How has cannabis potency changed?

Due to genetic modifications, today’s cannabis is very different from the cannabis of the 1960s and 1970s. The average potency has doubled since 1998. Today, users can get the same amount of THC from a single puff that consumers in the 1970s got from smoking an entire joint.

What does this mean in terms of safety?

Because cannabis is more potent now, those who smoke or consume cannabis need to take additional caution regarding how much they use or consume at one time. Too much cannabis can cause you to become very ill, and this type of overdose has led to an increase in the number of trips to the emergency room and calls to the Washington Poison Control Center.

It is especially important when consuming edibles to start with a low THC content and go slow. It may take two hours or more to feel the effects, New consumers should begin with no more than 1-5 mg of THC. 

Cannabis and driving

Similar to the 0.08 blood-alcohol limit, it is illegal to drive with 5 ng/ml of THC or more in your blood if you are 21 or older. If you are under 21, it is illegal to drive with any amount of THC in your blood.

The blood test is performed at a police station or medical facility and requires a blood draw. Published research says it can take 3 hours for some people to drop below 5 ng/ml after using cannabis, but it can take longer depending on multiple variables such as gender and body size. Some people may still be impaired with less than 5 ng/ml of THC in their blood.

It is less risky to wait at least 5 hours before operating a vehicle. It is recommended that you wait even longer after consuming edible cannabis products as they can remain in your system much longer.

If you are not sure whether you are impaired, do not drive! Call a taxi or use a designated driver.

Safe storage – Keep away from children and pets

Preventing children's access to cannabis is key to preventing accidental poisonings and deterring youth use. The Washington Poison Center has seen an increase in accidental poisonings, especially children and youth, in recent years. Veterinarians have also seen an increase in the number of pets that have become ill because of accidentally consuming cannabis. You can help prevent this by storing your cannabis products safely.

Edibles or cannabis-infused products can lead to accidental poisonings because children think they are eating regular food or candy. To avoid these accidents, all products containing cannabis should be:

  • Kept in their original packaging which is clearly labeled as containing cannabis
  • Stored in a child-resistant container
  • Kept in a locked cabinet

If your child accidentally ingests a cannabis-infused product or if you are worried about the health and safety of yourself or others, call the Washington Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222 for free, fast, expert help. All calls are confidential. If the symptoms are severe, call 911 or go to an emergency room.

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