(Frederic J. Brown, AFP/Getty Images file)

Cannabist Q&A: THC in blood, Denver Cannabis Cup 2015, pot pricing

Welcome to our Ask The Cannabist column. Clearly you have questions about marijuana, be it a legal concern, a health curiosity, a Colorado-centric inquiry or something more far-reaching. Check out our expansive, 64-question Colorado marijuana FAQ first, and if you’re still curious, email your question to askthecannabist@gmail.com.

Hey, Cannabist!
How long does THC persist in the bloodstream above the legal 5 nanogram driving limit?  Could THC in the bloodstream be above the legal limit a day or a few days later? –Dank Doobie Driver

Hey, Dank Doobie!
That’s a great question! I’m sure you’re asking because 5 nanograms is the established legal threshold for driving while impaired in Colorado. The standard for marijuana impairment is not simple to understand.  The short answer is yes, it is possible to have elevated levels of THC in the blood days after consuming marijuana, if you are a frequent consumer.

According to medical marijuana physician Dr. Alan Shackelford: “In early, classic research studies involving recreational marijuana users, THC appears in the blood very soon after consumption, whether by inhalation or ingestion, and its blood levels peak relatively soon thereafter, declining and disappearing within a very few hours.”  However, there’s a caveat: “If you are a regular and frequent consumer, you’ll have elevated levels of THC in the blood.”

Dr. Shackelford summarizes that the absorption and metabolism of THC is very different for high-dose or frequent cannabis users. “THC and its metabolites may be present and detectable in blood samples for many hours to many days after cannabis use. Furthermore, blood levels of THC do not correlate in any predictable way with any degree of impairment or with time after use, even in infrequent users, but especially in patients or others who use marijuana regularly.”

Research is needed; we simply don’t have enough data right now to know how long THC remains in the bloodstream compared with actual impairment levels. Earlier this year, the Arizona Supreme Court overturned a ruling on marijuana DUID charges, calling for proof of impairment, not just  presence of THC in blood. At a Congressional hearing in July on drugged driving, U.S. Rep. John Mica, a Florida Republican, said: “We have no standard. We have no acceptable test. We have no way of telling if people are impaired.”

Colorado needs a public service guide like the blood-alcohol content calculator  for estimating impairment. Federal and state grant funds used for state law enforcement training to spot stoned drivers and public education campaigns should also be used for this purpose in the future.

Law enforcement: More Colorado state troopers get special training to join cadre of Drug Recognition Experts

Opinion: Colorado road fatalities don’t match stoned driving panic

Hey, Cannabist!
When is the date for the next Cannabis Cup in 2015? –Globby Globe Get-together

Hey, Globby Globe!
Nowadays, High Times Cannabis Cups are happening year-round, all over the country in medical and recreational states.  

“April 18-20 are the dates for the 2015 Denver Cup,” shares Cannabis Cup event designer Elise McDonough in a recent phone call.

A Seattle stop in early September and the original Amsterdam Cup in November wrap up the festivities for 2014.

The Cup calendar begins again in February at Los Angeles, followed by the largest of the Cannabis Cups — Denver for 4/20, then San Francisco in June, and Clio, Michigan in July.  XO

Cannabis Cup: Coverage of the 2014 Denver event, including reviews of Cup-winning strains, recaps of Days One and Two, and analysis of the first 4/20 weekend in the era of legal weed sales.

Hey, Cannabist!
When Washington started recreational sales on July 8, starting top-shelf prices were at $25/gram. How much have Colorado’s rec prices dropped since January 1? Thanks. –Seattle Sensi Smoker

Hey, Seattle Sensi!
Well, prices haven’t gone down much in Colorado since Jan. 1, but for the most part, they are not as high as $25/gram for flowers, either! I talked to the owners of Northern Lights Cannabis Co. and 3D Cannabis Center, among the marijuana centers that were open for Colorado’s first recreational sales. Per-gram prices vary from about $10 to $15, pretax, depending on the amount purchased.

Eva Woolhiser of Northern Lights Cannabis Co. says her shop has added pricing tiers, including lower prices from the ones established at the first of the year. The following price breakdowns are all pretax: 3.5 grams (an eighth) of flowers goes for $48 or $54, for a per-gram price of $13.71 or $15.43.  An ounce costs $300 to $350, bringing the per-gram price in the range of $10.71 to $12.50.

Toni Fox of 3D Cannabis Center says 3D’s prices have not changed since Jan. 1.  An eighth of flowers costs $35 to $50; per-gram that’s $10 to $14.29.  Packages of edibles containing 100 milligrams THC cost between $15 to $20.  XO

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Opening Day in Washington:
A special report from The Cannabist

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More … Best of Twitter: 20 pot-minded people and how they celebrated July 8, 2014

Pretty bold, Holmes: Seattle’s city attorney Pete Holmes says he bought weed for his “enjoyment”; Denver’s did not

Cost of cannabis: Exactly how much is retail weed selling for in Washington? Here you go:

Advice for Washington: Eight suggestions to consider amid the state’s first days of retail sales

Only one shop open, Seattle?! They’re smokeless in Seattle. Imagine if Denver started weed sales this way

Photos: Scenes from Washington on first day of recreational pot sales

List of shops: These 24 Washington marijuana shops are licensed to open July 8

Questions on Wash. pot: What took the stores so long to get licensed? Plus 5 other questions

“It’s amazing:” Seattle-based I-502 architect Alison Holcomb talks on Opening Day

There will be pot shortages: 5 things to know about Washington weed sales

Take the poll: Will retail cannabis sales in Washington hurt the state’s image?

More recreational weed: Stay caught up on news coming out of Washington state