Research shows that the higher the THC concentration, the more significant the negative health impacts. This is especially true for the most vulnerable of us, our youth.
Earlier this year, the Vermont Medical Society passed a resolution on the “Commercialized Sales of Cannabis,” calling for a cap of 15% THC on all Cannabis products.

Despite this, however, pressure from a profit-focused industry continues to push Vermont toward more reckless laws, and two Vermont legislators recently introduced Vermont H. 548, a bill that proposes to remove all potency caps for Cannabis in Vermont.

The question is, why does the Cannabis industry routinely object and try to block any and all potency limits? They believe potency limits, “would put the industry out of business overnight,” (Colorado Sun).

Why? Is it true potency caps would put the industry out of business–overnight? If so, how? “A 2015 study carried out in the UK found that high-potency cannabis use is associated with increased severity of dependence, especially in young people,” (NIH).

High-potency products are simply more efficient at creating dependence and addiction (substance use disorders). Dependence and addiction are what ensures future profitability. The industry doesn’t have an interest in anyone’s children’s safety or health, except, that is, as future profit-centers. To ensure continued growth and profitability of the industry, they need to ensure as much product as possible is available in as many places and forms as possible, including to youth. By making sure that as many under-21 year-olds have access to high-potency THC as young as possible, they ensure there will be enough future, lifelong customers. If some youth commit suicide, become permanently psychotic, or die in a car crashes in the process, that’s simply part of the cost of doing business–the same way the Oil industry factors in the cost of fines for when their old, out-of-compliance pipelines burst. Our families, neighbors, and communities pay the inestimable price.

The Vermont Medical Society has continued to try to bring Vermont’s attention to the impacts of high-potency-THC on physical and mental health. In their resolution, they urge “the Vermont Cannabis Control Board, local Cannabis Control Boards and/or the Vermont Legislature to require all cannabis grown, produced or sold whether through dispensaries or retail establishments in the state be less than 15% THC cannabis as there is significant morbidity associated with its use, and as all research in the United States addressing any medical benefit of THC cannabis has been conducted on strains with potency less than or equal to 15% THC cannabis, and the risk of mental illness and addiction increases substantially with increasing THC concentrations such that Netherlands declared greater than 15% THC cannabis a hard drug.”

Advocates, probably many genuinely, for legalized retail Cannabis laws stated their goal was to bring out what was “already” happening into the light of day. The emerging industry also claimed they did not intend to create new users, and that legalizing the substance would “not” create more users. They played on the kindness of people who saw others suffering with terminal cancer diagnoses and wanted to make it easier for them to have what they needed to deal with their symptoms. And initially, though prevention and public health professionals cautioned against reading too much into early data, it appeared that youth weren’t being impacted by legalization efforts. However, since decriminalization in 2013, adult use in Vermont has almost tripled. Since 2018 and legalization, adult use has increased by 3%. Since 2015, more than a quarter of all high school students regularly used Cannabis, an increase of 5%.

More and more products are flooding the market in more and more states, with warehouses full and growers wanting to realize the promises of this “green rush,” there is also a push to find more and more places to put it. And it should come as no surprise that the more youth see it, are exposed to it, and live near it, the more likely they are to think it’s OK to use it themselves.

Most Vermonters probably didn’t envision Slang Worldwide when they were polled about support for “legalization.” Now that it’s here, we’ll need to work harder to hold legislators and leaders accountable for their promise that a legal market would mean “better” control for Vermont. Right now, that looks like standing up for the existing potency caps of 30% and 60% they have in place, and asking them to lower them in line with the best recommendations we have right now from the Vermont Medical Society. Rulemakers hear from industry lobbyists at the rate of about 20 to every 1 person who brings up the health or public health and prevention. We can and need to change that, because there’s a natural inclination to accept information we hear repeatedly, whether or not it’s true. Vermonters who want our youth to grow up as safe and healthy as possible need to speak up a lot more, and often.

Stuyt E. (2018). The Problem with the Current High Potency THC Marijuana from the Perspective of an Addiction Psychiatrist. Missouri medicine, 115(6), 482–486.