Informed High - Becoming Informed about Cannabis

Recreational Cannabis Safety: Total THC per Unit and Serious Adverse Reactions

Disclaimer: Practical Pointers are based on my personal experiences and education. This is not advice to be blindly followed. What follows are insights I am sharing for you to think about, to question from your viewpoint, and to always be critical of while you read. What works for me might not work for you. I want to help createinformed consumers making informed decisions.


Recreational Cannabis Safety: Total THC per Unit and Serious Adverse Reactions


One important note, packaging of Cannabis will include a few critical pieces of information that are crucial for informed consumption. The percentage of THC and CBD will be presented on every Cannabis product sold. The wording is important and could be confusing, so I’ll explain that here. Here are the first two terms:

  • THC per unit
  • CBD per unit


These terms are used to describe the amounts of THC and CBD found within the Cannabis product. There is another slightly different set of terms also to be used:

  • Total THC per unit
  • Total CBD per unit



What is the Difference?


The ‘total’ term includes consideration of the potential for THCA to convert into THC. A quick reminder, THCA, and CBDA are precursors (substances that will convert into) to THC and CBD. This means that when you consume the product as intended, this is the estimate of how much THC and CBD will be present after exposure to heat modifies THCA and CBDA.


Why Should You Care?


These amounts profoundly impact the effects when this cannabis is consumed. Just like you wouldn’t drink a 2% alcohol-containing beer in the same way you drink 40% alcohol spirits like vodka. Both are alcohol, but the quantity of the active component is dramatically different between these two categories of products. Knowing how to read the label helps ensure you consume the correct Dosage of Cannabis and the corresponding effects to the Baked Bell Curve .



Adverse Reactions and Serious Adverse Reactions


As with all psychoactive products, we should be acutely aware of potential adverse reactions and how to respond to them. Luckily, Cannabis is currently not considered to carry the same risks as Alcohol regarding overdose potential. More information is needed to ensure we can continue to view this as accurate. So how are we going to get that information?


Firstly, let’s describe these two important terms: Adverse Reactions and Serious Adverse Reactions. The word noxious is defined as harmful and unpleasant, relating to the potential for damage to human anatomy and the subjective experience of pain and discomfort. One definition is short, the other is long, but both are important.



Adverse Reaction


An adverse reaction is defined as a noxious and unintended response to a cannabis product.


Serious Adverse Reaction


A serious adverse reaction is defined as a noxious and unintended response to a cannabis product that requires inpatient hospitalization or a prolongation of existing hospitalization, causes congenital malformation, results in persistent or significant disability or incapacity, is life-threatening or results in death.


What to do if you Experience an Adverse Reaction


Cannabis can produce negative side-effects. The heightening of anxiety or experience of a minor panic attack, for example. If you experience an Adverse reaction to a cannabis product, most likely the best thing to do is wait it out, and head to bed. Afterward, talk with your doctor about it, or seek other professional assistance to determine how to avoid future adverse reactions.



What to do if you Experience a Serious Adverse Reaction


If you experience any severe and dramatic adverse reactions, seek medical attention immediately. I will note that feeling like you are going to die, is not the same as experiencing a life-threatening episode. Seek medical care regardless. Afterward, seeking further medical attention to address this issue is highly advised.


How to Respond to Adverse Reactions


Depending on the exact reaction, responses vary widely. You may want to smoke less weed or find a Cannabis Strain with less THC. You may need to stop smoking weed entirely or adjust the way to enjoy the drug. Talk to friends and family, and seek medical attention. Provide feedback to the growers, processors, and sellers of Cannabis, so that they can improve their products and the customer experience.



Notify the Retail Seller


Licensed individuals have specific responsibilities regarding cannabis. One of these obligations is the reporting of any noted Serious Adverse Reaction. This includes both the retail license holder, and the licensed grower of the Cannabis. As consumers, we should all be happy that this data will be collected. As data accumulates, we’ll be able to see if there are significant concerns or public health concerns. Best case scenario, we will continue to see minimal or no Serious Adverse Reactions to Cannabis consumption.


Help Improve the System


Providing feedback can help improve the system. I hope we all become active and vocal consumers of cannabis, ensuring the government can collect vital information. If you have any adverse reactions, talk to your doctor and talk to your provider of Cannabis. Do this to help yourself and help us all as Canadians. The more information we have, the better we can adjust public health policies to ensure the safety of Canadians remains a top priority.


Thanks for reading!


Arnold Warkentin

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