Recently, I followed Kevin Sabet, aka “the quarterback of the anti-legalization movement,” as he earned $21,000 touring Oregon to frighten our rural voters into opposing Measure 91, our legalization initiative. Two of his go-to scare lines are the tale of Levi Thamba, the 19-year-old exchange student who ate an entire marijuana-infused cookie and leaped to his death from a hotel balcony, and Maureen Dowd, the liberal New York Times columnist who was couch-locked by a marijuana-infused chocolate bar.
“The response of the industry,” claims Sabet, “was to say, ‘oh, see, she was supposed to cut that chocolate bar into 16 pieces and just eat one of them.’ Folks, I don’t know about how you eat chocolate, but that’s not how I would eat it!” (Yes, Kevin, that’s readily apparent by your expanding waistline.)
Former NORML Director Richard Cowan’s “Iron Law of Prohibition” states that the more strictly a prohibition is enforced, the more potent the drug becomes. During Alcohol Prohibition, a smuggler had a choice: fill the trunk of the Studebaker with cases of beer or cases of whiskey. Getting busted with either meant prison, so why not smuggle the whiskey that earns more profit? Once Prohibition was lifted, the first intoxicating liquors allowed by law were lower-proof beer and wine. The harder stuff then slowly became legal again, too.
But with marijuana, we’ve had a strange path to legalization that arose through medical options. Patients confound that Iron Law because their need for potent products doesn’t arise from scarcity so much as desperation. They need the most potent products whether it is legal or not, because it is their medicine and weaker products won’t relieve their conditions.
So, unlike the end of 20th century Prohibition where newly-legal drinkers were downing 3.2% APV beer, at the ending of 21st century prohibition, newly-legal cannabis consumers are exposed to the highest-potency medical marijuana products ever created. Thus, we get stories like Thamba’s and Dowd’s, just as we would have gotten horror stories of alcohol poisonings if Jim Beam and Jack Daniel’s were the only drinks available in 1933.
But legality is finally moving consumer marijuana products back to a wider range of potency, including new products designed for the novice marijuana consumer. I attended an event in Denver last year where a company had unveiled “Sitka,” a brand of pre-rolled cannabis cigarettes manufactured to include 3.5% THC potency. Kevin Sabet likes to joke that today’s marijuana is not the relatively-mild “Woodstock Weed” he says our parents and grandparents smoked in the 1960s & 1970s – but these “Sitka” joints actually ARE “Woodstock Weed.”
ABC News is now reporting that Colorado manufacturers and shops are stocking milder THC products, such as the “Rookie Cookie,” one made with just 10 milligrams of THC, as compared to the 65-milligram cookie Levi Thamba consumed. According to ABC, “that’s a low enough dose that most adults wouldn’t be too impaired to drive a car,” meaning an adult wouldn’t exceed the state’s five-nanogram THC-in-blood driving limit after consuming the cookie.
Dixie Elixirs, makers of popular infused sodas containing 75 milligrams of THC, is now distributing its “rookie” brand called Dixie One, made with just five milligrams of THC. Dispensary owners say sales of the new, lighter products are booming as new customers prefer not to get bombed out of their minds on their first foray into marijuana. “We still get people walking in here saying, ‘What’s the strongest thing?’” explained Tim Cullen, owner of two Denver-area marijuana dispensaries. “But more and more they’re asking about flavor, the experience, the whole nine yards.”