The Awesome Potency Of Today’s Pot


According to a story in the Orange County Register, today’s marijuana “is typically four times stronger than the marijuana of just a couple of decades ago.”

Reporter Brooke Edwards Staggs quotes Madeline Meier, a psychologist at Arizona State University, as saying that through the 1990s marijuana typically had about 4 percent THC, but that today’s pot commonly has 15 percent, 20 percent, even 30 percent THC.

“That definitely increases the potential for addiction,” chimes in Kevin Alexander, who runs an after-school anti-drug program in Newport Beach.

Like, yikes.

Look. I have seen this movie before. It’s called “This Is Not Your Father’s Pot,” and it is revived by marijuana prohibitionists whenever the question of marijuana legalization starts to get some traction.

I first saw it in the early 1980s when it was rolled out by William Bennett, Reagan’s first drug czar. The narrative always contains the same false premises and dodgy data. Only the dates change.

Ms. Meier doesn’t bother telling us where she got her numbers, but chances are they came from a study published in the January 19 issue of the Journal of Biological Psychology.

The study looked at more than 38,600 samples of illegal marijuana seized by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) over a 20-year period. It found that the THC in the samples had risen from about 4 percent in 1995 to about 12 percent in 2014.

The study was done at the University of Mississippi, which runs an on-going marijuana Potency Monitoring Program, funded by the National Institute of Drug Abuse. And which from time to time puts out reports that show that the potency of marijuana seized by the Drug Enforcement Administration has gone way up over the last 10 or 20 years. Which then prompt the DEA, pot prohibitionists and reporters to start hyper-ventilating over why today’s marijuana is so much more powerful (and by implication, dangerous) than the marijuana of the past and why, therefore, marijuana should remain illegal.

The quality of these studies, especially the early ones, has sometimes risen (or sunk) to the level of junk science. For example, some of the first ones, conducted in the 1980s, analyzed samples of marijuana bales that had been seized in the 1970s and had been sitting in a hallway degrading for years before their THC content was measured. Lo and behold, the average strength of the THC from 1970s’ dope tested in the 1980s was as low as 0.4 percent, which made the 4.0 percent THC content of samples seized in the early ’80s look like a ten-fold increase.

However, the latest study differs from those in the past in one important respect. Its main premise – that today’s marijuana is a lot stronger than the marijuana of 20 years ago – is self-evidently true, regardless of the quality of the study.

It was hardly necessary to analyze 38,600 samples of pot to establish this. Just guessing here, but chances are the average strength of the pot currently sold at recreational dispensaries in Boulder County is closer to 20 percent than 12 percent.

(The study’s assertion that the average THC content of 1990s’ pot was 4 percent strikes me as bogus. There was always plenty of high strength marijuana available in the 1990s, and the 1980s as well. It was sometimes called Lawyers’ dope. It may be that the DEA just didn’t seize much of it, for some reason.)

The real question when dealing with the “this is not your father’s pot” trope is not whether 2016 pot is stronger than 1996 pot or 1986 pot or 1976 pot or 1960s pot.

The real question is “so what?”

The fact that some pot has a, say, 9 percent THC content and some has a 25 percent THC content is no different than the fact that some booze has a 5 percent alcohol content (we call it “beer”), some has a 15 percent alcohol content (it’s called “wine”) and some has a 40 percent alcohol content, (aka Scotch). Most drinkers – usually as a result of a few embarrassing experiences early on – figure out that the three have to be consumed differently.

It is the same with marijuana users.

Indeed, the only people who seem to have trouble with the concept are newspaper reporters who keep falling for the This-Is-Not-Your-Father’s-Pot canard.

News Moderator: Katelyn Baker
Full Article: The Awesome Potency Of Today’s Pot
Author: Paul Danish
Contact: (303) 494-5511
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Website: Boulder Weekly