Revving Up Research and Standardization in the Cannabis Industry

Written by Lydia Kariuki

The cannabis industry has come a long way and much has been achieved. The unprecedented growth has been facilitated by positive legislative changes that have led to the decriminalization and legalization of cannabis across different countries.

However, the industry as a whole is still lagging behind in science as far as standardization of products is concerned. The lack of federal oversight means that the wider industry may resemble “the wild west.”

To curtail this, the industry needs clear guidelines on product development, testing, and safety. Such guidelines should only spring up from a background of published scientific evidence which is wanting.

The Cannabis Industry Compared to Big Pharma

The cannabis industry is giving Big Pharma a run for its money. However, when it comes to standardization of products and dosing guidelines, Big Pharma beats the cannabis industry hands down.

Recently, for example, researchers linked a “commercial CBD product” to the development of Stevens-Johnson Syndrome (SJS). [1] They observed “involvement of other ingredients in this non-FDA-regulated product as the causative agent,” and the case patient had used other products without any issue. [1]

This has not been the first case where the contamination of cannabis-based products has led to serious medical complications; late last year, contaminated vape cartridges caused severe lung injuries across thousands of individuals.

Large, randomized clinical trials are needed to provide solid evidence on the effectiveness and safety of cannabinoid-based therapies in different areas. This will also create a framework for dosing guidelines. Without this, standardization in the industry will remain a pipe dream.

Should We Create Standard THC Units?

The industry lacks standard units of measurements for cannabinoid units. Typically, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) units are quantified in number of joints, puffs, milligrams, or grams. [2] The latter is closer to home but fails to take into consideration the heterogeneity in THC concentrations across different cannabis products. This cannot be compared to the precision of say alcohol units.

A recent study [2] made a proposal for the standardization of dosages across all cannabis products and methods of administration. The researchers acknowledged the lack of consensus on how units of cannabis should be measured.

If the bioactive constituents in cannabis can have fixed units, this could pave the way for standardized dosages. Standardization of cannabis products can help to ensure accurate dosing and consumer safety in the long run. It would also allow researchers across the world to approach cannabis in a more unified manner. [2]

Image Source

Research by Nick Youngson CC BY-SA 3.0 Alpha Stock Images


  1. Yin HY, et al. Commercial cannabinoid oil-induced Stevens-Johnson syndrome. Case Reports in Ophthalmological Medicine. 2020;2020(6760272).
  2. Freeman TP, Lorenzetti V. ‘Standard THC units’: a proposal to standardize dose across all cannabis products and methods of administration. Addiction. 2020;115(7):1207–1216. Impact Factor: 6.851, Times Cited: 23

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Lydia Kariuki

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