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A missive in favor of the regulation and marketing of "Lite Pot." [Cross-posted at METAR]

I have long been an advocate of marijuana de-criminalization, leaning toward outright legalization, with commercialization, controlled sale, and DUI treatment the same as tobacco and/or alcohol.

However, upon recently understanding that today's pot is much more potent than the legendary mellow-making weed of my youth, I am re-thinking my laissez-faire attitude toward the pot industry.

The following two issues make me believe that marijuana should probably be segregated by its mind-altering THC content, in the same manner that alcohol is graded by proof. Likewise, I am becoming convinced that the FDA or a federal bureau ought to restrict the distribution of highly potent THC in the same manner that narcotic pain killers are dispensed.

1. The correlation of heavy use of marijuana with psychosis and schizophrenia is statistically significant.

People with psychotic problems often use cannabis regularly; this is a solid correlation, backed by numerous studies. But it is unclear which came first, the cannabis habit or the psychoses... Psychotic disorders tend to emerge in late adolescence or early adulthood, during or after a period of rapid brain development. In the teenage years, the brain strips away unneeded or redundant connections between brain cells, in a process called synaptic pruning... CB1 receptors, which are involved in the pruning, and are engaged by cannabis use. And alterations to the pruning process may well increase schizophrenia risk, according to recent research at the Broad Institute of M.I.T. and Harvard.

2. Cannabis use increases the amount of dangerous anesthesia medications required to sedate patients for surgery.

They needed 14 percent more fentanyl and 220.5 percent more propofol during procedures like endoscopies or colonoscopies.

Just as 90 proof booze has greater mind-altering effects than low-alcohol beer, so medical-grade marijuana has greater impact on the brain of users than does the old-fashioned doobie.

While I remain in favor of de-criminalization, I recommend that the US government set up federal guidelines as to the potency, dispensing, distribution, and age usage restrictions permitted in the states that have legalized marijuana already. The US Constitution's Commerce Clause gives them the power to regulate - and the health of the nation is at stake, with knock-on economic effect.

We should move quickly, since the horse is out of the barn - and high-potency THC cannabis and its derivatives are being dispensed and used by young people in the thousands, perhaps soon in the millions.

Before the financial community becomes too invested in the legalization and marketing of the current high-potency cannabis, we need the federal government to step in and restrict the legally-available pot to "lite" levels of THC. High-potency stuff ought to be restricted and prescribed by only specialists such as psychiatrists or pain doctors - those educated in the risks related to psychosis, schizophrenia, anesthesia drugs, and the like.

Commercial producers, now in the throes of IPO's and massive private equity funding, ought to be restricted to production, distribution, and sale of "Lite Pot," of government-mandated potency. States which have legalized personal use ought to be required to bring their laws into conformity with the federal potency restrictions - or lose their federal funding of healthcare and Medicaid.

Anecdotal evidence:

These concerns were made real to me when a friend in his mid-20's developed THC-related schizophrenia after two years of heavy use of medical-grade marijuana he received under a prescription from a California doctor. The admittedly fake "condition" he complained of to get the prescription was "difficulty sleeping."

Now he is under care from a psychiatrist after developing psychosis and schizophrenia.

This young man was an fastidiously clean athlete, a musician, and a degreed practicing engineer with a high salary at a California company. After only a couple of years of high-potency medical cannabis use, he became unable to remember to take a shower or to prepare regular meals. He became only productive during manic episodes, which were quickly followed by catatonia.

Whereas before he commenced medical cannabis use, this bright young man was a highly-animated and verbally expressive individual, he has now become socially dull, a mere shadow of his former self - almost in a zombie-like state, due to the medications now necessary to control his schizophrenia.

Psychosis and schizophrenia are too dangerous for us to ignore, even if they are developed primarily by those cannabis users with "genetic predisposition." Without genetic testing as a precondition of dispensing marijuana to malleable brains, the healthcare system is compelled to err on the side of caution.

If cannabis manufacture, distribution, dispensing, strict age restriction, and permitted potency usage guidelines are not soon developed by the federal government, I justifiably fear that each one of us will eventually observe our own personal anecdotal evidence of the dangers of todays high-potency marijuana.

The last thing we need as a nation is a THC-related health crisis potentially even greater than the current opiate crisis. Our families, friends, associates and all their children are at risk.

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