On Nov. 8, five states will vote on legalizing recreational Cannabis, and three states will consider legalizing the plant for medical purposes. In the homestretch to Election Day, opponents of legal marijuana are resurrecting “Reefer Madness” with claims about the dangers of potency. In fact, legal Cannabis is an effective medicine that works when other options have failed. The legal marijuana industry provides product that is sensibly regulated and carefully tested. Lower concentrations of THC would mean that more of other things would dilute the product, forcing patients to consume--and pay--more. The Cannabis Business Alliance strongly supports the need to conduct more research and data to ensure current regulations are effective before trying to tweak them.

The Cannabis Business Alliance has developed a Debunking the Myths Fact Sheet, including sources, to address myths that have been circulating about cannabis potency. CBA representatives are available for comment on this important issue. For more information or to schedule an interview, contact


MYTH: A 16% potency limit on Cannabis products is an appropriate measure to make Cannabis a safer product.

FACT: Limiting THC content in legal Cannabis products would cripple Colorado’s fledgling Cannabis industry and would push supply to the Black Market causing a loss in jobs and tax revenue. In 2012, Colorado residents showed their support of the legal Cannabis market by overwhelmingly approving Amendment 64, which requires the state to regulate the Cannabis Industry like alcohol. Restrictions on Cannabis purity would be similar to limiting the alcohol content by volume on beer, wine and liquor. It would be the equivalent of only having 3.2 beer available.

Limiting potency would dramatically reduce access to life altering medicine for patients including veterans suffering from PTSD and children with debilitating conditions such as epilepsy and spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy. Bearing in mind roughly 80 percent of the state’s lawfully retailed cannabis products would be deemed illegal, potency limitations would force most cannabis companies to shut down overnight.

MYTH: High potency Cannabis products are harmful to the body and brain.

FACT:  There is a lack of scientific evidence that cannabis products containing more than 16% THC are harmful for the brain and body[1].  Opponents of legal Cannabis aim to spread the message that higher THC levels somehow makes marijuana more dangerous for consumers. Contrary to popular myth, greater potency Cannabis is not necessarily more dangerous, especially due to the fact that users tend to adjust their dosing according to potency. When Cannabis contains higher levels of THC, consumers are not exposing themselves to increased risk, rather they are opening up the opportunity to address chronic symptoms or achieve an elevated lift in their experience. Higher potency Cannabis is actually healthier for users choosing to smoke the plant, as it reduces the amount of smoke needed to inhale to address a chronic health issue or achieve an elevated state of mind.

MYTH: High THC potency is dangerous for young brains and bodies.

FACT: High THC potency is not unsafe for children. In fact, products containing more than 16 percent THC may be necessary for many children with chronic conditions. THC potency should be something left to the discretion of medical professionals and their patients.[2]

MYTH: Consumers can overdose from high potency marijuana products.

FACT: It is not possible to die from consuming THC at any potency. Limiting THC potency does not make THC any safer, it only means consumers have to buy more product to achieve the same dosage to which they are accustomed.[3]

MYTH: Marijuana is significantly more potent today than it was 40 years ago.

FACT: The notion that cannabis has increased dramatically in potency has been the subject of much debate in recent years. The federal government has been testing marijuana potency for more than 40 years, and has long acknowledged the limitations to its methodologies. However, Federal research shows that the average potency of Cannabis in the United States has increased very little over time. According to the Federal Potency Monitoring Project, between 1985 and 2013 average potency increased by a meager 3%.[4] While there's almost certainly more potent cannabis strains available today, due to the fact that it is now legal to buy in multiple states, it does not mean that all marijuana is ultra-potent - which is how the narrative about potency is often framed and misconstrued. 

MYTH: The more potent the marijuana, the more brain cells are being killed.

FACT: There is little evidence to suggest that any of the active ingredients in Cannabis administered at doses appropriate for consumption have neurotoxic effects.This is in direct contrast to alcohol, where the body’s digestive process creates metabolites which are toxic to the brain and other cells in the body. A Journal of Neuroscience study conducted in January 2015 found that “no statistically significant differences were found between daily [marijuana] users and nonusers on volume or shape in the regions of interest…. In sum, the results indicate that, when carefully controlling for alcohol use, gender, age, and other variables, there is no association between marijuana use and standard volumetric or shape measurements of subcortical structures.[5]” Not only does this study prove that marijuana does not kill brain cells, but further more there were no significant differences between the brain activity of users and nonusers of marijuana. In fact, the evidence at this point indicates that marijuana does more good than harm when it comesto its effects on the adult brain. Specifically in the case of seizures, there is preliminary research which shows that the cannabinoid, cannabidiol or CBD, raises the threshold for seizure activity within the brain making it overall more difficult to have seizures, and thus providing hope to many parents of children with intractable seizure disorders.

MYTH: The only way to deal with potency concerns is to limit potency in cannabis products.

FACT:   Cannabis affects each user differently - some users may be more tolerant than others. Consumers with a high tolerance, may prefer a more potent strain, whereas novice consumers may choose something less potent. Federal regulations do not limit the potency of alcohol - so why should we limit the options for cannabis? Alcohol consumers have a plethora of options to choose from ranging from a 4 percent alcohol wine cooler to Everclear, which is 90 percent alcohol. Just as consumers of alcohol are permitted to choose their desired level of potency - so too should consumers of cannabis

MYTH: Marijuana users have no idea what they are consuming and are therefor are not in control of their experience.

FACT: While this may be somewhat accurate for consumers of black market product, it's quite the opposite for consumers who live in states where cannabis is legal. Consumers of legal cannabis have more control over their experience because they are able to make informed decisions on the product they are consuming. Additionally, there are several public health programs in place where cannabis is legal, which serve to further educate consumers on their purchasing decisions and cannabis use. Colorado’s “Good to Know” campaign’s targeted messages educate all Colorado residents and visitors about safe, legal, and responsible use of marijuana. Key messages educate the public about the health effects of marijuana and key laws.[6]

MYTH: A single marijuana joint has effects that linger for days and weeks

FACT:  While it is true that THC and other cannabinoids are fat-soluble and linger in the body for prolonged periods, they do not normally affect behavior beyond a few hours after consumption. Most impairment studies have found that the adverse effects of acute marijuana use wear off in 2-6 hours, commonly faster than alcohol.[7]

MYTH: More youth are consuming Cannabis in Colorado now that it is legal.

FACT: A recent report from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment found that marijuana consumption by Colorado high school students has dipped since the state first permitted recreational Cannabis use by adults. The biannual poll also showed the percentage of high school students consuming Cannabis is smaller than the national average among teens.[8]


[1] Michele Ross, PhD

[2]Michele Ross, PhD

[3] Michele Ross, PhD

[4] U.S. Department of State, Office of National Drug Control Policy. National Drug Control Strategy Report —2014[INCSR] (March 2014) for 2013 data.

[5] Journal of Neuroscience January 2015, 35 (4) 1505-1512; DOI:

[6] Am J Public Health. 2016 January; 106(1): 21–27. Published online 2016 January. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2015.302875

[7] Alison Smiley, "Marijuana: On-Road and Driving Simulator Studies," Alcohol, Drugs, and Driving 2 #3-4: 121-34 (1986).

[8] Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Healthy Kids Colorado Survey, 2016,