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Current U.S. State Cannabis Sales Limits Allow Large Doses for Use or Diversion

  • Rosalie Liccardo Pacula
    Correspondence
    Address correspondence to: Rosalie Liccardo Pacula, PhD, Price School of Public Policy and Leonard D. Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics, University of Southern California, 635 Downey Way VPD 514J, Los Angeles CA 90089.
    Affiliations
    Department of Health Policy and Management, Price School of Public Policy, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California

    Leonard D. Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California
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  • Jason G. Blanchette
    Affiliations
    Department of Health Law, Policy & Management, Boston University School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts
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  • Marlene C. Lira
    Affiliations
    Clinical Addiction Research and Education Unit, Section of General Internal Medicine, Department of Medicine, Boston Medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts
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  • Rosanna Smart
    Affiliations
    RAND Corporation, Santa Monica, California
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  • Timothy S. Naimi
    Affiliations
    Clinical Addiction Research and Education Unit, Section of General Internal Medicine, Department of Medicine, Boston Medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts

    Department of Community Health Sciences, Boston University School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts
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Published:February 12, 2021DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.amepre.2020.11.005

      Introduction

      Legal limits on the amount of cannabis sold per transaction in states with recreational cannabis may promote moderate use and limit diversion. However, state sales limits are heterogeneous and difficult to interpret in terms of tetrahydrocannabinol dose equivalents.

      Methods

      This cross-sectional study examined how transaction sales limits on recreational cannabis translate to tetrahydrocannabinol doses among U.S. states allowing commercial cannabis sales as of January 1, 2020. Weight-based quantity limits by cannabis type (flower/bud, concentrates, and edibles) were converted into grams of tetrahydrocannabinol content per transaction using known potency values in 2020.

      Results

      Weight-based sales limits for flower and concentrate vary considerably across states (range=1.0–2.5 oz for flower and 3.5–15.0 g for concentrate), whereas limits for edible cannabis are heterogeneous. A total of 4 states have independent limits for each product category, and 6 states place limits across all products sold in the transaction. Because no states impose limits on the potency of flower or concentrates, the small differences in the weight-based limits translate into large differences in grams of tetrahydrocannabinol allowed to be sold. Assuming a typical dose of 10 mg of tetrahydrocannabinol, current laws allow for sales of up to 560 (Alaska) to 2,283 (Michigan) doses per transaction on the basis of median product potencies.

      Conclusions

      All states allow a large number of tetrahydrocannabinol doses per transaction, larger than what is typically consumed by daily users over a month. States concerned about public health and diversion should consider reducing sales limits and basing them on total tetrahydrocannabinol content across all purchased products.
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