MONTPELIER — The Cannabis Control Board soon will be recommending to legislators to remove all potency caps for cannabis products.
At its Dec. 14 meeting, the board targeted the existing caps on potency, recommending that future legislation remove all THC caps, and instead authorize consumer education programs and make safe dosage and health information easily accessible.
The board has put together an 82-page report for the Legislature on the topic of solid concentrates and the THC cap on them; THC is tetrahydrocannabinol, the chemical that gives cannabis users its “high,” and solid cannabis concentrates are products that are high in cannabis compounds such as THC. Examples of solid concentrates include cannabis oil, wax and shatter.
As it stands, there is a cap on cannabis flower and solid concentrates in Vermont. Flower can have a maximum of 30 percent THC, and solid concentrates can have a maximum of 60 percent THC. In the nation, only Vermont and Connecticut have imposed a cap on THC for solid concentrates in their retail market.
The board’s plan is to educate legislators about solid concentrates, how they’re used and how they’re made, members said. Next, board members believe that there should be a focus on consumer education to ensure safe dosing.
Health officials in Massachusetts and Colorado, both well-known for their legal cannabis programs, decided the existing information about the potency caps is not enough to draw a reliable conclusion to require limits. The argument is that a high THC concentration can negatively affect mental health, but to date federal prohibition has prevented scientific research from being done.
By forcing manufacturers to produce concentrates with a lower THC concentration, the manufacturers will have to cut the product with a filler, which might have negative effects on consumer health, the board noted.
The illicit market should also be considered when discussing a cap on THC, members said. Solid concentrates make up 4 to 8 percent of the illicit market in Vermont, and that small percentage brings $12 million to $25 million a year into the black market.
All concentrates are at about 60 percent THC concentration when they’re created, according to the board. The filler product has to be created after extraction, and there is no way to know for certain what will be used as a filler, members noted.
There is also little-to-no research about what effects these fillers will have on the body and lungs. The most likely outcome is that companies will not create concentrates, and the sales will remain in the illegal market, the board said.
“Prohibition isn’t going to eliminate the demand or the supply of these types of potency products,” said Brynn Hare, executive director of the board.
The draft report presented at the meeting is subject to change, the board said.
In other cannabis board news
Board members noted that electronic paperwork delays are being alleviated.
“We’re finally leaving the stone age of Microsoft forms and incorporating product registration into our licensing portal,” said Board Chairman James Pepper.
Instead of using the out of date form, there is a product registration tab on the licensing portal for easy registration. If a licensee already has submitted a product to the Microsoft form, they do not have to resubmit on the portal.
In the new year, the Cannabis Control Board meeting schedule will change to one meeting per month. The meetings will be supplemented with subject specific networking events to cover specific topics, such as insurance and tax requirements. An official schedule will be determined at the January board meeting.
In hand with the board’s education-first approach to compliance, the board has been actively trying to close the gaps in policies and requirements with guidance documents, Pepper said.
While the board expected some “hand-holding” in the beginning of the process, Pepper said the board can no longer see some of the issues they’re encountering as “good faith mistakes.”
“Everyone with a cannabis license should have an intimate familiarity with our rules, our guidance and the FAQ section of our website,” he said.
The board has been fending off common sense questions and some inaccuracies in information provided by some licensees. Pepper said it’s a “fundamental responsibility” for a business owner to understand and implement the rules of their governing body, in this case the Cannabis Control Board.
The board is happy to address any confusion or ambiguity in the rules. Licensees can email the board directly.