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Are Standard Units the Future of Cannabis Use?

Standard units for the grading of alcohol products have been in place for years to help users assess the risk in their drinking behaviour. But could a similar grading system help cannabis users to qualify the risks of their cannabis consumption too?

According to a team of researchers from the University of Bath, UCL, King’s College London and the Australian Catholic University in Melbourne, imposing standard units to denote the potency of recreational cannabis could mean that the mental health of cannabis users would significantly improve. This is said to be because such grading limits would allow users to be more aware of the THC levels in their cannabis. THC is the main component of cannabis being singled out here as it is the plant’s main psychoactive element, which is often associated with the negative effects of the drug’s use.

The expert team clarify that the unit level of cannabis should be 5mg of THC as this amount would allow the cannabis user to still become intoxicated without inducing any negative psychoactive symptoms associated with THC.

The lead author of the investigation, Sam Craft, suggests that the group: “believe[s] a unit system would help both users and healthcare professionals by providing clearer information on the types of cannabis products and their strength”. Indeed, the team goes on further to suggest that such a grading system, like we are already accustomed to in regard to alcohol, could prove vitally important in countries where cannabis is not yet legalised, like the U.K.

Dr Tom Freeman of the University of Bath describes how the team hopes that the introduction of the grading system suggested to countries where cannabis is already legal would hopefully have “knock-on effects to countries where it is not, providing users and clinicians with an important toolkit to guide safer use”.

In principle, this is a good idea. Accurate product information is important for consumers across the board. The Academy would like to see a great deal more information than just the THC ratios of a cannabis product though.

Understanding the CBD ratio is also of obvious importance, but the cannabis plant is a complex organism, containing many more pharmacodynamically relevant chemical substances than just the two major cannabinoids. There are numerous minor cannabinoids with potentially significant therapeutic potential. The terpene profile of any specific strain, which influences not only the scent of the product but is suspected to have therapeutic relevance as well, should also be included.

It’s encouraging that the emerging landscape for cannabis is receiving proper attention. Different models are appearing as different countries test new approaches, and a long term solution that can sustain the safe and effective use of medical cannabis is likely to emerge.

Further investigation and research into cannabis use (both recreational and medical) is thoroughly encouraged by The Academy, particularly through the use of our own online courses, evidence base and white papers. Specific information on THC, it’s qualities and risks can be found in our free introductory course.

A quick guide to the qualities of THC when compared to CBD can be found in our article on the subject.

The rest of our comprehensive resources on medical cannabis and its use are available on our website. We urge anyone considering the use of medical cannabis products to consult with a trained medical professional prior to beginning use.

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