Cannabis & THC: Understanding the Effects & Liability
[author: Nadia Moore] 1st Edition Introduction State legalization of cannabis (i.e., marijuana) for medical and/or recreational use has spurred many questions regarding exposure concerns and drug testing concerns (e.g., what constitutes positive cannabis tests and how do results relate to impairment). Answers to these questions are applicable to: Site inspectors, whose chance of encountering unintentional contact with cannabis has risen as both possession and cultivation (by individuals and commercial operations) has become permissible Insurance carriers assessing grower and/or dispensary facilities policy applications for D&O, liability, and/or workers compensation coverage Attribution of individual liability in forensic cases Knowledge regarding the main psychoactive component of cannabis (tetrahydrocannabinol or THC) is essential to understanding these issues, especially those regarding intoxication and/or biological detection. Cannabis contains more than 421 different chemical compounds, including a group of more than 60 bioactive compounds (called cannabinoids). Cannabinoids in raw (unprocessed) cannabis plants include tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA), which, with heat, time, and/or light transforms into THC, the main psychoactive compound of cannabis products. This white paper provides general knowledge regarding THC, including how it is absorbed, metabolized, and distributed in the human body following oral and inhalation exposures, and the relationship between intoxication and detection in blood and urine. This paper is intended as a general overview, it is not comprehensive in nature, and readers are encouraged to contact J.S. Held toxicologists regarding specific questions and situations. Cannabis Impairment & Regulations Cannabis regulations are complicated: although individual states have legalized medical or personal use, it remains federally illegal. Therefore, failing a THC drug test (i.e., presence of THC or metabolites in urine), regardless of potential impairment status, is sufficient to dismiss federal employees in applicable positions. Regulations regarding impaired driving in states that have legalized THC use are generally based on “per se limits” (or the concentration that legally…
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