Is pot more potent now than in the past?

Published: September 11, 2019

Marijuana Researcher, Female scientist in a hemp field checking plants and flowers Photo by Tinnakorn jorruang/Shutterstock

The weather, clothing, food: name just about anything and it was probably better when your parents were kids. One exception is cannabis. Pot is more potent than ever, up to 300 percent stronger than the bud available in the 90s, according to a couple of studies.

A 2016 study found the THC count — the measure of the compound that creates the psychedelic high — was about four percent in 1995. Today varieties are available with more than 30 percent THC and the average THC concentration of pot flowers in 2017 was 17 percent.

Some cannabis proponents say those numbers are inaccurate, pointing out that researchers had to rely on concentration data gathered in the 90s using less accurate measures than today. But, no one can argue that THC concentrations have increased.

Mostly that’s due to more and more jurisdictions legalizing, first medical and then recreational, cannabis. In the 1990s there was no shopping around for different strains; whatever a person’s dealer was selling is what they bought. Bringing cultivation out of the black market encouraged farmers to not only grow in safe and healthy ways, which naturally encourage the plant to produce more compounds, but also create unique strains for different needs. That includes higher and lower THC strains.

There are now strains with almost no THC and lots of CBD, strains with almost no CBD but lots of THC, and hybrids with a balance of the two. There are limits to how strong the concentrations can get, says Nick Jikomes, a professional cannabis researcher. Farmers are already close to maxing out THC concentrations around 35 percent, he says.

“Today’s growers have probably already reached the natural limits,” he says. “There are serious biological constraints.”

So far, Canadians are handling the stronger cannabis like seasoned pros. Despite steadily increasing emergency room visits for cannabis related problems up to 2017, there was no uptick after legalization.

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