Has marijuana actually got stronger since the 80s? Here’s what the science says
Estimates on just how much stronger vary, however, since marijuana is a tricky thing to measure. Its status as a Schedule I drug, and its incredible variability in potency based on where it’s grown and how it’s ingested make it difficult to pinpoint its strength over time.
Andy LaFrate, president and director of research at Colorado potency testing lab Charas Scientific, reported at the American Chemical Society meeting last year that the amount of THC — the active ingredient in marijuana that’s responsible for the high — has tripled in the last 30 years. In the 1980s, he said at the meeting, marijuana THC levels were well below 10%, while the average today is about 20%. He’s even measured up to 30% THC in some especially potent strains.
Other labs have found similar increases. A double-blind, placebo-controlled study in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology reported that THC content doubled from about 5% in 1990 to 10% in 2005, and that levels up to 40% have been found in hash oil. The authors, who tested the effects of different THC levels on 20 recreational marijuana users, attributed this rise to the growing popularity of indoor hydroponic growing techniques.
But CBD, a.k.a. cannabidiol, levels — the part that’s responsible for marijuana’s therapeutic effects — haven’t changed over time, according to LaFrate. He’s seen little to no increase in CBD percentages, and has tested some samples with CBD levels so low that his machines can’t detect it.
The idea that marijuana is much more potent now than in previous decades has been questioned repeatedly.
In a 2008 review of the research published in the journal Addiction, a team of Australian researchers cautioned that while “increased potency has been observed in some countries . there is enormous variation between samples, meaning that cannabis users may be exposed to greater variation in a single year than over years or decades.”
They dismissed reports of 20- and 30-fold increases in marijuana potency, and noted that previous research has found a significantly slighter increase in THC, with high variability from year to year. “In the United States,” they wrote, “the THC concentration of confiscated marijuana rose from 2.0% in 1980 to 4.5% in 1997, and reached 8.5% by 2006.”
There’s a larger problem, however, with tracking potency over time: THC content can vary not only based on strain, but also on how old a sample is and how it is stored. Another research review from 2012 noted that most studies on potency look at samples only from one particular geographic area and do “not describe relevant information about the features (i.e. conservation status and age of the sample) of the analyzed herbal cannabis samples.”
Those features are important — and could even alter the findings altogether. “In National Institute on Drug Abuse studies over the past several decades, the age of samples has varied from a few weeks old to a few years old — and researchers made no attempt to compensate for the loss of THC during prolonged storage,” Adrienne LaFrance wrote in The Atlantic, in a story questioning the rise in potency.
It’s difficult to compare marijuana from the 1970s to marijuana today unless the samples being compared were all being processed and stored in exactly the same way — and LaFrance’s reporting revealed they were not. One recent study even suggested that a significant portion of the perceived rise in potency could be the result of the fact that marijuana today is fresher than that analyzed in previous decades.
And in any case, at least one small study suggests that users naturally adjust their consumption based on potency, smoking less marijuana when it’s higher in THC.
In general, most data suggest that marijuana today is indeed stronger than it once was. But it’s nearly impossible to accurately quantify those changes, which makes it difficult to evaluate the effects.
The amount of THC in pot has tripled, according to some estimates. But the story's not quite so simple.
what kind of weed was around in the 80’s?
Hey, I am probably a little bit older than several on this forum. I used to have a blast lighting up with the friends back in like 1985. I used to get a great buzz that was mellow, gave me the massive munchies, made me laugh my ass off at the stupidist stuff, etc. I would share like 1 joint with a friend and get very pleasently fried.
Well that was then and this is now. Now the weed is soooooo incredibly potent compared to the 80’s weed that it is rediculous. The high is completely different also. The last time I smoked was almost 10 years ago now. I only had like 4 or 5 bong hits and got way too wasted! I got home and puked. Felt like total crap from being way too stoned. I just layed on the bed trying to go to sleep (not because I was sleepy, just wanted to come down). This experience was very similar to the experiences I had the previous couple of years. The weed all came from different sources even in different states. The stuff has just changed in the last 20 years!
So, now that I stated the above. Here is my question: I want the high that I used to get back in the 80’s. The weed was alot less potenet and the high was alot more enjoyable (in my oppinion). Are there still any strains around that would probably give me the high that I used to get? I think I smoked some skunk back in the 80’s the rest was probably made up names like “Jamaican Red Hair Sense” and not really strains. Now I see that there are several different kinds of skunk out there. Any suggestions on which seeds I should buy of which strain to get as close to the same weed as I used to have? Also, I live in the USA so any supplier that has the strain would need to be able to ship to the US. Thanks if anyone knows what I am looking for.
Hey, I am probably a little bit older than several on this forum. I used to have a blast lighting up with the friends back in like 1985. I used to get a…