Even if you've never had a sip of alcohol in your life, you probably understand that not all booze is created equal.
A light beer will affect you differently than a strong Belgian tripel. Wine has even more of a kick. Shots are the quickest way to get where you're going, but you might regret them in the morning.
Figuring out how much to drink takes time and experience, but at least there are some guideposts along the way. It really comes down to a combination of potency and dosing. Want to know how strong a drink is? Just check the label to find the alcohol by volume (ABV) percentage for your drink. A good afternoon beer will have less than 5 percent ABV; a nice after-work cocktail might be made with 40 percent ABV gin or whiskey. Dosing is more a matter of tradition. Beer comes in pints or bottles, wine by the glass, and stronger stuff in a shot glass.
With marijuana, it's much the same thing. Thanks to legalization, it's now much easier for recreational users to find out the potency of the weed they're buying. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). the main psychoactive element in marijuana, is measured in milligrams (mg)—a good beginner dose is about 10mg, while 30mg will leave you with a sustained, strong high.
But vaping is growing in popularity among marijuana users, and it creates a conundrum. A vape pen loaded with THC-infused fluid is the equivalent of a whole bottle of whiskey. Sure, you could drink the whole thing, but you'll probably have a better time if you understand how much to consume.
Snoop Dogg—yes, really—might be part of the answer.
The rapper known for his love of green is also a partner in Casa Verde Capital, a venture capital firm that backs marijuana-related businesses. Earlier this month, they made headlines for delivering $3.5 million in funding to Indose, a vaping startup that promises to solve the marijuana dosing problem. The disposable vape pens sold by Indose include a small sensor that measures the precise amount of THC delivered with each hit.
"Dosage control is key to an effective and consistent cannabis experience, and there is no such thing as a universal dosage that is right for everyone," Indose co-founder and CEO Benzi Ronen tells Green Market Report, a cannabis industry journal.
As marijuana becomes more widely legalized, many Americans will be trying it for the first time. While you can't overdose on weed the way you can on booze, there's still a certain amount of trial and error for first-time users. Maureen Dowd might not have gotten so hilariously stoned if she'd had access to this sort of tech (and if she'd stayed away from the edibles).
There's obviously a market opportunity in being able to offer weed consumers, especially those who are just starting out, the ability to so precisely control their THC intake. This is exactly the sort of innovation that becomes possible only with legalization.
But there's an equally important policy angle here—one that might undercut a new argument being rolled out by anti-legalization forces in states where weed is legal or soon could be.
In an op-ed published last month at Cal Matters, a website covering California politics and policy, Alex Berenson argues that "the harms" of marijuana legalization "are real—and if the scientific studies and data from Colorado and other early legalization states is any guide, they are only going to grow." He points to data showing that emergency room visits for "marijuana-related" issues have increased in Colorado since recreational weed was legalized there in 2012, plus an increase in car accidents in which victims had THC in their blood.
Some of this is easily debunked. If more people are using marijuana, that means it's likely more people in car crashes will have THC in their system—that doesn't prove causality. As Reason's Jacob Sullum has explained, THC can remain in the blood stream long after the impairment that comes from being high has faded, potentially inflating these statistics.
Still, legalization advocates should not turn a blind eye to these critiques. There certainly are public health consequences to marijuana legalization, even if they are far less horrific than the consequences of prohibition. Reasonable rules limiting marijuana use and driving, for example, will be part of the next iteration of marijuana policy.
With products like Indose now available, the market is already providing the best method for dealing with the problems created by getting too high to function. Giving individuals greater control over what they put in their bodies is a win for both personal freedom and public responsibility.