In the last year or two we have seen the legalisation of commercial marijuana production and sale in various American states. In the lead up to this legalisation, and still today, there remains an ongoing debate about whether the legalisation of weed will have an effect on the amount of marijuana being smoked, as well as how it has already affected the levels of marijuana potency.
Reports across the world vary where the potency of marijuana is concerned; with professionals and researchers in Europe stating that the potency of their marijuana has remained relatively unchanged since the 1990s, and yet some research in America shows that the average marijuana potency in the country has more than doubled in the last 20 years.
So what does that mean? Has there, or has there not been an increase in the potency of marijuana in the last few years? If so, what are the factors that contribute to the discrepancies between continents? And what are the effects of the marijuana strains that are of higher potency?
Is Marijuana More Potent Now or Not?
The potency of marijuana is determined by measuring the THC levels in the weed, which is the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana that gives the plant its ‘high'. In Europe, research has shown that THC levels in the marijuana being sold is about the same as it was in in the 1990s at about 6-8%. Only the Netherlands showed a slight increase in the THC levels of their marijuana.
The startling statistics in the States, however, suggest that the THC content has increased by something between 300-400%. Which is in great contrast to the statistics in Europe. The reason for the huge difference between the two continents is simply that in the 1990s the THC levels in Europe's marijuana was already between 6 and 8%, and so they have not increased much over the years - whereas in the 1990s in America, THC levels in marijuana were between 1 and 4%. The increase in potency in the United States merely means that now the THC levels have reached those of European standards.
What is driving the Huge Increase in THC Levels in the United States?
This is another topic that has been hotly debated by politicians, medical professionals and addiction treatment centers all over the country, with different parties putting the increasing THC levels down to different factors.
Many advocates for marijuana legalisation say that the increasing THC levels can be blamed on the prohibition of the drug as a legal substance. They state that because it is illegal in most states, dealers try and pack as much of the drug into a smaller volume in order to more safely transport it. They also say that making weed illegal is actually more damaging because users are unable to predict what level of THC they are going to be ingesting.
However, this point is contested by the parties fighting against the legalisation, as many of the legal dealers of marijuana are known to sell marijuana that has THC in the 20% level range. Their argument is furthered by the conception of the annual Cannabis Cup, which encourages competition between marijuana producers from all over the country. Experts try out the different kinds of marijuana and then select which one is the most potent from all the competitors.
THC levels have also increased due to a better understanding of cannabis growth methods, more knowledge on the facts about marijuana, and technological advancements that are allowing producers to grow crops of higher qualities and of higher potencies. Marijuana that used to be grown in closets and small backroom gardens under bedside lamps are now being produced in huge warehouses with high-technology machines and processes that ensure the potency and quality of the plants are as high as possible.
What are The Effects of Higher Potency Marijuana?
Obviously, increasing drug addiction problems are a big concern with the higher marijuana potencies that are becoming available, and many people say that the more potent the weed, the more likely it is that users are going to become addicted to it. This theory is somewhat supported by drug and alcohol abuse and addiction treatment centers that have seen an increase in admissions where marijuana has become the main addiction component. They have also found that the stronger the marijuana, the more reliant their patients are on the drug and that their psychological problems tend to be more pronounced.
However, on the other hand, it stands to reason that the more potent the marijuana is the less of it is being smoked. Users are smoking a smaller amount of marijuana because they are getting stronger highs in a shorter space of time. But many people still struggle to determine how potent weed is when they ingest it in the form of gum drops and cookies, and this is particularly dangerous for inexperienced users who may just keep eating, unaware that the drug will take some time to get into their system. This could result in paranoia and manic episodes in which the user could very easily find them self in the emergency room.
Marijuana is one of the least addictive drugs on the market, with an addiction rate of only 7%. However, that does not mean that it is a safe drug. The effects of marijuana are serious, and are particularly damaging to younger users who these days frequently start using marijuana by the age of 14 or 15. Research has shown that continued, habitual marijuana use has a definite effect on the development of their brains. After years of frequent use, scans have shown that there is a steady loss of grey matter, which, while it can be replaced at a younger age, will slowly stop being replaced and will eventually decrease as they get older.
So while it seems that more research needs to be done to fully end the debate about whether or not weed is more potent now than it used to be – I think it is safe to say that at least some strands are more potent than they were 10 years ago. In the meantime, spread the word of the serious effects of marijuana and its addictive behaviours so that people can make informed decisions when it comes to their own health.
If you or someone you know is suffering from marijuana addiction, it is important to contact a professional immediately to get the help needed to make a successful recovery.
(These articles are the sole property of “The Cabin Chiang Mai”, they are its original authors.)