It’s Time for Transparency in Cannabis Products

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Image: Kimberly Boyles / Shutterstock.com

Earlier this spring, I had the chance to treat my wife to a nice meal in the country. Our clothes were clean and pressed, the farmhouse setting was elegant, and the wine list came heavy and overflowing with options.

Knowing that I would be behind the wheel in roughly two hours, I did the usual mental dance. 12.5 percent ABV in red wine. Five ounces of wine in a drink. One drink per hour. Conclusion: Two to three glasses of wine with dinner.

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Confidently, I ordered a bottle of red for us to share. A simple rule of thumb about wine provided clarity and potentially saved lives.

It’s time cannabis users had the same ability. We not only need standards for quality and lab testing, we also need standards for consistent labeling and transparency. Cannabis users should never have to take a leap of faith. They should use with confidence. When people can easily identify whether they’re taking in 5 milligrams or 50 milligrams of THC, they’ll begin to consume cannabis differently. As a result, new norms, standards, and heuristics will begin to emerge for how to use cannabis responsibly and, well, for maximum pleasure.

Most users today don’t know how much THC they consume in any given session. A puff, a bowl, a joint, a vape, a brownie—every use is subject to a high degree of variation depending on the strain, concentrate, device, and context. Even for the diligent, it can be difficult to get THC levels dialed in with reasonable accuracy.

Consider the joint. Studies of how much cannabis is in the average joint (of which there are many) produce a range between one-third of a gram (from federal arrest data) to two-thirds of a gram (in medical studies) to a full gram (from a poll of consumers). Adding to the variability, the THC content of modern cannabis generally ranges from 9 percent to a staggering 34 percent with average dispensary cannabis coming in around 20 percent.

Given this range, a person who “smokes a joint” would be taking in somewhere between 29 milligrams to 340 milligrams of THC. This is quite the range when a psychoactive dose of inhaled THC is generally in the single digits. In addition, distillation technology is improving at such a rapid pace that there are increasing numbers of products that can inadvertently deliver doses of extreme potency in very little time. Given the continuing uncertainty over the dose-response relationship of cannabis, this has to change.

I believe the solution is simple: good information promotes good decisions. We must provide transparency—facts and frameworks for people to develop and inform their own responsible use.

Transparency means going beyond product-level guidelines about the amount of THC and CBD in a product or package, and instead creating user-centric guidelines: how much THC and CBD will actually be consumed in a single serving? This might sound daunting, but it is achievable. If we can label the Vitamin A levels in a bag of baby carrots, we can label the expected THC content of a puff of a joint.

At a minimum, any consumer-oriented cannabis products should include:

  • The amount of THC and CBD within the product;
  • The amount of THC and CBD delivered in a single serving for any medium of consumption, including for edibles, tinctures, vaping, and smoking;
  • The amount of other terpenes and cannabinoids within the product; and
  • Amount of additives and other known substances being consumed, such as propylene glycol, stimulants, colors and flavors, and other non-cannabis additives.

Transparency will enable the public to act with knowledge and confidence. We don’t need detailed rules for how much THC a consumer is allowed to ingest, especially when individual physiological responses to THC vary dramatically from individual to individual. One size does not fit all.

Given the uncertainty over the federal status of cannabis, this is a topic well-suited for self-regulation by the cannabis industry and an opportunity to solve problems before regulators feel compelled to take action. We don’t know how long the legalization movement will need, but we do know we shouldn’t subject consumers and an industry in its [legalized] infancy to a patchwork of conflicting rules and regulations. As an industry, we should aim to create harmonized standards that can shape and guide lawmakers at the state and federal level.

The day is coming when cannabis use will become more like a pour of wine than a swig of bootlegged moonshine. The faster that day comes, the better.



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Benzi Ronen, CEO, Indose

Benzi Ronen is chief executive officer at Indose, “the world’s most precise vaporizer.” Prior to Indose, he held product leadership roles at SAP and Microsoft Corporation before co-founding Farmigo, an online farmers market. Ronen is a serial entrepreneur focused on building convenient consumer experiences, powered by technology.

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