While it seems that the novel coronavirus has captured the full focus of citizens, state governments and federal agencies, there is one topic that the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) is fixated on that is not related to the pandemic: Establishing a standardized dose of THC in cannabis products. NIDA believes that this will solidify consistency in the scientific studies conducted on the medicinal benefits and potential risks of marijuana.
In an official Request for Information (RFI) published by NIDA on Monday, the organization said that conducting research continues to be difficult due to the various THC levels in cannabis products and that a standard THC unit could remedy that problem.
To facilitate research on cannabis, NIDA seeks input on the establishment of a standard unit dose of THC. Read more on Nora's Blog:https://t.co/hYhM2YB8qW#NIDAscience pic.twitter.com/zTjfMJbORh— NIDAnews (@NIDAnews) March 24, 2020
“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,” the notice states. “Still, THC is the major contributor to the psychoactive effects of cannabis and thus a good proxy for a standardized unit dose. Some states have instituted standard serving sizes for edible cannabis products, based on the amount of THC contained in them; however, these are not consistent in all states.”
NIDA expressed the importance that in order for a standardized unit dose to be the most useful for public health and studies, it will need to be widely adopted by the research community, the industry for product labeling, and the consumers.
“Indeed, establishment of such a standard would have the greatest impact if universally adopted for commercial product labeling, allowing for more direct comparison across products and a reliable metric by which consumers can understand and accurately report their use,” NIDA states. “This may influence the way consumers think about cannabis, giving them a reliable unit to track intake—the same way people monitoring their alcohol use may count the number of drinks they have consumed on a given evening.”
Although NIDA believes that a standard THC dose would dramatically improve the ability to assess outcomes in relation to exposure, the agency acknowledges that cannabis plants in particular remain in a state of flux in terms of potency.
“A standard dose is in some ways arbitrary, especially for this drug, given the shifting potency of cannabis plants, the wide variability in products, and the ways individuals use them. Designating a standard unit dose simply sets an easy-to-follow standard,” reads the request. “Designing experiments around a standard amount of THC in whatever form it is administered or consumed (as well as increments or multiples of that amount) will greatly facilitate gathering rigorous data and comparing data across studies.”
NIDA hopes that if a standardized THC dose is established, it would provide a rubric on how to form prevention strategies as well as facilitate the comparison of the effects of different products and methods of ingestion. While it is uncertain yet whether or not the information request will be granted, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) announced last week that the agency is bidding for an update to a rule that would allow for the expansion of authorized cannabis growers for research purposes.