Dana Larsen: The marijuana potency myth

Could cannabis really be 12,600 times stronger now than the 1960s?

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      America's top doctor recently told the media that today's cannabis is much stronger than it used to be.

      "This ain't your mother's marijuana," said Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams. "Not enough people know that today's marijuana is far more potent than in days' past."

      He claimed cannabis was three times stronger now than it was in the 1990s.

      Sounds like the weed they smoked back in the 1990s must have been pretty weak. Let's see what they were saying about marijuana potency at the time.

      In 1995, America's "Drug Czar" Lee Brown told the media that "Marijuana is 40 times more potent today than 10, 15, 20 years ago."

      Who else was talking about cannabis potency in the '90s? How about Joe Biden, currently running for the presidential nomination.

      Video: "Joe Biden's Drug Problem"

      Here's what he had to say in 1996 about how strong marijuana had become: "It’s like comparing buckshot in a shotgun shell to a laser-guided missile."

      Wow. So the cannabis in the 1980s must have been pretty weak then. Let's see what the experts were saying about cannabis potency at the time.

      "The potency of marijuana has increased sevenfold in the past 11 years. Smoking one marijuana cigarette now is equivalent to smoking seven cigarettes nine or ten years ago." (National Institute of Drug Abuse, 1986)

      So if the cannabis now is three times stronger than the stuff in the '90s, and that cannabis was 40 times stronger than the stuff in the '80s, and the weed in 1986 was seven times stronger than the stuff in 1975, then we can only assume that the weed in the '70s was pretty weak.

      Let's see what the media was saying about cannabis potency in the 1970s:

      "The grass kids are buying in the schoolyard parking lot for $10 a 'lid' is not what it used to be... The potency of the Jamaican Colombian variety is 15 to 20 times stronger than our 1960s vintage." (Paul Harvey, syndicated columnist, 1975)

      If we take all this at face value, then compared to the cannabis of the 1960s our modern cannabis is about 3 x 40 x 7 x 15 times stronger, which makes one modern joint equivalent to 12,600 joints of the 1960s variety!

      Meanwhile, you can find the media talking about "high potency marijuana" back in the 1950s.

      Reefer Madness is the most famous pot propaganda film in U.S. history.

      In the 1930s they claimed cannabis use was so dangerous that it would drive people insane after a few puffs! Could the modern stuff really be 12,600 times stronger than that?

      The reality is that there has always been high-quality cannabis available, including hashish and other extracts which have been around for many centuries.

      Regardless of the potency of the cannabis they have access to, most users end up ingesting roughly the same amount of cannabinoids by moderating the amount they use. With stronger cannabis, you use less, with weaker cannabis you use more. The end result is the same.

      It's time to stop the fear-mongering and lies about cannabis. It's hard to believe these same myths and falsehoods get repeated decade after decade, generation after generation.

      It's time for a new approach. It's time to recognize that cannabis is good, and prohibition has been the real problem all along.

      Dana Larsen is an author, advocate, and activist for cannabis and drug policy reform.

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