The Nature of Effective Regulation

CANNABIS CULTURE – First of all, as I believe all cannabis use to be “medical” to some extent, it should definitely be the case that consumers should be getting the best product possible. This means no pathogens (mold, mildew, bacteria etc.), no heavy metals and no traces of harmful pesticides, herbicides and other industrial chemicals. I also firmly believe in people’s right to grow their own cannabis, and feel that any state that legalizes cannabis without the right for people to grow is not truly legalizing cannabis.

Like with most food, local, organic produce grown by people who care about their product is likely to be best. This means that, like with agriculture, there is a split between big agri-businesses wanting to mass-produce cannabis wanting to turn profit and provide to as many people as possible for the best price possible, and those who want to make sustainable, well-grown cannabis.

However, unlike with food and medications, cannabis doesn’t have the same regulatory oversight that big agri-businesses do. This means that certain pesticides and other harmful substances that are a big no-no if found on food could well be found on cannabis that people get at dispensaries. What’s more is that people grow cuttings from dispensaries that are found to be full of pesticides when grown at home, even if they’ve been grown organically by the home-grower. This is almost criminal, especially when we’re trying to look at this as medicine.

There are other problems as well. Many people aren’t getting the products they necessarily desire from dispensaries. This is not necessarily a problem with dispensaries themselves, but is a fundamental problem in the supply chain itself. Many strains are mislabelled when we take a closer look at their genetics. THC and CBD labels on many edibles and other cannabinoid-containing products aren’t accurate. Many products claim to help you “sleep” or “relax”, but the science behind it is flawed at best.

Marketing hype and chasing after the “next big thing” is common in the cannabis industry, just as it is in many other industries. This is not a surprise, really. There’s profits to be made, after all, and people need to eat and pay their bills. Another issue is one of small, “mom n’ pop” operations being unable to cope with all the new regulatory pressures. Now, whilst it is understandable that everyone should be required to adhere to the same safety standards, it must also be understood that some of these growers are the ones who take the plant most seriously.

One big fear concerning the cannabis industry is it coming under the control of big business and special interest groups. As recreational markets grow, there is a tendency to start treating cannabis as a “fast food” rather than the “whole food” that it is more akin to. The medical side gets left behind for a bit, and the research starts lagging a little due to the focus on making short-term profit.

On the other hand, it also produces a situation where the market splits more effectively, and those who are serious about working on the medical side can stay on the medical side. Those making “recreational” products can be honest about their intentions, and no longer have to hide under the banner of “medical marijuana”. After all, if you are going to call a product “medicine”, surely it should be treated as such, with dosages/titration, accurate measurements, safe ingestion methods, balance against other medications and so on?

This is one of the big barriers to getting cannabis officially recognized as medicine, and there is no doubt that this won’t improve until there’s better regulatory oversight (i.e. testing of products), more research and clinical trials, legalizing or at least putting cannabis on a lower schedule, and having the government finally admit that there is some medical potential in the cannabis plant that won’t be discovered until we’re allowed to research it properly.

When it comes to medical marijuana, we will likely see a shift from strain names to specific genetics and cannabinoid and terpenoid profiles. Tinctures, patches, salves/topicals, microdoses, sprays and other smoke- (and even vapor) free methods of ingestion will become more commonplace amongst medical patients. The product may also be made specifically to a patient’s needs. This means that cannabis-based medications will be tailored to people’s condition and own unique endocannabinoid system (ECS).

Yes, this means cannabis could be a major part of the future of medicine, as targeting the ECS has given us the scope to keep the body in homeostasis without the need to target more dangerous parts of the nervous system, or through invasive surgery. Cannabinoids and terpenoids represent a future where medications are tailor-made for specific individuals – a medication that is safer than most other drugs on the market today.

So, how should cannabis be regulated? Well, there should be thorough testing for pathogens and any other nasty chemicals in the plant. There should also be lab-testing for cannabinoid and terpenoid profiles, as this will give us a more accurate picture of the effects of a plant, as opposed to the strain name. Edibles should be tested properly – they just aren’t at the moment, and this is a major area where the market needs to be tightened-up. We need consistent products, with the amount of THC and/or CBD contained within the product measured properly and accurately.

Taxes on cannabis shouldn’t be too high, otherwise the black market will thrive again and we’re back at square one again. I would also like to see fewer taxes on medical patients, so as to ensure that they’re not losing out by having a medical marijuana card, and thereby losing access to a medical program that could be of immense importance to them. I would also like to see consistency in the supply chain, and make sure that people are buying and selling what they say they’re buying and selling – compliance procedures, basically! Growers and breeders should be honest with what they’re selling, and sellers shouldn’t “relabel” cannabis that doesn’t sell into something that it’s not. Bad practices should be left behind if we want to be taken seriously as an industry.

I would obviously like to see this plant legalized, or at the very least taken off of schedule I. If anything, if we are to schedule cannabis, we ought to probably schedule alcohol and tobacco, if only for the sake of consistency and scientific accuracy (i.e. they’re harmful and should be considered “drugs”, though not necessarily made illegal).

Oh, and finally (as well as to reiterate) … People should have the right to grow their own cannabis in their own backyard, greenhouse or indoor grow tent, alongside their parsley, garlic and rosemary. Having people who care about the plant and keeping unique strains and phenotypes alive is of utmost importance to keeping this amazing plant alive in the future, as well as ensuring genetic diversity in the cannabis gene pool as a whole. Who knows? You might just well have a strain with a terpenoid and cannabinoid profile that helps cure a specific type of cancer!

Cannabis Culture Magazine

Cannabis Culture is an activist magazine dedicated to liberating marijuana, freeing pot-prisoners around the globe, and bringing an end to the vicious worldwide war on drugs.