sam smart approaches to marijuana

SAM Applauds FDA Action on Juul


If the FDA is concerned with the risks of a nicotine vape, THC vape risk factors include unregulated THC concentrations, impaired driving, youth-targeted marketing and marijuana-induced psychosis and warrant urgent action

(Washington, DC) Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) commends the FDA for taking Juul vapes off the shelves because of health risks and aggressive marketing to minors. SAM now calls on the agency to extend a similar ban to THC products such as THC-containing vapes, and marijuana-infused products, such as gum drops, candies, sodas and junk food snacks.

“Because the FDA feels the danger with nicotine vapes is sufficient enough to pull Juul off the shelves, they should now consider that at the very same bodega or vape shop is an array of products with high-potency THC vapes, snacks, foods and sodas all packaged in colorful ways with cartoon characters and other youth advertising methods,” said Patrick Kennedy, co-founder of SAM and author of the 2008 Parity Act as a Congressman.

“The FDA is partially reacting to the unethical and abhorrent marketing of vapes for which nicotine companies have paid out close to $100 million dollars in fines to various states, so it’s logical they would extend that concern to over-the-counter THC products. The youth of America are at risk and unprotected from THC because of a loophole that allows abuse through state level recreational availability. The addiction-for-profit industry will continue to push the boundaries of the law and regulations because their sole interest is profit, not public health or the public good. My father and Rep. Waxman led the effort to go after the lies of Big Tobacco, when are we going to ask ourselves, haven’t we seen this show before?”

SAM urges the federal government to mitigate the public health risks of cannabis use among minors through the following measures:

  • Collect data on how marijuana use impacts people with underlying mental health issues, particularly among youth
  • A large scale public information/education effort and awareness campaign on the impacts of increased THC concentrations, which include psychosis and the development of cannabis use disorder
  • Ban “youth THC” products targeting minors, specifically THC vapes, gum drops and candies, sodas and fruity drinks, candy bars, brownies and others packaged as similar snacks to other youth products (Twinkies, Ding Dongs, Chocodiles, Snowballs, Eskimo Pies and Yodels)
  • State monitored potency scales and clear mandatory labeling of strength
  • Requirements on the commercial marijuana industry market to not market to youth and distort public perception of health risks

“No one should go to jail for using marijuana, but it also must be treated like the powerful drug that it is,” said Kevin Sabet, co-founder and President of SAM. “If the FDA will regulate nicotine vapes, where is the rationale in not regulating THC vapes, gummies, drinks and snacks? Marijuana’s schedule 1 status does not exempt cannabis products from FDA approval.

In states with so-called medical marijuana, it’s being marketed as a wonder drug that treats everything from back pain to anxiety – with no accountability from the regulatory agency that is supposed to protect us. To be clear – the FDA just announced a proposed rule cutting nicotine, a drug that doesn’t impair thinking and judgment but did absolutely nothing about the product on the adjacent shelf that is known to cause impairment, psychosis, depression, anxiety and other disorders. If we allow the FDA to turn a blind eye to THC, we’ll see the same efforts to suppress information about its health and safety risks that we’ve seen with big tobacco and cigarettes, and the pharmaceutical industry and opioids”

In Colorado, the percentage of traffic fatalities in which drivers tested positive for marijuana increased from 15% in 2013, when marijuana was legalized, to 25% in 2019. Marijuna use among people ages 18-25 in Colorado is 14% higher than the national average, and cases of Substance Use Disorder (SUD) in people over 18 is 3.2% higher. In all states in which marijuana has been legalized, there has been a 25% increase in Cannabis Use Disorder (CUD) among 12-17 year olds.

States that have legalized marijuana have not enforced regulations strongly and most states have not imposed potency limits. While marijuana grown in the 1970s typically had THC (the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis) of only 1-3%, today’s marijuana typically has 17.1%, and edibles have an average concentration of 55.7%; many marijuana retailers have products available with THC potency of 95-99%. Vapes change the dynamic of THC abuse by eliminating odors that may prevent public consumption. The packaging of THC implies a stylish and cool factor that makes it look appropriate as a youth product. Additional products such as gummies emphasize the nuance that they are harmless candy, and highlight relaxation and fun as the desired effects. The reality is that you have a powerful mind altering substance that immediately results in impaired driving and psychosis being sold in convenience stores and vape shops with absolutely no checkpoints. To not mandate a potency scale and clear branding is equivalent to removing the federally required alcohol proof that is on every label and container of alcohol.

This trend, and the lack of regulation, is particularly alarming for mental health officials given the link between high THC marijuana and psychosis. According to a study published in psychiatric journal The Lancet, daily users of high-potency marijuana had four-times the odds of developing psychosis compared with those who have never used marijuana.