Cannabis Potency Fears – Prohib fallacy

Prohibitionists have been repeating many of the same talking points about cannabis since the 30s, almost to the point where they are a broken record people have stopped listening to. One that has been used increasingly is that today’s cannabis is not your <insert previous generation here>’s cannabis due to the higher THC content. Not only is the data they use to support this far from accurate, they also ignore the majority of cannabis history and continue saying it with “we really mean it this time.”

Dana Larson has an excellent thread on Twitter breaking down why this talking point is so absurd and not ground in fact. Looking at the claims in the past, this has been nothing but fearmongering. Not only are these claims inconsistent and show a lack of actual scientific evidence, they also ignore the primacy consumption methods of cannabis throughout the ages until we managed to produce flowers that had the higher THC by growing, as covered in my previous post on cannabis history. Hashish, tinctures, resin, oil, and bhang have been used by people for ages to consume cannabis and all have a much higher THC % than normal flower.

There are two major issues with any reports on cannabis potency prior to the mid-2000s; the source of the plant material and the testing method. As detailed in this article in The Atlantic, the issues raised bring into question the results of the testing

First, the cannabis tested was only from seized cannabis which was sent to the DEA. This cannabis could be from any grower or even just what was found in the wild. So from these unknown and limited sources, the varying quality of the cannabis is apparent. Additionally, there is no knowledge of how old the cannabis was or how long it sat prior to testing; the THC in cannabis will degrade into CBN over time. With all these factors, they’re basically just throwing darts blind by making several assumptions about cannabis since the 70s.

The second issue is the testing method. Prior to the mid-2000s, THC was tested by a process calls gas chromatography. This process required the cannabis plant material to be heated up in order to approximate the cannabinoid composition. Since the plant material was heated, the chemical composition will change. This may cause the delta-9 content to change as it might burn off during this process.

With all the above factors, it is extremely fair to be skeptical of any claims that cannabis is “nuclear strength” compared to that of the 60s and 70s. Yes, our growing methods have improved the quality of cannabis and THC content, but I’m willing to bet “top-shelf” cannabis has existed for far longer than the prohibitionists want us to believe.