Ethical cannabis legalization requires science literacy at the top.
The responsibility for ensuring the safety of marijuana products falls on policymakers and legislators, but in the rush toward legalization, these parties often prioritize the financial viability of the cannabis industry and resulting tax revenue over public health. As a result, policies governing the safety of cannabis products vary greatly across jurisdictions and the onus is placed on consumers to protect themselves.
Consumer safety requires a complicated mix of regulations, including product testing requirements, labeling or packaging regulations, and guidelines for cultivators and producers. In some jurisdictions, there are laws that regulate production practices – such as pesticides used in the cultivation or maximum potency levels – while other states leave it up to individual companies to test their own products. Some states also have laws requiring product recalls if contamination is suspected.
In addition to legislative oversight, third-party certification programs are being developed by organizations such as Clean Green Certified, SC Labs and The Cannabis Safety Institute to provide independent verification on the safety of cannabis products.
While 60% of adults in the US support the legalization of marijuana for both medical and recreational use, and 31% support medical use only, regulations have focused more on the financial side rather than protecting public health. For example, California allows the sale of cannabis products with unlimited strength, including vaping cartridges with up to 90% THC, despite evidence linking high concentrations of THC to an increased risk of schizophrenia-like psychotic disorders.
However, as the cannabis industry continues to grow, so does its need for protection from potential health risks associated with contaminated products. While traditional testing methods can detect certain contaminants, they are not able to detect all of the toxins and harmful chemicals found in cannabis products.
Science literacy about marijuana, including understanding its effects on the brain and the endocannabinoid system, is crucial for ethical legalization and regulation. Policymakers must also consider the potential long-term impacts of marijuana use, including the risk of addiction and negative effects on brain development in adolescents.
Finally, research is needed to understand how marijuana interacts with other drugs and substances. With the legalization of cannabis in many states, it is important to consider potential interactions between marijuana and pharmaceutical drugs, as well as alcohol and other recreational drugs. It is also essential to study the effects of combining different strains and products. By understanding these interactions, we can better ensure the safety of people who use cannabis medicinally or for recreation.
Overall, there is a need for more education about cannabis in order to create policies that are informed by science and protect public health. Educating individuals on the risks associated with using marijuana, as well as its benefits when used responsibly, will help us move forward toward safer regulation of this increasingly popular substance.