Months into the coronavirus and amidst the biggest economic crisis the state has seen in a century, Washington State’s marijuana industry is going strong. Dispensaries saw a “pretty big spike” in sales in March that is still continuing into September, says David Morgan, co-owner of Lucky Leaf in downtown Spokane. With the legislature adjourned at the moment, a legislative committee that oversees the industry is considering a variety of industry reforms including increasing the amount of information on product labels, as well as keeping track of the growing number of studies supported by marijuana sales tax.
During a recent work session to study major issues faced by the state’s marijuana industry, the House Commerce and Gaming Committee gathered information on whether to provide more information about the main chemical compounds in cannabis on product labeling. Although the plant produces over 200 cannabinoids, the two most dominant and the ones found in most cannabis products are THC and CBD. THC is responsible for marijuana’s infamous “high” while cannabidiol is known to induce health benefits such as relieving pain and anxiety and combating insomnia.
The committee also looked into the state’s current limits in potency for certain products. At the moment, Washington State limits the amount of THC in a single serving of any edible product to 10 milligrams with no more than 10 such servings per package. The legislature could consider limiting the amount of THC in cannabis concentrates to 10% next year, but a bill on that subject did not make it out of committee in this year’s session.
The committee was also appraised of the studies funded by taxes imposed on cannabis sales. Washington State University (“WSU”), for instance, has a range of studies that include crime, health, agriculture, and economics, and it has been charged with studying the effects of marijuana on pregnancy and adolescence. According to Ryan McLaughlin of the Department of Integrative Psychology and Neuroscience, researchers from WSU have developed an innovative way to use rats to simulate how people consume marijuana.
A rat is placed in a small chamber that allows it to push its nose through an opening, triggering the release of cannabis extract vapor. This allows researchers to see if adolescent rats develop a preference for extracts with more THC than CBD and how the use triggers changes in the brain as they grow, McLaughlin says. Celestine Barbosa-Leiker, vice chancellor for research at WSU Health Sciences Spokane, told the committee that marijuana use among pregnant women has doubled between 2012 and 2017.
A lot of pregnant women confessed that they regularly smoke marijuana to combat morning sickness, alleviate pain, and to help them sleep. However, they were getting mixed messages from health care providers, Barbosa-Leiker says, and they were doing their own research. “They’re relying on budtenders for their scientific and medical information.”
Industry watchers say that the research-based approach to decision making in Washington State is supported by cannabis companies like The Alkaline Water Company Inc. (NASDAQ: WTER) (CSE: WTER) who prefer policymakers that are informed while they do their work.
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