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Last Updated on by Aardvark

As more states legalize cannabis and create regulatory frameworks, in the absence of federal legalization and oversight, states are on their own when it comes to determining what constitutes a dose of cannabis. In Colorado and many other legal states, one dose of edible cannabis is 10 mg. But in newly legal Connecticut, one dose is half of that, 5mg. So it begs the question, how is one dose of cannabis determined?

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How One Dose is Determined for Other Medicine

Let’s look first at how medical dosage is generally determined. If you’re an adult taking something like ibuprofen, especially if purchased over the counter, the dose is standardized based on a weight of approximately 155 lbs. An NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug) such as ibuprofen is typically dosed at 200 mg per pill with a daily limit of 1,200 mg, or 6 pills over a 24-hour period. For children, dosage is determined by weight and typically at the direction of a doctor.

How did researchers arrive at these specific numbers? They were established after many years of investigation and clinical practice.

Some pills - one dose for a specific type of medicine

Although other medicinal doses are typically determined by weight, the same cannot be done for cannabis.

That is the pathway for most medicines: through experimentation baselines and ceilings are determined for safe dosage. Very often, these factors are calculated based on weight.

Cannabis dosing, however, cannot be based on weight, and has not been put through the same testing rigors because of ongoing federal prohibition, leaving consumers and state regulators in the dark about what a standard dose should be. But there is some precedent.

How Cannabis is Dosed

Most of the research done on cannabis dosing has been focused on isolated THC, found in medicines such as the FDA-approved synthetic THC-derived medicine Dronabinol, marketed as Marinol. When determining doses of Marinol, researchers found that somewhere between 2.5 mg to 10 mg of THC per dose worked best for both children and adults. Whether or not states looked to the Marinol studies to determine state regulations for dosages is nearly impossible to tease out, but given that Marinol is one of the few FDA-approved cannabis medicines out there, it seems like a safe bet.

Someone taking one dose of an edible

Because there are so many different types of strains and everyone can react differently to cannabis, figuring out an adequate dosing system can be quite difficult.

But there’s a big caveat. Unless you’re buying straight-up THC or CBD isolate, cannabis that you’d purchase from a dispensary is not just one cannabinoid. The plant is multi-faceted with many different cannabinoids and terpenes, all of which work together to create the entourage effect. For example, five milligrams of a sativa with limonene will have very different effects than an indica with pinene. Additionally, a person’s biology will also play a role in a strain’s effects. 

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Conclusion

In short, cannabis dosing is not a one-size-fits-all scenario like it is with common pharmaceuticals. But instead of state-level substantive conversations about what would be best for cannabis consumers, regulators seem to be kicking the can down the road, zeroing in instead on creating THC potency caps. 

It’s true that the average potency of cannabis products is rising. In 2019, the average potency of marijuana seized by the DEA was 14 percent, triple the average in 1995 (the first year that the National Institute on Drug Abuse began collecting data). Momentum among lawmakers is gathering to place potency caps on THC, but so far, cannabis industry insiders have managed to squelch such efforts, arguing that potency caps will push consumers into the illicit market. Vermont is the only exception, with flower capped at 30 percent and concentrates at 60 percent. 

As usual, it leaves the onus on the consumer to know what dosage is appropriate for them, usually by undergoing a process of trial and error. So how can you determine your own dose? Well, it’s tricky. You’ll need to start by considering a few things: are you an experienced consumer or new to the plant? Are you hoping to use cannabis as a tool in the treatment of a particular condition? Are you consuming for fun, or to help you get a better night’s sleep? Keeping all of these things in mind, as well as having conversations with your healthcare professional can help you make informed decisions about cannabis dosing that’s right for you.


What does “one dose” of cannabis mean to you?

To understand this, first a bit of quick math: 1 gram = 1,000 milligrams. So, if 1 gram of cannabis has 10% THC that means it has 100mg of THC. 30%=300 mg, and so on. If you are using 10mg as a standard dose, then 1 g of cannabis would have 10 doses (if you were able to perfectly extract every bit of available THC).

However, when cannabis is smoked or vaped some of that THC will be lost in the process, and that amount can vary depending how hot it gets and so on. So ultimately, it will come down to the potency of the cannabis and your unique biochemistry to determine how much you’ll get out of a gram.


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There are 3.5 grams in an eighth, so whatever the THC % per 1g is, it will be multiplied by 3.5. Remember this is still only going to give you a rough estimate, see above. 


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-As touched on above, there are a number of factors that will impact how one dose is calculated for each person. Things like body chemistry and tolerance will all play a role. However, states must come up with averages in order to make dosage recommendations for the average individual. Think of that note on food packaging with the asterisk, “based on a 2,000 calorie diet.” Different individuals will have different caloric needs, but the information is based on a general average.


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-Legalized states have set the standard dose as either 5mg or 10mg, depending on the state. As more states legalize they may set different standards.


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By Aardvark

How's it going fellow growers and smokers! I'm the Aardvark and have been growing and doing grow shows online for many years now. I have helped various companies launch as well as helped test grow for specific breeders trying to prove out certain strains and traits.