Marijuana has evolved over the past 30 years. Smoking the plant matter has become vaping THC concentrates or ingesting THC edibles. What’s the difference, and what you need to be aware of?

The marijuana plant, also called cannabis, has an active ingredient called THC- tetrahydrocannabinol. This chemical is what causes the “high” that users seek. The concentration in plant material has changed from 1-2% in the 1970s to as high as 20+% today. Clandestine labs also “cook” down the plant material to derive the waxy, brownish-yellow concentrates, this can be at 54% THC or higher. Despite popular beliefs, all of these substances are currently illegal in Iowa.

What is legal in Iowa includes:
1) Epidiolex: an oral liquid that contains cannabis-extracted Cannabidiol (CBD). This is now available in pharmacies,
2) Marinol, Syndros, and Cesamet: FDA-approved synthetic cannabinoids- containing THC and CBD- legally available as prescription pills to treat cancer chemotherapy nausea and appetite loss,
3) Iowa Medical Cannabidiol: These products are regulated by Iowa Health and Human Services, in consultation with an advisory board, to be used by qualified patients for eligible conditions.

CBD products derived from the hemp plant have become legal in Iowa and are sold in over 800 stores. They are usually found in forms such as, food, oil, or lotions. These products are not regulated by the FDA, and the ingredients can vary a lot and could include THC.

THC affects a variety of processes, including poor coordination, perception problems, difficulty in problem-solving, and slowed reaction time. Short-term memory impairment occurs which makes learning new skills/information difficult. All of these skills are used by employees, and THC would interfere with a person’s job performance. The confusing part about THC impairment is that the effects can last long after the high has subsided. This confuses users and makes them think they aren’t impaired when they really are.

New research also shows that, especially in adolescent or young adult users, high-potency THC products increase the risk for the development of a psychotic disorder or other mental health disorders.

Ilene Johnson, CPS
Certified Prevention Specialist
Sieda Community Action
Behavioral Health & Treatment Services