Marijuana Is Stronger Today Than Ever
As pot use is becoming more socially acceptable – evidenced by varying degrees of legality in a handful of states – the mind-altering properties of the plant, itself, have become stronger.
And significantly stronger, too.
Researchers looked at more than 38,600 samples of illegal marijuana seized by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) over 20 years. They found that the level of THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol -- marijuana's main psychoactive ingredient -- in the samples rose from about 4 percent in 1995 to about 12 percent in 2014.
Conversely, the level of CBD, or cannabidiol -- an ingredient sometimes touted for its potential health benefits -- fell from about 0.28 percent in 2001 to less than 0.15 percent in 2014.
The increase in marijuana's potency may have some negative health consequences for marijuana users, especially young ones.
When a person smokes marijuana with lower doses of THC, "it is a pleasant feeling; it is the munchies, the happiness," according to lead study author Mahmoud A. ElSohly, a professor of pharmaceutics at the University of Mississippi. But smoking marijuana with high doses of THC may involve a higher risk of negative health effects, such as psychosis or panic attacks.
Just the same, growers have a great incentive to create more potent pot -- money. The higher the THC content, the higher the prices they can charge.