But it’s natural?
There are lots of things that are natural. But that doesn’t make them safe to consume. To suggest that marijuana is safe simply because it’s natural is making a big leap of faith.
“It’s pretty startling just how dirty a lot of this stuff is,” said Andy LaFrate, whose lab reviewed marijuana samples for a study published by the nonprofit American Chemical Society. “You’ll see a marijuana bud that looks beautiful. And then we run it through a biological assay, and we see that it’s covered in fungi.”
The lab also finds varying levels of chemical contaminants such as butane, which is used to create marijuana extracts. Contamination isn’t necessarily a cause for alarm, but it does signal a need to figure out what levels are safe.
“It’s a natural product,” LaFrate says. “There’s going to be microbial growth on it no matter what you do. So the questions become: What’s a safe threshold? And which contaminants do we need to be concerned about?” (For the full report made at the American Chemical Society’s 2015 convention, see the press release here.)
Another interesting note is the potency of today’s marijuana. The ACS report found THC levels (the active ingredient that makes a person “high”) is as high as 30 percent. That’s a big change from the marijuana popular in the days of Woodstock.
While there is some debate over how much the increase in THC has been, it’s clear that in the 1960s, some marijuana had a THC level of below 1 percent. (Read more about the science behind THC levels in this article on How Marijuana Works.)
But there’s no debate that today’s marijuana packs a punch. And teens certainly don’t need any fungus in their lungs.
HOW TO HANDLE THE TALK
Marijuana is a complicated topic. There are vaporizers, edibles and smokables. There are questions about safety, legalization and brain damage.
You aren't in this alone! There are plenty of resources on how to talk your teen about marijuana. Better yet, there are toolkits on how to answer the tough questions like:
1. "Is marijuana safer than alcohol?"
2. "It's a plant, so it's safer, right?"
3. "Your generation did plenty of pot, so why shouldn't I?"
Check out the Marijuana Talk Kit for Parents at the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids (at http://www.drugfree.org/MJTalkKit/) and learn more how to keep your teen from temptation.