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(Bloomberg) — A stronger version of a drug comes along and addicts a new generation of kids to an age-old vice.

Sound familiar? That narrative has ensnared the vape industry, resulting in regulatory challenges and ongoing lawsuits over high-nicotine products. And now cannabis faces a similar scenario — with potential ramifications for policies like age limits and potency caps. The industry, still finding its voice on such matters, is planning initiatives to get out ahead of the issues.

Last week, a study that analyzed more than 3 million seventh-, ninth- and 11th-graders found that adolescents may be more likely to use marijuana once it’s legalized for recreational use.

The report, published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, found that after California legalized recreational use in 2016, respondents were 23% more likely to have used it in the last 30 days. The increase applied more to younger people — seventh-graders versus ninth- and 11th-graders — and demographics that historically had lower marijuana use.

It’s far from the first time that concerns about use among youths have been raised. In August, a survey in Colorado also reported that marijuana use among teens had increased from 2017 to 2019. The National Institute on Drug Abuse cautions that marijuana may have detrimental effects on young, developing brains. Concerns include increased risk of addiction and schizophrenia.

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Related: Fruity Pot Gummies Risk Repeating E-Cig Mistake: Cannabis Weekly

The U.S. Cannabis Council, a lobbying group that formed this month to speak for the industry’s interests, is still establishing its positions on youth use.

“These are critical issues of public concern,” interim Chief Executive Officer Steven Hawkins told me in a phone interview. “The advocates and the industry have all advocated for 21-and-older consumption, and we recognize that even after having that in the law, it then further needs to be buttressed by programs and activities to discourage underage use.”

Meanwhile, there’s growing discussion on a possible curb on high-potency cannabis as a way to try and prevent the most dire risks. The concern is about higher concentrations of THC — the psychoactive compound responsible for getting high — in the new generation of cannabis products.

A 2019 study in the Lancet found that daily users of high-potency cannabis were five times more likely to have a psychotic disorder compared to those who never used it. Those who’d started high-potency cannabis by age 15 also had higher risk.

In Colorado, a ban has been proposed on products that test over 15% THC. There has also been talk of restrictions to the state’s medical marijuana program, which would only let patients buy a pre-designated dosage.

Limitations like that aren’t something that the U.S. Cannabis Council wants to see happen.

“Consumer preferences should ultimately dictate what gets manufactured,” Hawkins said.

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NUMBER OF THE WEEK

321,000: The number of full-time U.S. jobs supported by legal cannabis use as of January 2021, according to a report from Leafly. That means there are more legal cannabis workers than dentists in the U.S., according to the report, and more than EMTs and paramedics.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

“When you’re an industry you make money off the heaviest users of your product. For alcohol, 10% of American consumers account for 75% of the alcohol consumed. That is the profit for these alcohol companies. They have an incentive to maximize use and addiction. My worry for marijuana is it’s the same thing. They want you to use it a lot, and they want you to get addicted,” said Kevin Sabet, former three-time White House Office of National Drug Control Policy adviser, and author of the forthcoming book “Smokescreen: What the Marijuana Industry Doesn’t Want You to Know.”

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Tilray Inc. shares pared gains after analysts downgraded the stock following a surge in recent days. Its merger with Aphria is still seen as being on track.New York Governor Andrew Cuomo shared new details about plans to legalize recreational marijuana, allowing for delivery and allocating $100 million in tax revenue to communities hit hard by anti-drug laws.A California medical marijuana business can’t use tax breaks, a court ruled, denying yet another challenge to Section 280E, the code that bars tax deductions for businesses that deal in controlled substances.Verano Holdings Corp., one of the largest U.S. multistate operators following recent deals, went public in Canada to support further expansion.Former NBA All-Star player Chris Webber is launching a private equity fund with $100 million in assets to support minority entrepreneurs in the cannabis industry.U.K.-based Cellular Goods Plc, focused on skin care and athletic products with lab-made cannabinoids, and backed by retired soccer star David Beckham, kicked off an initial public offering on the London Stock Exchange.

EVENTS

Friday 2/26

Cronos Group Inc. reports fourth-quarter results before the market opens.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

Bloomberg.com

In-depth reporting on the innovation economy from The Logic, brought to you in partnership with the Financial Post.

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Founder, The Internet Crime Fighters Org [ICFO], and Sponsor, ICFO's War On Crimes Against Our Children Author The Internet Users Handbook, 2009-2014

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