THC Limits and Other Legal-Weed Laws Let's Live Without

Rules on legal bud are so bi-polar!

There is no such thing as absolute. Especially in the weed world. So policies, regulations, and laws governing the nascent industry––which is only in its skeletal stages––should not be written with too much haste.

Alarming reports of a proposed ballot initiative and an amendment to a bill in the Colorado state House have been circulating in the online and IRL weed worlds this week. Some groups in the state, saying the weed and its concentrated derivatives are too strong, are proposing “THC-capping” limits on all legal recreational cannabis. 

The Cannabist reports:

“The first THC-capping proposal is a ballot initiative that would limit the potency of cannabis products to 16 percent THC, would require everything to be sold in a child-resistant, opaque, resealable package and would require edibles to be packaged and sold only in single-serving amounts. It would amend the state constitution and would apply only to retail marijuana, not medical.”

According to stakeholders in the state, a 16-percent ceiling could mean that much of the concentrates, edibles, and even flower adorning Colorado weed retailer shelves might need to be tossed or diluted to meet the proposed regs.

One of the groups supporting the measure is Smart Colorado. The arguably misnamed organization say it's doing it for the children: The group’s motto reads, “Protecting Colorado’s Youth From Marijuana.” 

Hear that, Colorado youngs? Smart Colorado has your back.

A representative from the organization also told The Cannabist: “One of our legislative priorities for this year was to raise awareness of the high levels of THC in the marijuana products in our state.”

Which was seemingly the intention of this YouTube video uploaded by the group, which—before inviting viewers to “learn about pot potency”—begs the question in its title: “Dad, is today’s Pot a hard drug?”

The video is basically just shaky iPhone footage of a billboard with the titular wording being put up. Virtually zero information about pot potency can be gleaned from the video. There is no Dad. There is no pot. No hard drugs. There are no curious Colorado kids in the video, asking such preposterous questions of Papa. Most certainly: There is nothing to learn from it.

Strange anti-pot propaganda aside, supporters of THC-cap legislation cite a lack of research on the longterm effects of hella potent concentrates and edibles, a point that isn’t entirely unfounded.

A second bill, would ban all retail sales of cannabis products containing more than 15 percent THC, require more child-resistant packaging, and clear labeling warning consumers of the unknown longterm effects of potent weed. Stores not in compliance could face fines of up to $100,000. 

Meanwhile in California, the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act (MMRSA) has been nothing if not confusing since it was passed in 2015, with parts of it being met with contention by those with skin in the state’s quasi-legal weed game. 

Steve DeAngelo, owner of Harborside Wellness Center in Oakland, California, and an influential cannabis activist, tells VICE that recent provisions to the legislation create new supply-chain and cannabis distribution networks and are “a power play by the liquor lobby and the union that supports it.” 

The refinement of the MMRSA , DeAngelo says, “threatens to destroy the entire legal cannabis distribution system in California by imposing a novel framework that no other state that has regulated cannabis thus far has imposed. . . This means growers would have to sell their cannabis exclusively to a licensed distributor, which would then handle and transport the cannabis at each intermediate step in the supply chain.”

Essentially, DeAngelo is saying that men who are already rich, now also want to be in the middle of the medical marijuana distribution game, using legislation as a means to that aspirational end.

Steve DeAngelo speaking about cannabis regulation to an audience in Venice, California. Photo: Ben Karris/The KIND.

Previously, the MMRSA confused local California governments as to the level of power over pot each municipality would control. The KIND reported that “local jurisdictions statewide were given until March 1 of [2016] to develop and implement their own marijuana laws. If the localities failed to do so, according to MMRSA, the authority over weed [would have fallen] into the hands of the state.” 

This resulted in many localities banning all cultivation and distribution of medical marijuana––a swift and rash decision––out of a fear they would lose the right to regulate it at all.

Governor Jerry Brown eventually removed this language from the bill and abolished the March 1 deadline, but the message to California voters from the state was clear as weed is green: We have no idea what we’re doing when it comes to regulating weed. We do know that we (and corporate interests) want to make money on this stuff. We’ll keep writing and rewriting reactionary and alarmist legislation to make sure that happens. 

Which is why drug legislation, seeming so black and white on the surface, so often turns out to have been poorly thought at depth.

In Colorado: Make your weed less strong until we know it's chill, or pay us exorbitant fines. In California: We want to decide who grows your weed, who sells your weed, and how much they sell it for. 

This is a problem.