Modern Day "SuperWeed"

"Parents are often unaware that today's marijuana is different from that of a generation ago, with potency levels 10 to 20 times stronger than the marijuana with which they were familiar."

-- U.S. Drug Czar John P. Walters, The Myth of 'Harmless' Marijuana, Washington Post, May 1, 2002, p.A25

"Marijuana is up to ten times more potent than that smoked a decade ago."

-- Marijuana: The Myth of Harmlessness Goes Up in Smoke, Saturday Evening Post, Jul/Aug 1980, p.34

"If you want to fly quickly at 30,000 feet, just put a few drops of hash oil on a marijuana cigarette and you will go straight into the stratosphere."

-- Anonymous Federal narcotics agent, quoted in an article about hash oil: "The One," Newsweek, Sep 11, 1972, pp 62-63

Marijuana potency claims through the years

Marijuana: Strong, Stronger, Strongest

Source: University of Mississippi, Marijuana Potency Monitoring Project
Click either graphic for more details.

It appears that Mr Walters is given to histrionics, or of simply being at best disingenuous, at worst a bald-faced liar. Clearly, significantly powerful cannabis preparations have been available for decades. If we narrow our focus to just "marijuana," the lowest recorded average potency was measured in 1973 at 0.83 percent THC. By contrast, the highest recorded average potency for "marijuana" was measured in 2004 at 5.81 percent THC. These numbers indicate that today's "marijuana" weighs in at well less than "10 to 20" times as potent as that from the last generation. Bear in mind though, that these are average THC content measurements -- not maximum "record strengths."

Of more importance however, is the idea that your "children" are obtaining and smoking "super weed." Are they really? The chart on the right shows the percentage of tested cannabis samples and indicates that by far most of the pot seized (and presumably most of the pot available on the market) is classed as "marijuana," the very same stuff Mr Walter's tells us is a "threat" to our children.

In reality, most of what "kids" are smoking is probably low grade cheap commercial Mexican marijuana -- the same stuff we grew up on. Why would that be so? Because higher potency pot is much more expensive than the widely available commercial pot. The scenario for pot use among our young people is likely akin to what young people do with alcohol use: buy the most volume for the buck. We all did the same thing, so why would today's kids be doing anything significantly different?

Most importantly, in practical terms, what is it about higher potency marijuana products that makes Mr Walter's hit the panic button? For a bit of perspective, perhaps we can do a brief comparison of cannabis products with their alcohol counterparts. After all, alcohol products are available in a wide variety of forms and potencies, and the high potency stuff is less likely to be available to young people (or desired by them for that matter), than the lower potency stuff.

Indeed, one pot smoker quoted in the 1972 Newsweek article quoted above had this to say after using hash oil (concentrated THC -- the active principle ingredient of marijuana): "It's not a heavy trip or a grass thing. It's just weird and sort of intense. Who needs to get that stoned?" Apparently, some people do -- and they have been doing so for a very long time.

Potent Smokables Versus Potent Potables
Smokables Potables
Product Potency (THC by weight) Product Potency (alcohol by volume)
Ditchweed < 0.5% "Near" Beer < 0.5%
Brickweed < 1% "3.2" beer 3.2%
Marijuana ~ 5% "Typical" Beer ~ 5%
Thai Stick < 10% Wine 13%
Hashish 10 - 20% Liquers 15 - 20%
Sinsemilla 15% - > "Hard" Liquor 40 - 50%
Hash Oil 40 - 60% 151 Rum/Moonshine 75 - 90%
Medicine 100% No Counterpart -

Note: Average THC content provided in this table is actually higher than that measured in seizures. The values provided are from sources other than the U.S. Government and provided only for reference comparisons of relative potencies.

The principle psychoactive ingredient of marijuana (THC) is available as a prescription medicine. It is 100 percent THC by definition. If it isn't scary when it comes in concentrated form from your local pharmacy, one has to wonder how it can be so "dangerous" in its weaker, natural forms. Indeed, one has to really wonder why the concentrated synthetic form qualifies as a Schedule III medicine, while the natural form is a Schedule I "dangerous drug" with no medical purpose.

Food for thought:

The greatest danger in consuming alcohol: you can die immediately as a direct result of drinking too much.

The greatest danger involved in consuming cannabis: you may be caught and have your life ruined -- but you'll still be alive.

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