Libertarians might want to skip this story about their primary platform plank.
In the era of legalized weed, the drug you think of as “cannabis” can hardly be called marijuana at all. The kinds of cannabis products that are sold online and at dispensaries contain no actual plant matter. They’re made by putting pulverized marijuana into a tube and running butane, propane, ethanol, or carbon dioxide through it, which separates the THC from the rest of the plant. The end product is a wax that can be 70% to 80% THC. That wax can then be put in a vacuum oven and further concentrated into oils that are as much as 95% or even 99% THC. Known as “dabs,” this is what people put in their vape pens, and in states like California and Colorado it’s totally legal and easily available to children. “There are no caps on potency,” said Stack.
If you’re over 30 years old and you used to smoke weed when you were a teenager, the strongest you were smoking was probably 20% THC. Today, teenagers are “dabbing” a product that’s three, four, or five times stronger, and are often doing so multiple times a day. At that level of potency, the impact of the drug on a user’s brain belongs to an entirely different category of risk than smoking a joint or taking a bong rip of even an intensively bred marijuana flower. It’s highly addictive, and over time, there’s a significant chance it can drive you insane.
If you’ve ever smoked a bowl and become irrationally anxious that everyone is staring at you and knows you’re high, what you experienced was a mild symptom of cannabis-induced psychosis. According to one study, about 40% of people react this way. If you experience that paranoia and keep smoking on a regular basis nonetheless—especially with today’s high-potency THC products, and especially if you’re young—there’s a good chance you’ll eventually suffer a full psychotic break; 35% of young people who experience psychotic symptoms, according to another study, eventually have such an episode. If you keep using after that, you run a decent risk of ending up permanently schizophrenic or bipolar. Cannabis has by far the highest conversion rate to schizophrenia of any substance—higher than meth, higher than opioids, higher than LSD. Two Danish studies, as well as a massive study from Finland, put your chances at close to 50%.
“One out of every 20 daily users can expect to develop schizophrenia if they don’t quit,” Dr. Christine Miller, an expert on psychotic disorders, told me.
But regulate it and tax it, right?
In a society already in terminal decline, it won’t help that vast numbers of people, many of them already degenerate and dull-witted, become insane. Just say no?