marijuana. Now, they are researching the mental health risks of high-potency cannabis.

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