It doesn’t matter whether marijuana is purchased from the legal market or the criminal underground. A new study finds that it is now 25% stronger than it was more than 50 years ago.
Researchers at the University of Bath in the United Kingdom recently examined 80,000 cannabis samples from various spots in the world, including the U.S., Netherlands, U.K., France, Denmark, Italy, and New Zealand. They discovered that cannabis consumers are probably getting a lot higher these days than when Presidents Nixon, Ford, and Carter were still leading the country.
The findings, which were published in the recent journal Addiction, shows higher concentrations of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, since the early 1970s. THC is the psychoactive compound of the cannabis plant responsible for getting a person stoned. Researchers claim that weed has consistently gotten stronger over the past fifty years. The team found a 14% increase in flower strength between 1970 and 2017 and a 24% increase in resin potency since 1975.
Meanwhile, the concentration of America’s popular compound CBD is the same as it has always been.
The latest study is a testament to how growers sometimes look to increase potency to provide the consumer with the illusion of a quality product. But stronger doesn’t always mean better, especially when cannabis is being used to treat various medical conditions, including anxiety and insomnia. Many cannabis users throughout the years have reported better results with strains higher in CBD.
So why is weed getting stronger?
This is mostly because cannabis cultivators now have a better understanding of what makes the plant flourish during the grow process. And as a result, cannabis crops are healthier than they were back then. It is also worth mentioning that the weed of the 1970s probably only contained around 2% THC — not nearly enough to get people as stoned as they have been since legalization started across the United States.
There is also something to be said for how genetics are understood, allowing growers to essentially dictate various outcomes of the plant. The science surrounding cannabis cultivation is just more advanced than fifty years ago, plain and simple.
However, researchers are concerned that more potent marijuana could force more people to experience addiction as legalization becomes more widespread. “As the strength of cannabis has increased, so too has the number of people entering treatment for cannabis use problems,” said Dr. Tom Freeman, director of the Addiction and Mental Health Group at the University of Bath. “More Europeans are now entering drug treatment because of cannabis than heroin or cocaine.”
In the U.S., President-elect Joe Biden has promised to decriminalize marijuana possession nationwide. This is the same man who once said that comparing the weed of the 60s to what the kids are smoking today was like “comparing buckshot in a shotgun shell to a laser-guided missile.”
But is increasing potency a bad thing?
Well, some federally funded studies show that marijuana use is becoming more widespread, especially among adolescents and young adults. Legalization is supposed to diminish those numbers, and in some cases it has. Still, despite the reports of more potent weed, the addiction rate remains fairly consistent at 9%. That’s roughly the same amount associated with the consumption of caffeine.
So even if more of the population starts using marijuana as legalization spreads, it isn’t likely that it will bring about a substantial uptick in addiction rates. Nevertheless, more research is necessary so that the country has a better grip on the potential risks that lie ahead.