Too much THC? Lawmakers and advocates disagree on pot potency

thc potency caps

Cannabis policy is ever-changing, with new state and federal bills ebbing and flowing through their respective houses and senates. One topic that continues popping up is potency caps aiming to keep regulated cannabis products under a set THC level. Each bill is introduced with public safety in mind, as cannabis and psychosis are often linked to consuming high-THC products. None have made it to any governor’s desk.

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Advocates, activists, and patients are often on the opposing side of potency caps. Paul Armentano, deputy director for the national branch of public interest advocate group NORML, has spoken extensively on the subject. Armentano and NORML stand firmly against setting limits, claiming that capping THC content is not in the interest of public health or safety.

“Prohibiting adults from accessing these products from state-licensed retailers will not eliminate consumers’ demand for them. Rather, it will encourage consumers to seek out high-THC products in the unregulated market,” Armentano said in an email sent to GreenState.

Only two of the three bills in question this legislative session are still active, with efforts in Florida and New Hampshire flopping in recent weeks.

Bills aim to limit THC levels in cannabis products

Florida SB 7050 was introduced in the state senate in early February but failed to make the final agenda put in place by the legislative branch at the end of the month. If approved in its current form, the bill would have set THC maximums for cannabis flower, extracts, and edibles if voters legalize cannabis in the upcoming election.

The caps were set at 30 percent for flower, 60 percent for concentrates and extracts, and 10 milligrams for edibles. Aside from the concentrate THC limit, these limits would still include most modern cannabis products.

Lezli Engelking, president of the Foundation of Cannabis Unified Standards (FOCUS), founded FOCUS to address quality, consistency, and safety in the cannabis industry—none of which, she says, will be helped by setting THC limits.

“FOCUS does not support the idea of potency caps whatsoever. We are opposed to them,” Engelking stated. “Effectively, it takes away the ability for people to use cannabis as medicine by putting legislators and regulators in the middle of people’s personal health-related decisions. “

Potency caps don’t only harm stoners looking for a sick buzz. There are patients who consume high-THC products for relief from various conditions. Advocates like NORML and FOCUS value public education on potency and continued efforts to keep cannabis away from people under 21 as a public safety effort, not removing high-THC products entirely.

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What serves the people, abstinence or education?

In New Hampshire, legislators were seeking to pull back a bit more. SB 419 would reel in New Hampshire medical cannabis products, including “dried leaves and flowers of the cannabis plant and any mixture or preparation thereof,” to 16 percent or lower. This would wipe out many strains that have been bred to produce bud testing with 20 percent THC or higher.

As Armenatno mentioned, it would simply siphon sales from the regulated market back into the legacy world, not stop people from wanting high-THC weed.

“It will also move the production of these products exclusively underground. This undermines the primary goal of legalization, which is to provide patients with safe, above-ground access to lab-tested products of known purity, potency, and quality,” Armentano added.

The final push THC potency caps is alive in Washington, where a second effort is being made after a similar bill failed to reach the Senate in the 2021-2022 session. This year, Washington HB 2320 progressed from the house, where it has since been watered down from its original form.

The bill extended age limits in its original form, advising that only persons over the age of 25 should purchase products with 35 percent THC or higher. By the time the bill was heard on the Senate floor, the age limit was omitted, and emphasis was placed on public health initiatives and risk-mitigating education.

It’s the age-old question of abstinence or education. States pushing for potency caps have watched bills die while shifting to risk mitigation has gotten WA HB 2320 to a senate committee–perhaps the age-old question has an answer.

Cara Wietstock is senior content producer of and has been working in the cannabis space since 2011. She has covered the cannabis business beat for Ganjapreneur and The Spokesman Review. You can find her living in Bellingham, Washington with her husband, son, and a small zoo of pets.