Are THC potency caps in our future? It’s a tricky conversation to have. As of right now, there are no laws in Arizona that limit or restrict THC potency levels on cannabis products.

In 2020, Arizona lawmakers attempted to introduce a bill that would limit THC potency levels, but was quickly scrapped.

Current limitations and regulations in place pertain to the amount of cannabis one can purchase in Arizona, along with limitations on edible dosages and potency levels.

In fact, the only state with a THC potency cap for recreational consumers is Vermont. There, the law states that cannabis concentrates cannot exceed 60%, while flower cannot be above THC levels of 30%.

This piece of legislature has been in and out of political conversation, with officials divided on whether to keep the cap in place. A study from the Vermont Cannabis Control Board found that lower potency concentrates may sometimes add filler into the products that may have negative health effects. The study also pointed to the importance of adequate education to consumers.

States such as Florida, Colorado, Washington, Montana and Massachusetts have toyed with passing such legislation — but not without controversy. A leaked version of a bill aiming to limit THC to 15% for medical and recreational shoppers in Colorado received so much pushback, it was eventually shelved.

MJBiz Daily reported that the bill would have made 65% of products already on the market illegal.

My own experience as a budtender has continued to point to the common desire for high testing THC products. It’s a never-ending cycle. The more you consume products that are higher in THC, the higher your tolerance may get.

According to a 2022 study from The Lancet Psychiatry, THC levels in cannabis have increased by 0.29% from 1970 to 2017. Researchers took data from 20 studies, a number that included roughly 120,000 people who use cannabis. Analysis proved that people who experienced cannabis-related psychosis were more likely to have consumed products with higher levels of THC, along with an increased likelihood to become addicted. Those who consume THC products with lower potencies were found to be less at risk.

Another integral aspect of the legalization of cannabis is harm reduction. People aren’t going to stop searching for the highest-testing cannabis product just because it doesn’t exist on the shelves. As with many others, I fear that by placing limitations on products, people will look for them elsewhere.

I’ve written about the illicit cannabis market that exists heavily onlinez; There’s a plethora of seedy digital THC hubs. THC products from the black market have been previously linked to alarming health concerns, namely the 2019 vaping crisis, in which 68 people died and more than 2,800 people were hospitalized.

Opponents of THC potency caps argue that these policies would signal a new era of unregulated black market THC products. Via Politico, Morgan Fox, spokesperson for the National Cannabis Industry Association, echoed these concerns, stating that “high-potency products like concentrates — there’s significant demand for them among cannabis consumers. If you make it so that regulated producers are no longer able to produce these, that market is going to go completely underground.”

Of course, as marijuana’s legality continues to shift throughout the country, the debate over potency levels is here to stay. Maybe that’s a good thing.

Much of the science surrounding cannabis is caught in the crossfire of its classification as a Schedule 1 drug, leading to barriers when it comes to conducting research.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine affirmed this in a 2017 study, noting that the classification of marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug “impedes the advancement of cannabis and cannabinoid research” as it is difficult for scientists to gain access to cannabis in the quantities and qualities needed.

What’s to happen in the years to come is anyone’s guess. But the answer seems to be intrinsic within finding a balance in both the political and scientific spheres.

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