Under Washington State law, marijuana is defined as cannabis with a THC concentration greater than 0.3 percent. Anything with less THC is not marijuana under state law; it is simply unregulated cannabis. Thanks to Initiative 502, we no longer prohibit this unregulated cannabis, which includes such commodities as industrial hemp, edible pot sprouts, and seeds.
But THC, the molecule primarily responsible for the psychoactive effects of pot, is just one of at least 85 known cannabinoids in the plant, and it turns out some people aren't looking for THC. Many dispensaries report that patients often want pot that is high in other medicinal compounds—like cannabidiol (CBD), which is thought to have a greater effect on pain.
One such strain found locally is called M'Otto, and with 0.23 percent THC and nearly 11 percent CBD, it is not technically marijuana under state law. It certainly looks like marijuana, smells like marijuana, and smokes like marijuana. But around here, it is only unregulated cannabis. "Since we've had it in for about a year, I would say it's the fifth or sixth fastest-moving strain we carry," says Muraco Kyashna-tocha from the Green Buddha Patient Co-op.
"A year ago, it was hard to find any low-THC strains," remarks John Brown from the cannabis testing lab Analytical 360. "Now we're starting to see, over the last six months, people propagating low-THC plants, trying to find those strains that work for them. These are real patients looking for real medicine, not looking for a high."
State regulators are aware of such non-marijuana.
"We're not addressing anything that's under that 0.3 percent THC," insists Brian Smith, a spokesman for the liquor board, which is tasked with regulating the marijuana market.
Smoking M'Otto, I feel a bit more relaxed and wonder if I'm high. That is to say, it's a bit like when I actually do get high. It's definitely not heady, though I wonder how the hash tastes.
Kyashna-tocha thinks low-THC cannabis has limited recreational appeal and should be of little concern to the liquor board. "I can't imagine this will sit high on their radar."