Colorado public health experts have conducted a two-year research review on the effects of potent cannabis products and published an interactive publication containing hundreds of studies. The research looks at everything from mental health to cancer to pregnancy. Congress mandated the review in 2021 in response to concerns about the growing number of high-concentration THC products dominating the state’s legal cannabis market. Adolescents and young adults are particularly vulnerable to the adverse physical and mental health effects of high-potency cannabis use. However, the researchers found limited evidence in published studies for the most commonly claimed effects.
The research database is described as an ‘evidence map’ and is the first and most complete systematic assessment of the entire literature related to high-concentration cannabis. The study funded by the National Institutes of Health was restricted to using cannabis from official government research pot farms at the University of Mississippi, which has notoriously low-quality cannabis. The research team screened nearly 66,000 studies and found 452 relevant to their question about high-potency THC, but the products in these studies were very different from what is currently on the market. The review highlights the complexity of the issue, with a lack of conclusive evidence.
Consumption methods can have an impact, as can consumption and consumer tolerance, which introduces a dizzying number of variables. To get to the underlying answer about the health effects of high-potency cannabis, consistent standards and measurement methods are required for better comparison and synthesis of studies. Consumers are advised to be cautious, and the Colorado School of Public Health review needs caution. While there are studies showing high-dose cannabis use can be beneficial for mental health conditions such as PTSD, anxiety, and depression, there is also evidence that high levels of THC can adversely affect people with pre-existing medical conditions such as psychosis.