January 17, 2018 6:00 pm
Updated: January 17, 2018 6:14 pm

Quebec considers legal limit for THC

WATCH: As the Quebec hearings on marijuana draw to a close, the medical community is warning of increasing levels of THC – the primary psychoactive ingredient in cannabis. As Global’s Raquel Fletcher reports, they’re recommending the province set a limit on the amount of THC in legal marijuana.

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The Quebec government is considering amending its pot legislation after hearing from the province’s psychiatrists. The doctors warn of increasing levels of THC and say Quebec needs to set a limit of the chemical in legal marijuana.

“There are just too many kids that are developing psychosis,” said Dr. Karen Igartua, president of the Association des médecins psychiatres du Québec (AMPQ).

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READ MORE: Quebec tables cannabis legislation; provincial body to control industry

Psychiatrists in Quebec are seeing more and more patients with symptoms of psychosis — hallucinations, like hearing voices or paranoia and delusions — because of their marijuana use.

“Delusions are beliefs, like I might believe that everybody who’s wearing a North Face jacket is part of an international conspiracy group and in winter I find that they’re following me all the time,” Igartua gave as an example. “I’m not making this up. One of my patients said that to me a couple years back.”

According to the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the level of THC in street marijuana in 1995 was about four per cent. Nearly two decades later, in 2014, THC in street pot had tripled to 12 per cent.

“It’s a bigger industry; agriculture is better and so there are better manipulations,” Igartua said.

READ MORE: Just months away, here’s how pot legalization is shaping up in Canada

At the same time, another chemical in pot called CBD, has declined in street marijuana. Research shows CBD protects against paranoia and hallucinations caused by THC. With lower levels of CBD in the drug, pot is becoming more dangerous.

The AMPQ suggests setting a legal limit of 15 to 16 percent THC and a lower limit for adults under 25.

“It’s a limit that’s above what’s available currently on the street in the black market, so it would give the government what it wants in terms of trying to take away from the black market,” Igartua explained.

“I took note of it because I think it’s important. We’re going to see what we can do about it,” said Public Health Minister Lucie Charlebois.

READ MORE: Medical cannabis patients urged not to self-medicate when recreational marijuana is legal

The minister says she’s open to amending the current bill but there is one obstacle. There’s no legal THC limit for medicinal marijuana products and the psychiatrists say their patients tell them it’s all too easy to get your hands on it for recreational use.

Some Canadian companies sell marijuana online for about $4 a gram. The THC levels aren’t necessarily listed, but it can be as high as 80 or 90 per cent.

Quebec doctors say the province and the federal government have to be stricter on regulating THC before pot becomes legal this summer.

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