Majority of Medical Cannabis Products Found To Be Mislabeled

Ryan Vandrey, Ph.D. Associate Professor Behavioral Pharmacology Research Unit Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine Baltimore, MD 21224MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Ryan Vandrey, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Behavioral Pharmacology Research Unit
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
Baltimore, MD 21224

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Dr. Vandrey: The background for the study was that I have had several conversations with individuals that led me to believe that there was insufficient regulation of products of all types being sold in medical cannabis dispensaries.  In order to evaluate that, we needed to do a study.  We decided to test edible products because that is a growing market, and, because it involves some level of manufacturing, there is greater chance for dose variability and inaccuracy.  The main finding was that the majority of products were purchased from retail stores selling cannabis products for medical use were significantly mislabeled with regards to the dose of THC and other cannabinoids.

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Vandrey: Both should be aware that, due to lack of regulation and/or oversight, edible cannabis products may not be accurately labeled and reliable dosing may be difficult to achieve.  If the product an individual purchases contains more THC (the primary psychoactive component of cannabis) than expected, they are at greater risk of experiencing harmful side effects such as acute panic/paranoia, vomiting, even psychotic states.  To a lesser extent, they may become too intoxicated to readily perform routine daily activities such as work, drive a car, or take care of dependents.  If a product has less active medication than labeled, patients may not receive the benefit they need to manage the health condition they are seeking to treat with cannabis.  This could result in individuals with severe chronic pain not getting the relief they need, or someone with MS being unable to control spasticity or suffering seizures.  We had some extreme cases if package over-labeling dosage in this study including a product labeled as having 108mg THC that only had 3mg, another labeled as having 200mg THC that only had 2mg.  There were 13 products in 75 that contained less than 25% of what the label indicated.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Vandrey: This study was relatively small (conducted in only 2 of 23 states that allow medical use of cannabis) and focused narrowly on edible cannabis products.  It would be great to expand this area of study to evaluate cannabis products more broadly with regards to all aspects of quality assurance including safety, accuracy, and reliability across the country.

Citation:

Vandrey R, Raber JC, Raber ME, Douglass B, Miller C, Bonn-Miller MO. Cannabinoid Dose and Label Accuracy in Edible Medical Cannabis Products. JAMA. 2015;313(24):2491-2493. doi:10.1001/jama.2015.6613.

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Ryan Vandrey, Ph.D. Associate Professor, Behavioral Pharmacology Research Unit, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, & Baltimore, MD 21224 (2015). Majority of Medical Cannabis Products Found To Be Mislabeled 

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