Washington state lawmakers bring bill to ban most cannabis concentrates

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Citing
concerns
about
a
suspected
connection
between
cannabis
and
psychosis,
a
group
of
Washington
state
lawmakers
wants
to
slash
the
allowed
potency
of
all
non-medical
cannabis
concentrates,
limiting
THC
levels
to
no
more
than
10%.

The
new
proposal,

House
Bill
2546
,
would
dramatically
alter
the
face
of
Washington’s
legal
cannabis
landscape
by
outlawing
the
vast
majority
of
state-licensed
vape
cartridges,
dabbable
extracts,
and
other
concentrated
products.
Such
products
are
increasingly
popular
with
consumers,
lawmakers
noted
in
the
bill,
accounting
for
nearly
40%
of
the
state’s
legal
cannabis
sales
in
2019.

Experts
warn
that
the
move,
ostensibly
aimed
at
improving
public
health,
could
quickly
backfire.
Leo
Beletsky,
a
professor
of
law
and
public
health
at
Northwestern
University,
said
that
a
blanket
ban
on
such
a
large
swath
of
popular
products
would
likely
drive
consumers
into
the
illegal
market.

“There
may
well
be
rationale
for
eliminating
some
portion
of
the
riskiest
products
on
the
market
if
there’s
evidence
to
support
that,
but
doing
that
with
40%
off
the
products
would
make
very
little
sense,”
Beletsky
said.
“If
40%
of
the
market
is
toward
these
products
and
then
you
ban
them,
you’d
definitely
be
creating
a
push
towards
the
black
market.”

Illegal
concentrates
led
to
57
deaths

And
that’s
where
far
more
serious
health
dangers
may
lurk.
Federal
Centers
for
Disease
Control
(CDC)
officials

have
concluded

that

vitamin
E
oil

used
to
dilute
illegal-market
vape
cartridges
has
been
responsible
for
nearly
all
cases
of

VAPI
(also
known
as
EVALI)
,
the
deadly
lung
condition
that
has
killed
at
least
57
Americans
in
the
past
year.
Vitamin
E
oil

did
not
show
up

in
the
state-licensed
market
because
potency
testing,
which
is
required
in
legal
markets,
would
reveal
cartridges
cut
with
vitamin
E
oil
to
be
severely
lacking
in
THC—and
thus
all
but
unsellable.

Beletsky
called
the
proposed
10%
THC
cutoff
“puzzling”
and
“arbitrarily
low.”
Recent
studies
have
indicated
a
link
between
cannabis
use
and
psychosis
in
a
very
small
percentage
of
consumers,
he
acknowledged,
but
the
science
is
far
from
settled.
Some
evidence,
for
example,
suggests
that
patients
with
psychosis
may
actually
be
self-medicating
with
THC
to
better
cope
with
symptoms.

“I
think
there
is
a
reason
for
concern,”
Beletsky
said,
“but
we
need
far
more
information
and
far
more
high-quality
research
to
try
to
guide
these
legal
steps.”

10%
pulled
out
of
the
air

The
bill’s
10%
cutoff
comes
from
a
study
that
defined
“high-potency”
cannabis
as
products
containing
more
than
10%
THC.
The
study
found
that
regular
consumers
of
high-THC
products
had
higher
instances
of
psychosis.
But
as
Beletsky
pointed
out,
the
10%
threshold
appears
to
be
arbitrary,
borrowed
by
lawmakers
not
because
of
its
scientific
grounding
but
simply
because
it
was
there.

“They
cite
this
study
where
they
used
a
10%
number
for
a
cutoff
for
what
they
define
to
be
high-potency,”
he
said.
“I’m
not
sure
that
is
a
number
that
makes
sense.”

Low
potency
would
require
more
diluents

The
new
bill
also
raises
other
questions,
such
as
how
to
effectively
produce
such
low-potency
extracts.
Because
concentrates
are
usually
made
from
cannabis
flower
or
trim
that
itself
contains
about
10%
to
30%
THC,
concentrated
extracts
almost
by
definition
contain
more.
Typical
concentrates
contain
about
40%
to
70%
THC,
while
some
purified
products
can
approach
nearly
100%
THC.

To
create
concentrate
products
that
would
comply
with
HB
2546’s
strict
limit,
processors
would
likely
have
to

dilute
their
products

or
start
with
especially
low-potency
plant
material,
industry
experts
said.

Daniel
Luebke,
director
of
marketing
and
brand
for
Seattle-based
cannabis
extractor
Heylo,
said
that
to
comply
with
the
new
rule,
concentrate
producers
would
need
to
blend
THC
extracts
either
with
other
cannabinoids,
such
as
CBD,
or
add
cutting
agents
to
dilute
the
concentration.

“We’re
trying
to
preserve
the
chemistry
that’s
in
the
flower
and
just
make
a
concentration
of
it,”
Luebke
said.
“To
cater
to
the
[new
10%
THC] legal
demand,
we
would
have
to
be
making
an
inferior
product,
essentially,
and
going
away
from
the
method
we’ve
developed,
that
our
customers
love.”

‘No
measurable
benefit’

Passage
of
HB
2546
wouldn’t
ultimately
impact
consumer
demand
for
high-potency
concentrates,
Luebke
predicted.
“It’s
a
question
of
whether
they’re
getting
safe
products
and
whether
the
state’s
getting
that
revenue.”

Concentrate
products
manufactured
by
state-licensed
companies
are
required
to
undergo
lab
testing,
and
may
be
recalled
at
the
first
sign
of
trouble.
New
state
rules
established
after
the
nationwide
vaping
scare
now
limit
many
dangerous
additives
to
vape
cartridges
and
other
state-licensed
products.
There
are
no
such
controls
over
illicit-market
products.

Christine
Bryant,
marketing
director
for
cannabis
retailer
Hashtag,
said
passage
of
HB
2546
“would
decimate
our
inventory.”
Even
most
of
the
store’s
high-CBD
concentrates,
she
said,
come
in
at
about
20%
THC.

“I
think
I
can
even
wrap
my
mind
around
the
spirit
of
the
bill,”
Bryant
said,
acknowledging
that
the
consequences
of
psychosis
are
“terrifying.”
But
she
remains
unconvinced
“that
a
10%
cap
on
THC
concentrates
would
provide
any
measurable
benefit
to
end
consumers.”

‘You
will
not
feel
intoxicated’

Washington’s
cannabis
laws
clearly
contemplate
adult-use
consumers
who
want
to
get
high,
Bryant
said.
Under
the
HB
2546,
she
argued,
it’s
not
clear
they’d
be
able
to.

“If
you
come
into
the
store
saying,
‘I
want
to
get
high,
please
give
me
a
concentrate
with
10%
THC
or
less,’”
she
said,
“the
response
is
likely
going
to
be,
‘You
will
not
feel
intoxicated.’”

Reviving
the
BHO
fire
problem

Consumers
seeking
higher-potency
extracts
would
be
pushed
to
the
unlicensed
market,
she
predicted—or,
worse,
would
try
to
make
extracts
at
home.
Home
extraction
can
cause
explosions
if
the
volatile
chemicals
typically
used
catch
fire.

In
the
era
prior
to
the
opening
of
Washington
state’s
adult-use
cannabis
stores,
home
extraction
fires
had
become
a
public
safety
issue.
An

Oct.
2013
fire

that
started
in
a
BHO
operation
in
a
Bellevue,
WA,
apartment,
claimed
the
life
of
the
city’s
former
mayor,
who
happened
to
live
in
a
nearby
unit.

“Producing
concentrate
outside
of
a
licensed
producer-processor
lab
is
so
incredibly
dangerous,”
Bryant
said.
“Why
have
a
recreational
legal
cannabis
market
in
Washington
state
if
one
of
the
outcomes
would
be
to
encourage
home
lab
production
of
concentrate?”

It’s
not
yet
clear
what
kind
of
reception
the
measure
will
get
in
Olympia,
but
cannabis
businesses
and
trade
associations
are
watching
it
closely.
Luebke,
at
Heylo,
says
HB
2546
is
one
of
a
handful
this
legislative
session
that
have
put
him
on
edge—and
the
session
only
started
on
Monday.

Crazy
week
in
the
legislature

“It’s
been
a
crazy
week,”
he
said.
“This
is
the
most
significant
time
that
we’ve
been
concerned
that
there’s
change
happening
in
Olympia
that
could
tremendously
adversely
affect
our
future.”

HB
2546’s
sponsors
include
state
Reps.

Lauren
Davis

(D-32),

Chris
Corry

(R-14),

Brad
Klippert

(R-8),

Jeremie
Dufault

(R-15),

Christine
Kilduff

(D-28),

Paul
Harris

(R-17),

Lisa
Callan

(D-5),
Mari
Leavitt
(D-28),
My-Linh
Thai
(D-41),
Tana
Senn
(D-41),

Sherry
Appleton

(D-23),

Tina
Orwall

(D-33),
Sharon
Wylie
(D-49),
Laurie
Dolan
(D-22),

Luanne
Van
Werven

(R-42),
Amy
Walen
(D-48),

Kelly
Chambers

(R-25),
Jenny
Graham
(R-6),
Bill
Ramos
(D-5),
Shelley
Kloba
(D-1),
Gerry
Pollet
(D-46),
and
Debra
Lekanoff
(D-40).

Reps.
Davis,
Corry,
and
Klippert
did
not
immediately
respond
to
requests
for
comment
on
their
bill.



 
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Ben Adlin's Bio Image

Ben
Adlin

Ben
Adlin
is
a
Seattle-based
writer
and
editor
who
specializes
in
cannabis
politics
and
law.
He
was
a
news
editor
for
Leafly
from
2015-2019.
Follow
him
on
Twitter:
@badlin

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