Study: Experienced Cannabis Consumers Self-Titrate Higher Potency Products

Pullman, WA: Subjects consuming high-potency cannabis concentrates perform similarly on measurements of cognitive performance as do those inhaling lower-potency cannabis flowers, according to data published in the journal Scientific Reports

A team of investigators affiliated with Washington State University assessed the impact of high-potency concentrates (above 60 percent THC) and lower potency flower (around 20 percent THC) on cognitive performance in a group of experienced marijuana consumers. Users’ performance was measured against that of 20 sober participants.

Researchers reported that cannabis consumers scored similar to controls on a number of measurements, including on tasks involving decision-making and prospective memory. 

Cannabis users did not perform as well as controls on tests involving verbal recall and false memories. However, subjects consuming high-potency THC products performed no worse on those tests than did those subjects who ingested less potent products. Researchers attributed this latter result to the fact that those participants who consumed concentrates ingested significantly lesser quantities – thereby achieving similar levels of intoxication as did those who consumed lower potency flower. 

Authors concluded: “[P]articipants randomly assigned to use a cannabis concentrate self-titrated after significantly fewer puffs yet reported comparable levels of intoxication and demonstrated equivalent levels of impairment as those who inhaled the flower products. [While] there has been concern and speculation that extremely high-potency cannabis concentrates will magnify harms, … [these] results failed to support our hypothesis that concentrates would exacerbate cognitive impairments.”

The authors’ conclusions are consistent with those of prior experimental studies showing that subjects exposed to higher-potency cannabis tend to self-titrate their intake accordingly. 

The study’s findings come at a time when some state lawmakers are calling for the imposition of arbitrary caps on the percentage of THC available in certain retail cannabis products. Those opining in favor of these restrictions have claimed that there are greater adverse effects associated with the use of higher potency products. NORML has pushed back against the imposition of THC caps – arguing that proponents’ concerns are not evidence-based and that banning the sale of more potent products will only serve to expand the growth of the illicit marijuana market. 

Full text of the study, “Acute effects of high-potency cannabis flower and cannabis concentrates on everyday life memory and decision making,” appears in Scientific Reports. Additional information on high-potency cannabis products is available from the NORML fact sheet, ‘THC Potency Concerns: Are Stronger Products More Problematic?