Over the last few years, there has been a definite swing towards loosening the laws related to the use of cannabis. From individual states in the US, to entire countries in Europe, more governments are opening up to the idea of legalizing its use. In that light, some scientists are now calling for an urgent need to explore how we could make its use safer.
“Although most users will not develop problems from their cannabis use, it is vital, especially now that cannabis is becoming increasingly liberalized, that we explore alternative and innovative ways by which we can reduce and mitigate cannabis related harms,” explained Dr Amir Englund, who led the study published in The Lancet Psychiatry.
The authors suggest a number of ways in which the harm from cannabis could be reduced. The most straightforward way to address some of the biggest health risks is to simply tackle the use of tobacco, which is often mixed with the marijuana in order to smoke it, particularly in Europe. They suggest that perhaps encouraging the use of smoke-free vaporizers may help cut the harm caused by tobacco smoke.
But they also suggest that there may be ways to reduce the potency of cannabis itself. For example, two of the main active compounds found in cannabis are delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). It has been suggested that while THC is responsible for the high, it may also have some detrimental health effects such as increasing the risks of developing psychosis. CBD, on the other hand, may to some degree counteract THC, protecting against memory impairment and paranoia.
The issues come in the fact that the levels of THC found in cannabis, bought both legally and illegally on the black market, have been steadily rising, while the same is not true of CBD. The researchers suggest that in places where cannabis is legal, it may be wise to regulate the levels of THC in products sold, and perhaps tax those with the highest levels the most, or simply put a cap on the amount of THC present.
But they also recommend that more research should also go into looking at how to potentially produce new strains with a boosted level of CBD compared to THC, in an attempt to mitigate the effects of the latter. “With the rapidly changing political climate around cannabis,” said Englund, “the demand to effectively reduce cannabis-related harms has never been greater, and more research is urgently needed to inform policy decisions.”