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Legal U.S. states are rushing to study the mental health impact of high-potency cannabis

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There are several studies on the topic of cannabis concentrates and psychosis expected this year.

Cannabis legalization has picked up speed in the U.S. over the last few years. The topic has become one of those unlikely things that people with differing political parties agree on, a substance that is now accepted, if not embraced, by many.

Still, popular opinion differs on policies, an issue made strikingly clear by the amount of research there is to date on the drug.

U.S. states that have enabled marijuana programs are now finding themselves rushing to study the drug and its possible side effects. Its long-term influence is not known, especially in relation to potent versions of THC and the effect that may have on the brain.

Marijuana’s potency has increased over the years, particularly in concentrate products such as wax and shatter, which in the U.S. can have THC levels as high as 85 per cent. For reference, a joint with a high potency may have about 20 per cent THC.

Several studies have found links between THC and mental health conditions, including psychosis. While not wholly understood, the association is concerning, with one study suggesting that people who consume cannabis on a daily basis are five times more likely to have a psychotic episode.

Products with very high percentages of THC are being sold legally in dispensaries, with many users not totally understanding their effects. This is especially concerning when discussing teens, their developing brains and their increasing drug use.

“We are seeing a very significant rise in psychosis associated with the consumption of marijuana,” said Dr. Nora Volkow, director if the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

“And the higher the content of THC, the higher the likelihood of a psychotic episode,” Dr. Volkown argued.

She pointed out that more research is necessary to better understand whether or not THC actually causes schizophrenia.

To date, experts and responsible parties have agreed to disagree on these findings.

Cannabis proponents believe the best way to assuage these concerns is to establish a better legal marijuana system.

“The best way to address these concerns is through proper testing and labelling, 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,” said Bethany Moore, a spokesperson for the National Cannabis Industry Association.

It’s argued that legal cannabis would facilitate research while also limiting black market weed, which undergoes less if any testing.

Some health experts who aren’t a part of the industry believe cannabis legalization has focused solely on the plant, neglecting to mention these risks. Researcher Dr. Beatriz Carlini said that people believe cannabis is harmless and “not that scary and it has some benefits, but this [concentrated] product is just a totally different animal.”

There are several studies on the topic of cannabis concentrates and psychosis expected this year, one including a comprehensive review of the physical and mental effects of THC in 800-plus patients in Colorado.

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