Letter to the Editor: Marijuana Potency

A harm reduction approach to include a regulatory measure controlling the potency of THC should be explored.

Can regulation of marijuana potency through legalization help our youth?

As a nursing student, parent, and active member of my community, I have heard too many times that marijuana (cannabis) is harmless. Like many of you, I shared that very same belief, until a loved one experienced a “marijuana induced psychosis”. I have since learned that just one psychotic episode can potentially lead to a diagnosis of schizophrenia or other mental illnesses, especially in the fragile years of brain development. This is a frightening thought for parents, family, and friends of loved ones experiencing more than just a “high”. These experiences involve delusional thoughts and paranoia such as thinking they are being followed, phones being tapped, and in general having difficulty in determining what is real and what is not. So what can be done to decrease these events?

First, we need to understand the components of marijuana and how they affect the body. To explain it simply, there are two major components in cannabis: tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). Health Canada states that THC is the compound that produces a “high” affecting a number of body functions, “especially those of the brain and nervous system”. However, CBD can balance the extreme effects of THC and some research has stated that CBD can treat such conditions like schizophrenia.

The documentary, “The Downside of High” presented on The Nature of Things, revealed interesting statistics reported by Health Canada.  In the 1960s and ’70s the THC content in marijuana was approximately 1 to 3 per cent, whereas today, they are detected anywhere between 18 to 25 per cent. This documentary also revealed that the genetic altering of the cannabis plant has yielded a higher THC content, but in turn, has reduced the amount of CBD. Could this be why there is an increase in marijuana induced psychosis leading to schizophrenia?

With the increasing hype and pressure to have marijuana legalized, perhaps a harm reduction approach to include a regulatory measure controlling the potency of THC should be explored. Similarly, alcohol has been legalized and regulations are in place to control potency levels. So why can’t this be done for marijuana?

I ask of those who are passionate about the legalization of marijuana to sincerely consider the benefits of imposing regulatory measures upon marijuana and to, perhaps, endorse it. Until such time that marijuana is regulated, I urge those of you who parent or mentor adolescents and young adults to educate yourselves and others to the dangerous adverse effects that marijuana users may encounter.

Kendall Gall

4th year nursing student, BSN program

University of Victoria at Aurora College, Yellowknife