The availability of highly potent strains of marijuana and marijuana-derived concentrates is nothing new. And neither are alarmist claims that these products pose unique dangers to public health. But such claims require clarification and context.
First some clarification. ‘Wax’ is slang for concentrated extracts derived from the cannabis plant. These gooey concoctions do not resemble cannabis in appearance or texture. They are typically only available on the shelves of marijuana dispensary facilities where they are labeled as possessing far higher concentrations of THC – the primary psychoactive compound in marijuana – than standard plant material. Also, the retail price points for these products tend to be far higher than that of marijuana. Consequently, consumption of these high-THC products is typically limited to those who have legal right of entry to dispensary facilities and who possess the disposable income to afford their relatively high-end retail price.
Are these concentrated products more powerful than the cannabis flowers they are derived from? Yes. As such, consumers — particularly those who are relatively naïve to the plant’s effects — ought to proceed with caution if they choose to ingest such products. Are they for everyone? Arguably, they are not. Most adults who socially consume alcohol drink beer or wine, not Bacardi 151 or Everclear. Most adults who take pain relievers consume Advil or Tylenol, not Oxycodone. And similarly, most adults who consume cannabis — whether they do so for therapeutic or recreational purposes — do not consume concentrates, which comprise only a fraction of the present marijuana market.
Now for some context: Cannabis derived products, regardless of THC content, are incapable of causing lethal overdose. (The same can’t be said for alcohol, caffeine, sodium, or even aspirin — all of which have lethal dose potential in humans.) Since 1985 an oral pill containing pure synthetic THC, known as dronabinol, has been available by prescription. In 1999, federal officials downgraded dronabinol’s classification from a Schedule II to a Schedule III controlled substance — a change made because of the substance’s low abuse potential and impeccable safety record.
That is not to say that the consumption of high-THC products can’t have adverse effects. Further, such substances are certainly not for kids. So how do we best reduce the risks associated with these products consumption by adults and restrict their access among adolescents? By legalizing them.