By Kevan M. Abrahams
Minority Leader, Nassau County Legislature
The advent of legal adult-use recreational cannabis in New York has exposed critical shortcomings in how the State regulates the potency of what is being sold to consumers. The Cannabis Control Board must work with state and local leaders to implement meaningful new policies to close the vacuum that currently exists.
Whether one supports or opposes it, the prospect of legal recreational-use cannabis has loomed on the horizon for many years. Recent polls indicate that two-thirds of American adults support the legalization of cannabis, and medical-use cannabis has a well-regarded track record as a tool for easing the side-effects of chemotherapy for cancer patients, managing chronic pain, and addressing other ailments. Economic analysts predict that the emerging cannabis industry will generate tens of thousands of additional jobs and generate billions in new sales tax revenue for the benefit of all New Yorkers. Legalization furthermore represents an important step forward in efforts to address the disparate treatment minorities have experienced in the legal system for generations involving cannabis cases.
Although New York State has established an extensive regulatory system to govern the sale of cannabis products, the concentration of THC in what is being sold to the public remains largely unregulated - something that is especially important when you consider that modern cannabis is much more potent than its predecessors.
While the average concentration of THC in cannabis samples seized by the Drug Enforcement Administration in 1995 was 4 percent; the potency has more than quadrupled in a span of 20 years to an average concentration of 17 percent. And, in the age of legal cannabis, some manufacturers are creating products with concentrations of THC exceeding 95 percent. This reality was a major driving force behind why the Minority Caucus wrote to the Cannabis Control Board on July 13 to advocate for sensible, comprehensive policies regulating the potency of legal cannabis that is being sold to the public.
Although THC is not fatal, consumers must know what they are consuming so they can avoid negative impacts from overuse. Additionally, preventing underage use among teens - whose brains are still developing - must always be a top priority. According to the Washington State Prevention Research Subcommittee, frequent use of high-potency cannabis can lead to uncontrollable vomiting, addiction, psychosis, long-term psychiatric disorders, an increased likelihood of developing depression and suicidal ideation, adverse changes in brain anatomy and connectivity, and poor memory.
Even simple measures, such as requiring manufacturers to display the concentration of THC on cannabis packaging, will help to close the information gap without creating unnecessary hurdles to commerce. This is among several actions - including enforcing a maximum permissible THC concentration in cannabis products - that must be taken to preserve the longterm viability of this nascent industry and protect public health.
THC Regulations Letter from the Minority Caucus to the NYS Office of Cannabis Management and Cannabis Control Board -2022.pdf