A new study is out in the peer-reviewed scientific journal European Archives of Psychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience that reveals how potent weed has gotten over the last 10 years. The analysis examines new trends in the potency of cannabis in the U.S. and Europe between 2008-2017.
Federally-Supported Potency Monitoring Program Reveals How THC Concentrations Are Changing
Not surprisingly, the researchers who conducted the study concluded that weed today is more potent than it was 2007. But how much more potent? And how did it get that way?
In the first place, it’s important to keep in mind that the study we’re looking at here is supported by the U.S. federal government. As such, it bears all the tell-tale signs of government-run cannabis research: outdated vocabulary, samples of absolutely abysmal quality and an emphasis on the “harm” of cannabis.
Why is the research limited in this way? Because all federally-approved cannabis studies must obtain their samples from a single government-authorized source, the University of Mississippi. The University of Mississippi is home to the federal marijuana potency monitoring program. Funds from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) support it.
Cannabis grown for research purposes at U Miss is notorious for how low-quality it is. But those aren’t the only samples analyzed in the new potency assessment. In addition to U Miss samples, researchers analyzed samples of cannabis seized by law enforcement. In total, then, the study analyzed 18,108 samples from 2008 to 2017.
Potency Assessment Shows Dramatic Increase in THC Concentrations and THC:CBD Ratios
Researchers classified those 18,108 samples into five categories: sinsemilla, marijuana, ditchweed, hashish and hash oil/concentrates. The study isn’t exactly clear on what the differences between some of those categories are. It appears like “sinsemilla” refers to headies, that loud shit. “Marijuana” seems to signify some middle ground—middies, perhaps. And “ditchweed” most likely refers to reggie weed. Hash and concentrates are clear enough.
The scientists subjected all the samples to a verified GC/FID method to determine potency. For all you science nerds out there, GC/FID stands for gas chromatography-flame ionization detection. The method allows scientists to analyze quantities of oleic acid and related fatty acids. That makes it a useful technique for analyzing THC, CBD and other cannabinoids. In fact, GC/FID is the industry standard for testing cannabinoid concentrations.
So what did researches find? Their results showed that the mean delta-9-THC concentration has increased from 8.9 percent in 2008 to 17.1 percent in 2017. If those numbers still seem low—dispensaries sell flower with THC in the mid-to-high twenties these days—it’s because of the low-quality samples.
The study also showed how today’s cannabis products contain less CBD than they used to. In 2007, THC:CBD ratios averaged about 23:1. In 2018, that ratio rose to 104:1. As for hash and concentrates, the data shows a jump from 6.7 percent to 55.7 percent THC over the decade.
Other potency monitoring groups in Europe have documented similar upticks in potency and THC:CBD ratios. But rather than see that phenomenon as a result of improved cultivation methods, better product standards or other industry improvements, NIDA researchers at U Miss say increasing potency is a sign of danger. “These trends in the last decade suggest that cannabis is becoming an increasingly harmful product in the USA and Europe,” the study concludes.