Like any new recreational drug, consumers have flocked to recreational states to take marijuana holidays with little to no knowledge about potency. There have been a few different data driven analysis firms that have been established in Colorado to try and get an idea on how to regulate marijuana. The problem is that dosages vary incredibly across edibles in particular. The way that the marijuana is cooked into the food item, may not be the same as when it was tested before going into the cooking process, due to a number of different factors.
If the United States is going to legislate marijuana, then it needs to have a mechanism to control the amount of the active ingredients in products that are sold with THC baked in. Proper dosages need to be measured to see how it affects consumers before regulation can be implemented.
This November, voters in at least nine states will be heading to the polling stations to decide on whether they will be joining the four states where marijuana is already legal or the 25 states and Washington, D.C.,where it has been okayed for medicinal use. But even if all nine states pass their marijuana initiatives, legalizing pot for medicinal and recreational use is only half the battle for the champions of cannabis.
As states like Washington and Colorado discovered after voting to legalize, figuring out how to regulate a substance that was recently exclusive to the black market comes with its own unique set of challenges. Regulation is a multi-faceted process which involves setting standards for cultivators, dispensaries, and consumers. It encompasses everything from pesticide use and quality control tests to possession limits and serving sizes, all of which require significant amounts of data in order to create effective legislation.
The problem is that, for the most part, this data doesn’t exist.
To arrive at this equivalency, Orens interviewed a number of edible manufacturers and made extensive use of Colorado’s Marijuana Enforcement Tracking Reporting Compliance (METRC) database. METRC follows cannabis production in the state from seed to sale by outfitting the plants with RFID chips so that compliance officers know the exact location of any plant at any given time. In other words, when a grow op moves a plant from the veg room to the flower room, you can be sure someone in the Colorado government was aware of the transition.
There are a number of benefits to the METRC system (such as allowing state officials to prove that no marijuana is leaking out of the state into black markets, which helps keep the feds off their backs), but for Orens it allowed him to isolate plant input and extract/edible outputs to determine physical and THC equivalencies.
“This is an industry in its infancy so I view all this stuff as growing pains,” Orens said. “I feel that some of the most regulated times that we will see in the history of cannabis are right now and that will subside as this becomes a little more common and fewer states prohibit marijuana. The industry still has some steps to take, but I think we’re on the right path.”