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How Much THC Should Be in a Standard Dose? This Federal Agency Wants Your Help to Decide

By Leo Bear-McGuinness

Published: Mar 25, 2020   
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Researchers at the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) are trying to decide how much THC should constitute a standard dose – and they want to hear from other researchers and the public before they make up their minds.

Dosed and confused

Unlike alcohol, the strength of recreational cannabis in legal states isn’t currently classified under a standard unit system. Instead, cannabis products have largely been categorized by their strain, weight, and THC:CBD ratio.

But, according to the NIDA team, that’s not good enough for research. If scientists are going to continue studying cannabis’ effects, NIDA says, they’re going to need a standard classification system.

“One hindrance to conducting such research is the lack of a standardized measure of the THC in various cannabis products, making it hard to compare the results of different studies,” the agency wrote in its request for information.

Some studies do measure the strength of cannabis in “joints” or “joint years,” but these aren’t “meaningful,” according to the NIDA team, given that cannabis products can widely vary in potency.

So, to address this issue, the NIDA researchers aim to establish a standardized THC unit, likely in milligrams (mg), that all researchers can use to measure the strength of cannabis when conducting studies.

“We recognize that the cannabis plant contains multiple cannabinoids and other components that may influence its overall effect, and that other factors, including route of administration, are also important,” they wrote in the request for information. “Still, THC is the major contributor to the psychoactive effects of cannabis and thus a good proxy for a standardized unit dose.”

Got an optimum THC dose?

Writing in the journal Addiction last October, another group of researchers recommended that 5mg of THC could constitute an ideal unit – a figure roughly on par with levels found in a small joint. The group suggested that such a unit system could help make consumers more aware of exactly how much THC they were using, which, in turn, could mitigate some of the mental health risks associated with excessive cannabis use.

The team from NIDA have said they concur with the 5mg level and agree with the researchers’ reasoning, but say that such a “decision about a standard unit dose should not be made unilaterally.”

“…which is why we want to hear from the research community, the public, and other stakeholders before recommending that researchers settle on any particular milligram amount for their standard, and before NIDA requires use of such a standard in NIDA-funded cannabis research,” they wrote.

Anyone wishing to contribute to this decision can do so electronically. The deadline to send a response is May 1, 2020. Further information can be found here.

Leo Bear-McGuinness

Science Writer & Editor

Leo joined Analytical Cannabis in 2019. From research to regulations and analysis to agriculture, his writing covers all the need-to-know news for the cannabis industry. He holds a Bachelor's in Biology from Newcastle University and a Master's in Science Communication from the University of Edinburgh.


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