In the rapidly evolving landscape of cannabis legalisation, understanding the health effects of high-concentration cannabis products is crucial.
This post examines a comprehensive report prepared by the Cannabis Research and Policy Project Team from the Colorado School of Public Health.
The report, mandated by Colorado House Bill 21-1317 (HB 1317), provides a systematic review of the physical and mental health effects of high-potency THC cannabis and concentrates.
Understanding High-Concentration Cannabis Products
‘Dabbing’ is a unique method of cannabis consumption where a small, concentrated amount of cannabis—often in the form of wax or oil—is heated on a hot surface, usually a specially designed ‘nail,’ and then inhaled.
The intense heat vaporises the cannabis concentrate, allowing it to be inhaled efficiently for a potent and fast-acting effect.
Cannabis oils and waxes, utilized in dabbing, are high-potency cannabis extracts.
Oils are typically extracted from weed buds using solvents like CO2 or butane, while waxes are more concentrated forms of these oils, often obtained through additional processing steps to create a thicker, more compact product.
Key Policy Questions Explored
The report addresses four critical policy questions:
- Adolescents and High-Concentration Cannabis: Are young individuals more susceptible to the adverse effects of these products?
- Mental Health and High-Concentration Cannabis: Do individuals with preexisting mental health conditions face increased risks?
- Pregnancy, Nursing, and High-Concentration Cannabis: What are the potential adverse effects for pregnant and nursing women, and their infants?
- Comparing High and Low Concentration Products: Do high-concentration THC cannabis products pose a greater risk of adverse outcomes than lower-concentration products?
Findings from the Review
Adolescents, Young Adults, and High-Concentration Cannabis
The report found limited evidence suggesting that adolescents and young adults might be particularly susceptible to the adverse physical or mental health outcomes of high-concentration cannabis products. However, more research is needed to draw definitive conclusions.
Mental Health Conditions and High-Concentration Cannabis
The review found a moderate amount of evidence suggesting that high-concentration THC cannabis products are associated with adverse mental health outcomes for individuals with preexisting mental health conditions.
Interestingly, the report also found evidence suggesting potential beneficial outcomes for these individuals, indicating a complex relationship between mental health and high-concentration cannabis use.
Pregnancy, Nursing, and High-Concentration Cannabis
The report found insufficient evidence to conclusively determine the potential adverse effects of high-concentration cannabis products on pregnant and nursing women, and their infants. More research is needed in this area.
Comparing High and Low Concentration Products
The report found evidence suggesting that high-concentration THC cannabis products might be associated with a greater risk of adverse mental health outcomes compared to lower-concentration products.
However, the evidence is not robust enough to determine if risks increase above a certain threshold level of concentration.
Conclusions and Recommendations
The report concludes that while there is some evidence suggesting potential risks associated with high-concentration cannabis products, the scientific research focusing on these products is limited.
The report recommends the development of standardized approaches for characterising the use of cannabis products to ensure comparability among studies.
It also calls for sustained support to continually update their resource, given the rapid growth of the scientific literature and the expanding availability of recreational and medical cannabis.
The Future of Cannabis Research
This research serves as an excellent starting point, highlighting the need for further investigation and standardised methodologies in this interesting area of public health.