A research done by a team of experts under a leading marijuana investigator reveals that as a result of marijuana legalization in many U.S. states, both for medical and recreational use, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has come across far less samples of illicit cannabis in the past 5-6 years than earlier.
The results of the study strengthen the argument of cannabis legalization campaigners that demand for illicit cannabis would reduce significantly when legal options are available for procuring cannabis.
The author of the study is the pharmacologist Mahmoud ElSohly, who runs a cannabis cultivation facility at the University of Mississippi. It is the only federal government-authorized place for growing the cannabis used for research purposes.
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However, there are complaints that the cannabis grown in the facility contains much less cannabinoids than in those products that consumers actually get from licensed dispensaries.
The study was published in the journal of Biological Psychiatry and it reports that whereas in the year 2011 there were more than 2342 seized exhibits, the number had dwindled to less than 100 by the year 2019.
With the use of cannabis for both medicinal and recreational purposes legalized in many states, the illegal cannabis market is shrinking fast. As a result, the DEA has much less to worry about the unregulated market of cannabis.
Another positive result of marijuana- legalization is that arrests related to illegal manufacture and use of cannabis are getting reduced all over the country. According to FBI reports, the arrests decreased substantially in 2020.
A report released by the U.S. Sentencing Commission (USSC) in June reveals that cases of federal marijuana trafficking has also seen significant reduction. Yet another report, released by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts in 2020 says that even though there was an overall increase in prosecution of drug-related crimes in 2019, those involving marijuana only decreased by more than one-fourth.
Legalization of cannabis use by states has resulted in a decrease of marijuana smuggling as well. This was found in a study released in 2018 by the Cato Institute. However, even though the illegal cannabis market is diminishing, the availability of cannabis is still limited.
A study published in Biological Psychiatry points out that this is an indication that THC levels have increased over the years. The study found that while the THC level in seized cannabis was 9.75% in 2009, it rose to 14.88% in 2018, though it dropped slightly to13.88% in 2019. Legalization has also allowed the use of cannabis with higher levels of THC for medical use even though THC is more psychoactive than CBD.
In the illegal cannabis seized by DEA, while the concentration of CBD was 0.4% in 2009, it decreased to 0.14% in 2017 but it increased to 0.6% in 2019. The cannabinoid concentration in the marijuana obtained legally in licensed dispensaries is still not clearly known.
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Anyhow, researchers are expecting some overall changes in all these because of the cannabis-related legislation proceeding in the Congress. Further, the results obtained by the study are in consonance with the results of the studies done in many European countries for monitoring the cannabinoid levels in marijuana.
The Drug Enforcement Administration is encouraging the establishment of more manufacturing units of cannabis for being able to provide larger quantities of the product to scientists for doing researches and establishing the quality of the cannabis that people receive from licensed dispensaries across various states.
The DEA also recommended an expansion in the production of marijuana and psilocybin for conducting research in them and developing new therapeutic medicines that would get the approval of the federal government.
In 2019 itself, Elsoshy had expressed his surprise at the consumers’ interest in getting marijuana that had 15% or more of THC. It is way too high in his opinion because he finds even 8% of THC too much.
There is a lot of opposition for increasing the percentage of THC in marijuana, especially among those who disapprove the legalization of cannabis use. In 2019, a Republican senate committee chairman insisted that he would agree to advance a bill that protects the banks servicing marijuana businesses in states that have legalized it, only if its THC content was not more than 2%.