It’s something you hear from opponents of marijuana legalization all the time: “weed is getting stronger” and “this ain’t your grandpa’s weed”. And when you think about it, you don’t wear your grandpa’s clothes or drive your grandpa’s car, so why would you want to be smoking the same marijuana he smoked?
Prohibitionists want you to think stronger cannabis is a bad thing; they want you to think higher THC levels somehow make marijuana more dangerous, or even deadly. But it doesn’t; more THC just means you’ll get higher.
When you drink alcohol, you have many options to choose from. You can drink a wine cooler that is about 4% alcohol or you can drink Everclear, which is 90% alcohol. Or you can pick something in between, in dozens of strengths and flavors and textures. Yet I don’t hear anyone talking about banning Everclear or lamenting the fact that you can buy something that’s almost as strong as moonshine right off a liquor store shelf.
It’s the same with marijuana. Over the years growers have struggled under the weight of prohibition to create strains of cannabis that do more than they used to. Now that legalization is coming to many states, they have the freedom to experiment with different breeding techniques and different genetics to see what the cannabis plant is capable of.
Statistically there is little doubt that cannabis is getting stronger in terms of THC content. From CNN:
“In the early 1990s, the average THC content in confiscated cannabis samples was roughly 3.7% for marijuana,” according to the NIH National Institute on Drug Abuse. “In 2013, it was 9.6%.”
Another study that analyzed samples from pot seized by the US Drug Enforcement Administration from 1995 to 2014 also showed an increase in potency of “illicit cannabis plant material” from 4% THC content in 1995 to 12% in 2014, which is still far below what marijuana testing facilities are finding in Colorado and other states where recreational marijuana is sold.
Yes, growers are getting better at what they do. That’s what someone in any occupation should strive for. And while stronger cannabis can take some users by surprise – and even send some on a trip to the emergency room because they can’t handle the effects – no one will overdose and die.
As time goes on and testing standards are improved, it will be hard to find legal cannabis without an accurate listing on the package of what the THC content is. Until then, it would behoove anyone who has a low tolerance for cannabis to do everything they can to find out just how strong what they are about to ingest is.