Testing has a lot to do with low dosing and expanding the cannabis market to a new low-dose consumer.
THE EMERGING LOW-DOSE CONSUMER
Generally speaking, the emerging low-dose cannabis consumer falls into one of two categories:
- People with non-life-threatening conditions who are turning to cannabis as a substitute for (or adjunct to) traditional medicine that is ineffective or produces too many unwanted side effects, or
- Very casual recreational users who want to substitute cannabis for another intoxicant (such as alcohol), because cannabis produces far fewer side effects.
By and large, these emerging low-dose cannabis consumers aren’t going to get into the details of the cannabis plant. They don’t want to “free the plant” – they are not advocates.
Both categories of new low-dose consumers represent a huge (and I would argue, largely untapped) market. Because cannabis in low-dosing reduces the psychoactive effects of the drug, there is considerable commercial viability here to expend the market. And, because low doses of cannabis can be found in much more traditional routes of administration, such as liquid tinctures and capsules, there is an opportunity to bring in a much more “mainstream” consumer and to help reduce the stigma typically associated with “weed” and “getting high.”
SIDE EFFECTS & CONSISTENCY
Simply put: the new emerging low-dose cannabis consumer cares about two things: what are the side effects of using cannabis and is the dose clearly labeled and consistent?
Despite the explosion of state regulations in this area, cannabis remains federally illegal as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. Regardless of your politics or the industry’s perception of this injustice, the classification of cannabis as a Schedule I drug scares a lot of these new consumers – these are “mainstream” people who believe marijuana (and the industry at large) is pretty seedy.
Assuming you can get someone to work through his or her stereotypes and fears on the topic and accept that cannabis is an appropriate medical or recreational option – testing and labeling become paramount to building credibility and expanding the market.
Anyone in the industry (and even outside it!) knows dosing and consistency within products are highly variable. Maureen Dowd made headlines when she experienced a toxic psychosis from eating a cannabis product. Toxic psychosis is an extremely disorienting condition involving feelings of paranoia, panic attacks, and hallucinations. I doubt her cannabis was “bad” – it was a case of consuming something in a ridiculously high dose that wasn’t labeled as such and didn’t contain any warnings. I’ve had one of these episodes as well, and I’ll never ever again trust cannabis from an unreliable source.
Normalizing cannabis requires a high attention to detail in product testing and manufacturing. People in the cannabis industry want to hate the FDA, but to appeal to the more “mainstream” consumer, it’s important to embrace the conditioning instead of fighting it.
The FDA tries its best to ensure the safety of all Americans. Clinical trials and testing are two cornerstones of this mission. For legitimacy, it’s important for the cannabis industry to borrow some of the best practices from the FDA, especially in the area of product testing and labeling.
This is an area where testing companies can really differentiate themselves by supporting (and stewarding) more robust labeling requirements.
Testing companies can help standardize this process by establishing rigorous protocols for testing cannabis products. Imagine a “gold seal” of sorts where testing companies who really take testing seriously deliver testing results via a best practice “Drug Facts” label.
This exactly the type of labeling is typically found on over-the-counter medications – where simple language helps people compare active ingredients, effects, and dose. Would you buy a bottle of aspirin that looked nice but lacked this basic information?
Since the cannabis industry is still in its infancy, testing companies are widely regarded (and applauded) as the group helping to validate and promote consistency.
Let’s continue to use testing as a vehicle for enabling legitimacy and lead the charge to support better product labeling with precise information about the strength of each dose and dosing instructions.
We should care about a topic regardless, but especially in the area of “mainstreaming” cannabis and increasing the appeal to millions of potential low-dosing consumers.