Dosage and plant numbers

Medicinal cannabis patients have widely varying needs: some need only a few specks of pot as their symptoms require, while others may need to medicate almost all the time, although individual dosages may change with time or severity of symptoms.

It is not unusual for patients using cannabis to consume far more than the average recreational user – particularly those with chronic pain or other severe ongoing symptoms.

It’s interesting to consider what the authorities have to say about how much medi-weed is appropriate. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has a dosing guideline for synthetic THC (Marinol) of 30-90mg per day. Researchers applied these guidelines to herbal cannabis and calculated how much would need to be smoked in order to achieve the FDA’s recommended daily dosage. For average cannabis that is 10% THC, 1.8 grams per day would be required for a dose of 30mg THC, or 5.5 grams for a dose of 90mg THC. For cannabis that is very potent, such as 20%
THC, 0.9 grams would be required to achieve a dose of 30mg THC, or 2.8 grams for a dose of 90mg THC. That adds up an estimated range of 339 to 2000 grams per year, which the researchers say is consistent with amounts reported in surveys of patients in California and Washington (Carter, et al, 2004).

The US Federal government’s Compassionate Use Investigational New Drug Program has supplied a handful of patients with federallygrown medical marijuana for almost 3 decades. Patients have received 300 pre-rolled joints per month, every month, since entering the program. Those suffering from chronic pain receive 50% more than the others, or 450 joints per month. The joints each contain about 0.9 grams of marijuana. The US government has therefore established a medical marijuana dose range of between one half and three quarters of a pound per patient per month. (Russo et al, 2002)

Plant numbers

Setting plant limits based on arbitrary amounts risks denying effective treatment to those most in need, and/or criminalising those patients who happen to require more medication than others. If a limit must be set, it would be better to limit the growing area rather than the number of plants. This is because plant yield is more closely related to the available area than to plant numbers. Plants require light to grow and the available light (sunlight or indoor growing lamps) is a fixed quantity. Putting more plants into the same area will result in smaller plants, while the total yield will be about the same.

US State medical marijuana programs include various plant limits, several of which regulate growing areas rather than plant numbers:

Alaska: Patients (or their primary caregivers) may legally possess up to an ounce of usable marijuana, and may grow up to six plants, of which no more than three may be mature.

California: Proposition 215 did not set any limits regarding the amount of marijuana patients may possess and/or cultivate. Senate Bill 420, which took effect on January 1, 2004, imposes statewide guidelines outlining how much medicinal marijuana patients may grow and possess. Under the guidelines, qualified patients and/or their caregivers may possess no more than eight ounces of dried marijuana and/or six mature (or 12 immature) marijuana plants. However, SB420 allows patients to possess larger amounts of marijuana when it is recommended by a physician. The law also allows counties and municipalities to authorise patients to possess larger quantities of cannabis than allowed under the new state guidelines. For example, Humboldt County guidelines allow patients a 100 square feet garden and 3 lbs with no plant number limit. San Diego City Council guidelines allow up to 1lb of marijuana, and 24 plants in 64 square feet indoors.

Colorado: Patients (or their primary caregivers) may legally possess no more than two ounces of usable marijuana, and may cultivate no more than six marijuana plants.

Hawaii: Patients (or their primary caregivers) may legally possess up to one ounce of usable marijuana, and may cultivate up to seven plants, of which no more than three may be mature.

Maine: Patients (or their primary caregivers) may legally possess up to one and one-quarter ounces of usable marijuana, and may cultivate up to six plants, of which three may be mature.

Montana: Patients (or their primary caregivers) may possess no more than six marijuana plants.

Nevada: Patients (or their primary caregivers) may legally possess up to one ounce of usable marijuana, and may cultivate seven marijuana plants, of which three may be mature.

New Mexico: The law mandates the state to issue rules governing the use and distribution of medical cannabis to state-authorised patients, including defining the amount of cannabis that is necessary to constitute an “adequate supply” for qualified patients, and the creation of  state-licensed “cannabis production facilities”.

Oregon: Patients (or their primary caregivers) may legally possess no more than six mature
cannabis plants, 18 immature seedlings, and 24 ounces of usable cannabis.

Rhode Island: Patients (or their primary caregivers) may legally possess 2.5 ounces of cannabis and/or 12 plants, and their cannabis must be stored in an indoor facility.

Vermont: Patients (or their primary caregiver) may legally possess up to two ounces of usable marijuana, and may cultivate three plants, of which one may be mature.

Washington: Patients (or their primary caregivers) may possess or cultivate a 60-day supply of marijuana.

(NORML News Summer 2008)

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