A study published in the journal Nature found that many samples of cannabis purchased from unregulated dispensaries were not as potent as advertised. The study examined over 100 samples of cannabis purchased in California and Colorado, finding that 69% contained less THC than advertised, with an average potency of 5.2% compared to the 10-20% advertised on dispensary websites.



Cannabis that hasn’t been legalized isn’t as potent as you would imagine. 

According to a report released recently by the New Brunswick Research and Productivity Council, this is the case.

Researchers compared the potency claims of illegal and legal cannabis products and discovered that the claims for illicit goods were considerably less realistic.  

The research was undertaken by the RPC’s chief officer of science, Diane Botelho, to see whether there was any validity to claims that cannabis goods on the black market were ‘superior.’ 

“Our scientists have been wondering for years if illegal cannabis products were comparable to legal cannabis products in terms of health and safety, as well as potency claims,” Botelho added. 

The main author of a research comparing illegal and legal cannabis products in New Brunswick was Diane Botelho, chief officer of science for the New Brunswick Research and Productivity Council. (Botelho, Diane)

According to the Canadian Cannabis Survey 2020, 6 to 8% of Canadians have purchased cannabis from illegal sources.

The potencies of the illegal samples were often discovered to be much lower than what was stated. Potency claims for legal products, on the other hand, were quite accurate. 

In the case of cannabis flower products, According to the study, illegal goods marketed as having a THC potency of 30 to 32 percent really had a potency of 13 to 22 percent. This, according to Botelho, is concerning for users who want to be in charge of their dose. 

“Users who are ingesting cannabis and calculating their optimum dose based on the label claim of how much THC or CBD is in the product,” said Botelho, “are really not able to do so if those claims are incorrect on the illegal side.” 

Illicit edibles were also shown to have a much lower potency rate than advertised. THC levels in cookies and chocolate bars were less than half of what was claimed. 

Illicit edibles, on the other hand, have a greater overall potency than controlled edibles. Current laws limit the amount of THC in a product to ten milligrams, however some illegal goods have more than 100 milligrams.

“I believe the 10 mg restriction is pushing individuals to the black market, and it’s something we should talk about more,” Botelho added. 

Toxins are present in unlicensed goods.

Illicit cannabis was also discovered to be tainted with microorganisms and pesticides, according to the research. In legal products, these chemicals were either insignificant or not present at all. 

Pesticides are not permitted in approved goods, according to Botelho. “Regulations have been put in place to safeguard the consumer’s safety.” 

According to Dr. Oyedeji Ayonrinde, a cannabis educator and associate professor at Queen’s University School of Medicine, contaminants may have severe health consequences. The presence of hazardous chemicals in cannabis may cause neurological symptoms that are difficult to detect for patients who are using it to treat medical problems. 

“The contradiction may be that while attempting to decrease symptoms for medical reasons, they may instead induce a totally other condition, which would be perplexing to physicians,” Ayonrinde said. 

Dr. Oyedeji Ayonrinde, an associate professor at Queen’s University’s Faculty of Medicine, is a cannabis educator. Oyedeji Ayonrinde (Oyedeji Ayonrinde)

He went on to say that the inclusion of harmful compounds in unregistered cannabis products is particularly worrisome for younger cannabis users who are still developing. 

It may be tough to persuade some Canadians to give up their unlicensed cannabis.

“Cannabis was available on the black market long before it was legalized. There was something cool about cannabis being sold on the street, and that gave it some credibility “Ayonrinde said. 

He believes the answer is for Health Canada to keep its prices competitive and improve the branding of its goods to make them more attractive to customers seeking for something similar to what they’re accustomed to buying from illegal marketplaces.

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