At long last, the Alaska Marijuana Control Board has approved increased THC limits for edibles, allowing manufacturers to double the potency in existing products or bring new, higher-THC products to market.

On a 2-1 vote at its June meeting, the board approved new regulations that ups the potency of a single edible from 5mg of THC to 10mg of THC. It also corresponds with an increase on the total THC in a package of edibles, raising it from 50mg to 100mg. The changes deal only with edibles.

The vote followed debate about the increase’s potential impact on public health and public safety. Marijuana Control Board chair Nick Miller, who represents the industry, supported the change and during the hearing said that Alaska has already taken one of the most

 conservative approaches to edibles of any state, noting that the horror stories from other states have been driven by edibles with far higher overall dosages.

“We’re going from 5 to 10. It’s pretty easy to do the math where Alaska stands. When these regulations were adopted, it was go low and slow. Let’s start somewhere and see what happens. We did that and I think—and I’m sure there’s been some calls to poison control—but overall I think it’s been a success. People call poison control for eating Tide Pods after all. It’s not like it’s been a big epidemic of phone calls and people going to the hospital, which makes me feel much better,” he said. “We are considering increasing the limit per edible, but we’re not increasing the total milligrams possible (to buy in a day). ... Overall, the state has done a great job with cannabis going legal and I don’t expect that to change.”

The change had long been in the works with the board amid growing calls from manufacturers and consumers alike who have been pushing for more potent edibles. Alaska Marijuana Industry Alliance President Lacy Wilcox said the 5mg amount lagged the country and for most people was far too low. The group backed the increase, arguing that it would be more practical for people needing more, while also reducing the cost and waste of additional packaging.

“I would say 80% of people need far more than even 10mg,” she said. “The majority of people who consume cannabis would still need to take more than one. I, myself, need about 40mg, so I would go from eight to only needing to buy four.”

She predicted that most manufacturers would switch over to the higher dosage but said there would still be benefits for folks wanting to stay at the lower level.

“You can still have that 5mg dose and double the size of the package. There’s still a market for that,” she said,” But the difference is there’s double the doses in a bottle, and that’s more affordable because it’s one less plastic bottle and one less sticky label.”

When MoMo’s Bakery owners Pete and Maureen Eberhardt heard about the change, they planned on sticking to 5mg servings. Pete Eberhardt said that, personally, he saw the 5mg of THC as a sweet spot for the casual consumer and that they had no immediate plans to change, but that was before he went out to deliver their product to stores and heard from retailers and consumers about the higher limit.

“I was wrong. The talk of the town right now is all about (higher potency packs) and our units being 10mg instead of five,” he said. “As much as we want to stay at 5mg pieces, we’re going to have to offer a certain segment of our products with a stronger THC level. … I stand corrected. I listen to the market and dispensaries and it’s very interesting.”

The changes to the market won’t be immediate. As of writing, the regulations had yet to complete the legal review by Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer’s office before they become official. Manufacturers also will need to get approval from regulators before they start putting more potent edibles on store shelves, but they can bypass the typically lengthy approval process for new products by submitting an application with a $250 fee to increase the potency of already-approved products.

Wilcox said it’s important for people to wait to see how all of that pans out before they make investments in the change. “I want to tell people out there don’t just switch your product, don’t just start adding 10mg,” she said. “I don’t want people to spend $10,000 on packaging and it to change.”

For Eberhardt, he sees it all as part of an evolving industry.

“The plan right now, and it could change, is we’ll continue to offer our status quo Boingos regular, but if people want Boingos Plus, we’ll have that and we’ll see how they sell,” he said, referring to MoMo’s pot-leaf shaped gummies. “If you’re not listening and you’re not adapting, you’re nowhere.”

 

Matt Buxton is a freelance writer in Anchorage. Comments about this story? Email editor@alaskacannabist.com

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