Published On: Wed, Oct 18th, 2023

Studies show that today cannabis is more potent than before

Studies show that today cannabis is more potent than before
Studies show that today cannabis is more potent than before

Studies show that today’s cannabis is more potent than before

cannabis is more potent than before

Modern cannabis isn’t what it once was. Its psychoactive strength has been escalating, leading to heightened concerns about potential adverse effects. As the drug gains acceptance and legality in various parts of the world, a pressing question emerges: How much more potent is contemporary cannabis?
It’s challenging to evaluate every cannabis type available globally, both legally and illicitly. However, available data indicates that the current strains are significantly more potent than those available just a few years or decades ago.

In the US, the Potency Monitoring Program, spearheaded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and conducted at the University of Mississippi, provides some of the most detailed insights into cannabis potency. The findings are clear: over the past half-century, the average tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content in cannabis has surged by over ten times.

This trend isn’t exclusive to the US. A 2020 research analyzing marijuana potency in countries like the US, UK, Netherlands, France, Denmark, and New Zealand discovered that average THC concentrations rose by 0.29% annually from 1970 to 2017.

Over time, cultivators have employed advanced breeding methods, allowing them to produce more potent varieties.

Long-time cannabis users often jest that “regular” cannabis is now hard to come by, notes Ryan Sultan from Columbia University, New York.

Consider sinsemilla, or seedless cannabis. These unpollinated female plants are favored for their THC-rich resin content – they can have double the THC of their seeded counterparts. In 1993, potent sinsemilla represented under 4% of all cannabis samples analyzed by the Potency Monitoring Program. By 2008, this figure had risen to nearly 50%.

However, these statistics are based on police-seized drugs, which might not represent the full spectrum of consumed cannabis. Moreover, the number of seizures fluctuates annually: 34 in 1972 compared to over 3700 in 1995.

Another evolving aspect is cannabis consumption methods. While dried flower remains a popular choice, edibles, vapes, and other forms are gaining traction. These alternatives can be packed with even more THC. Some concentrates, for instance, boast THC levels nearing 90%.

The rising availability of potent cannabis, combined with a growing perception of its harmlessness, is causing concern among researchers. Elevated THC levels can lead to severe side effects, including nausea, paranoia, and irregular heartbeats.

While humans have consumed cannabis for millennia, the modern, potent strains mean we’re navigating unfamiliar waters, Sultan remarks.

Understanding Cannabis


As cannabis consumption rises globally, New Scientist delves into the latest studies on its medical potential, cultivation methods, environmental impact, effects on the body and mind, and the future of marijuana.

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