Drug Policy

'This Is Pot 2.0'

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Federal drug warriors are citing the latest numbers from the University of Mississippi's Marijuana Potency Project to bolster their argument that smoking pot is a far more serious matter today than it used to be. The numbers, based on analyses of seized cannabis, indicate that average THC potency increased from around 4 percent in 1983 to 8.5 percent in 2006. As The Drug War Chronicle's Scott Morgan notes, this increase is a far cry from drug czar John Walters' 2002 claim that "the potency of available marijuana has not merely 'doubled,' but increased as much as 30 times"—a ratio that could not possibly hold true unless you were comparing the most potent marijuana money can buy to nonpsychoactive ditchweed. But never mind. "Researchers and treatment experts have argued for some time that today's more powerful marijuana has more harmful effects on users," says Walters. "This report underscores that we are no longer talking about the drug of the 1960s and 1970s—this is Pot 2.0."

Norah Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, notes that the market is giving people what they want: "Like in the market you favor the best tomatoes. When people buy marijuana, they don't want a weak cigarette."

The argument that better pot is worse pot has never made much sense to me. There's essentially no risk of a toxic THC dose; the main health hazard from smoking pot comes from inhaling the combustion products. Smoking less of the good stuff (which is what people tend to do) is, if anything, less hazardous than smoking more of the weak stuff. These warnings have to be understood mainly as a rationalization for the hypocrisy of parents (and politicians) who smoked pot in their youth and thought it was no big deal then but feel a need to explain why it is a big deal now.

[Thanks to Dan Donatelli for the link.]

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  1. According to the Feds and Drug Warriors, pot has increased in potency every year since 1950 AT LEAST.

    Ahem, not having experienced such at least since the statute of limitations ran, I’m thinking you must only need one to two hits max, no?

  2. I have a system for when I get my drink on. I drink exactly .5 liters of a randon alcoholic beverage in two hours. It works fine for wine, a little underwhelming if it’s beer, and the liquor episodes – well, let’s not go there shall we?

    My system basically sucks.

  3. Let’s just say smokers these days don’t much understand 70’s style depictions of hippies sitting around chain-smoking doobs four hours on end. A. that’s expensive, and B. that would get you fuuuuuuucked up

  4. OK, so the harmful effects of 1960s marijuana was ‘harmless’ would 2x’harmless’ be ‘doubly harmless’ or ‘mostly harmless’?

  5. In my day, we had to smoke an entire forest just to get high. And it was hard to tell all the snakes and bears to leave their homes just so we could get a little buzz, but after some discussion and clog dancing competition, we eventually ousted the woodland creatures and their North Korean masters.

  6. Where are these supposed researchers and treatment experts who are saying that more potent marijuana causes “more” harm (the phrase is specious for exactly the reason cited by Mr. Sullum)? What harmful effects have they found?

    And yeah, today’s potent weed costs a lot and is smoked sparingly, unless one wishes to be laid out on the couch for a day. Clearly Satan’s drug.

  7. rdkraus – with some strains, that’s definitely true. However, there’s still plenty of dirt available.

  8. lunchstealer,

    You suck at government math. “Harmless x Harmless” always equals “Shoot Grandma in the chest and let her bleed to death while you plant evidence.” DUH!

  9. Everything’s more serious now than when the Baby Boomers did it. These kinds of things just didn’t happen in the 60s.

  10. Maybe the feds are just angry that more powerful pot means people can carry less of it for the same high. The same high is a smaller bust for them.

  11. out in the pac nw, cops don’t care about weed. anything under 40 grams is a misdemeanor and with the potency of weed out here no one needs to be holding that much. i’m not even sure how i could find dirt weed out there.

  12. In the drug warriors minds, the main harm of marijuana is that it gets you high. Hence, more high = more harm. Their logic isn’t tough to figure out.

  13. Jim Bob, there are a number of researchers who have demonstrated that cannabinoids have effects on brain development and there is epidemiological evidence that pot increases the likelyhood of certain types of psychiatric disorders (but, like most such studies they should be taken with a fairly large grain of salt).

    None of this argues for marijuana prohibition of course. But then NYC just banned trans fats and aluminium baseball bats, so why should strong evidence of harm get in the way of making laws just to screw with people.

  14. Maybe the boomers in charge are jealous of people smoking better weed than they got when they were “just experimenting”. Now they are reaping the benefits of laying down and allowing urine tests to be used against them in the workplace, so they can’t partake of the chronic. Too bad for them.

  15. hunter,

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe that research showed that people who were already at greater risk for developing anxiety disorder and schizophrenia (because of family history and certain genetic factors) should probably stay away from pot. Which is, of course, different than saying that marijuana causes those disorders.

    Again, I’d like to know who they are and exactly what they said.

  16. Dave B.

    You are correct sir!

    I’ve never understood that the “problem” is that it makes you feel good.

    Even in studies of medical efficacy on THC they always talk about getting the therapeutic benefit without the “unwanted” effects.

    Who doesn’t want to feel good?

    WTF is wrong with these idiots?

    Ok, if your driving, etc. sure got it, but in general.

    The “problem” is that is makes you feel good? Makes no sense.

  17. ktc2,

    You are supposed to feel bad, go to work, and then die. It’s what God wants.

  18. Here’s what puts the stems and seed in my jay: Why isn’t Walters getting crucified by EVERY reporter doing any sort of WOD story? I can’t believe they have the brass to say these things to begin with. But why not when the MSM will swallow whatever gonorric discharge you feed them. Marijuana 2.0, WTF?

  19. “This report underscores that we are no longer talking about the drug of the 1960s and 1970s-this is Pot 2.0.”

    This statment underscores that the Drug Warriors know they’re losing, at least as far as marijuana goes.

  20. “This is Pot 2.0”

    This is trying to sound hip and failing 1.0.

  21. “Here’s what puts the stems and seed in my jay: Why isn’t Walters getting crucified by EVERY reporter doing any sort of WOD story? I can’t believe they have the brass to say these things to begin with. But why not when the MSM will swallow whatever gonorric discharge you feed them. Marijuana 2.0, WTF?”

    Especially given how ubiquitous pot usage seems to be among nooze types.

    The mind boggles.

  22. I think this marijuana story is out there to distract from the recent revelations from the government’s “drug czar” reguarding our costly (and failed) “war” on imported cocaine.

    U.S. Cocaine Prices Drop, Purity Rises

    Cocaine prices in the United States have dropped and the drug’s purity increased, despite years of effort and nearly $5 billion spent by the U.S. government to combat Colombia’s drug industry, the White House drug czar acknowledged in a letter to a key senator.

    The drug czar, John Walters, wrote Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, that retail cocaine prices fell by 11 percent from February 2005 to October 2006, to about $135 per gram of pure cocaine — hovering near the same levels since the early 1990s. In 1981, when the U.S. government began collecting data, a gram of pure cocaine fetched $600.

  23. The drug warriors have been claiming that “it’s not the same drug- it’s a gazillion times stronger” since I was in junior high & high school (before that 1988 3.5%THC pot). Back then, it was aimed at the kids of formerly pot-smoking boomers.

    Back then, I had hope that when the boomers made it to the halls of power in sufficient numbers to be in control, we’d get some sanity in the WoD. Since we’re on our second two-term president with a history of illegal drug use and things have only gotten worse, I’ve all but abandoned that hope.

  24. Altering government policy can be like bringing the Queen Mary into dock with a rowboad.

  25. I’m not going to worry until Pot 3.11 for workgroups. That’ll be some scary shit.

  26. Ok, if your driving, etc. sure got it, but in general.

    Serious question: if you’re able to drive while not harming anyone and staying safe and all of that good stuff, why should strictly being under the influence be illegal? Is there something inherently dangerous about DUI? Or are some libertarians willing to enforce preventative law “just because, you know, that stuff’s not safe”?

  27. THC potency increased from around 4 percent in 1983 to 8.5 percent in 2006.

    Yawn. When it reaches the 99% potency that my Marinol pills are, wake me up.

    What, you mean that Johnny Pee conveniently left that little tidbit of info out of his press release? Surprised, not me.

  28. “Is there something inherently dangerous about DUI?”

    I like where your head’s at on this one, but I’m certainly okay with quantifiable limits on how impaired someone can be while driving, whether it’s alcohol-induced reflex retardation, poor vision, mental incapacity, etc., simply because of the inherent risk to others. Also, that’s why the measurement must be BAC rather than, say, Beers In The Last 180 Minutes, so the standard is impairment rather than activity. Anyone else?

  29. “Or are some libertarians willing to enforce preventative law ‘just because, you know, that stuff’s not safe’?”

    So I guess I could have just said “Yes”.

  30. “Harmless x Harmless” always equals “Shoot Grandma in the chest and let her bleed to death while you plant evidence.” DUH!

    I can’t verify the math but it sure seems true!

    @ Ayn Randian:

    “…if you’re able to drive while not harming anyone and staying safe and all of that good stuff, why should strictly being under the influence be illegal? Is there something inherently dangerous about DUI? …”

    I totally agree. It seems to me that making DUI illegal in the absence of actually having committed an offense seems to me to be like making it illegal to carry a loaded gun (and I can’t imagine who would bother to carry an unloaded one) because someone could get shot, even by accident.

    Is it somehow less criminal that a completely sober and yet utterly exhausted night shift worker falls asleep, crosses the yellow line, and kills a family of five? I have no idea what percentage of accidents are caused by tired drivers but my gut tells me that, if we’re really worried about road safety then it’s time for yet another ridiculous driving offense: DWS – Driving While Sleepy.

  31. @ Lupito41:

    I’d like to agree but how does one measure inpairment due to being unrested? Again, I’ll bet that that might be THE most common factor in road accidents but, without a means by which to quanitfy it, it’s not possible to say.

  32. If it was legal the THC content could be regulated…..

  33. “I’ll bet that that might be THE most common factor in road accidents…”

    As long as DUI is illegal, possibly. I don’t know either. If DUI were legal, though, people would likely roll the dice as often as they do when tired. I’ll admit it reeks of preventative legislation, but it also seems legitimate and, egads!, effective.

  34. Well, you know, pot is dangerous.

    It makes you want to order a pizza and watch Cartoon Network instead of fly several thousand miles from your home and shoot people you’ve never met for the benefit of your leaders.

    Plus, think of the poor folks in the DEA who’d lose their jobs if we gave up on the war on drugs. Do you want poor Americans out there starving just to light up? Why do you hate America.

    So no more of this useless hippy talk. You’re only emboldening the drug lords.

  35. These warnings have to be understood mainly as a rationalization for the hypocrisy of parents (and politicians) who smoked pot in their youth and thought it was no big deal then but feel a need to explain why it is a big deal now.

    As usual, Jacob, you hit the nail on the head here. But these people really do believe that stronger pot is more dangerous.

    I remember about 8 months ago I was talking to an FBI agent (I’m a lawyer) and the topic of drug prohibition came up, and he mentioned that pot is much stronger now. I said “that’s good because it’s safer that way, people smoke less of it to get the same effects, which means they end up smoking less, the “smoke” being the unhealthy part of it.” He looked at me like I was nuts, and said something to the extent of “surely you’re kidding.” And he’s not even a DEA guy.

  36. I’m not going to worry until Pot 3.11 for workgroups. That’ll be some scary shit.

    Well, folks that load it will get more done, but it will still have a less intuitive interface than the Methintosh.

  37. He looked at me like I was nuts, and said something to the extent of “surely you’re kidding.” And he’s not even a DEA guy.

    Maybe he would have been more sympathetic if you’d poiinted out that stronger pot meant less CO2 being smoked into the atmosphere.

    yours/
    peter.

  38. …there are a number of researchers who have demonstrated that cannabinoids have effects on brain development and there is epidemiological evidence that pot increases the likelyhood of certain types of psychiatric disorders (but, like most such studies they should be taken with a fairly large grain of salt).

    Good thing that legal drug alcohol doesn’t increase the likelyhood of psychological problems…

  39. I haven’t heard some pot head tell me i can’t appreciate music as well as he can because he smokes pot in about 5 years…so in my world better pot is better if it keeps the pot heads from saying stupid shit like that to me.

  40. I haven’t heard some pot head tell me i can’t appreciate music as well as he can because he smokes pot in about 5 years…so in my world better pot is better if it keeps the pot heads from saying stupid shit like that to me.

    You know what also works for keeping potheads from saying stupid shit? Duct tape. Plus it’s hilarious watching them try to get it off.

  41. I just wish they had warned me of this before I moved to the wild green north woods three years ago.

    Trust me, that Mexican dirt weed being passed off as pot in San Diego is what generic brand whisky is to Glenfiddich.

    And Joshua Tree? I appreciate my music, like, soooooo much more than you, dude.

    Now if I can just get that goddamned tape off my mouth I can go at those Kettle chips, the black pepper and salt ones … mmm .. then a nap.

  42. CFisher obliquely hints at the insidious difficulty we’ll have eliminating the WoD — there’s a huge sub-economy that relies on the WoD. From the prison system to drug testing labs to companies selling products to beat the drug tests to the armor/arms sellers who supply the SWAT teams to the DAs and lawyers and to the police departments and every other agency who pads their budgets to protect us from the scourge of the drug menace. There’s a lot of motivation (getting rich) to keep the long war on some drugs simmering. Good luck.

  43. Plus, think of the poor folks in the DEA who’d lose their jobs if we gave up on the war on drugs. Do you want poor Americans out there starving just to light up? Why do you hate America.

    Haven’t you heard? We’ve got a never-ending war on terror. All those skills they’ve honed breaking down doors at midnight, fabricating evidence, all that – totally in demand right now. They could write your own paychecks.

  44. “…a far cry from drug czar John Walters’ 2002 claim that “the potency of available marijuana has not merely ‘doubled,’ but increased as much as 30 times”-a ratio that could not possibly hold true unless you were comparing the most potent marijuana money can buy to nonpsychoactive ditchweed.”

    So “Two Hitter Quitter” circa 1983 * 30 = what exactly?

    Will one hit make you fall asleep fifteen times faster? Do four hits these days make you want to eat sixty bags of cookies?

    How’s that math work?

  45. The tolerence is higher for people that smoked since the ’70s. They need a much more potent pot just to get a buzz.

  46. “The highest concentration of (THC) found in a cannabis (marijuana) sample is 33.12 percent from Oregon State Police,” the report reads.

    Sweet!

  47. No, I think they’re right about the new pot being stronger. I fell out of my chair laughing when I read that article.

  48. Seriously, there is an explanation.

    “The pharmacy department at Mississippi has compiled data on 59,369 samples of cannabis, 1,225 hashish samples, and 443 hash oil samples confiscated since 1975. ”

    If this is like past “studies,” what they don’t tell you is they tested all the varieties at the same time. 30-year-old marijuana has degraded quite a bit.

    It’s pretty silly. I mean, a high nicotine tobacco plant might be an issue because nicotine is a deadly poison. THC’s toxicity ratio is so low it’s probably a health benefit to have more of it rather than burnt vegetable matter.

  49. Anyone know what percentage THC is in a 10mg marinol pill? How much does the entire pill weigh in milligrams, divided by 10mg? If marinol pills harm children’s development, how come they are FDA approved, and how come there is no black box warning on the drug prescribing guidelines (i.e. with SSRIs) warning physicians of the danger in prescribing marinol to children?

  50. I had a friend in Mississippi in 1982 that had glaucoma or some such. The govt. mailed him a manilla envelope every week with huge bomber joints. He was to smoke 3 per day medicinally. I don’t know about the research capabilities of the pharmacy dept at Ole Miss, but they could damn sure farm. cheech and chong couldn’t have smoked 3 in a day on a good day.
    No stems, no seeds, just badass weed.
    those were the days my friend, we thought they’d never end??

  51. Grass only induces psychosis in individuals who draw a government paycheck.

  52. I’m not going to worry until Pot 3.11 for workgroups. That’ll be some scary shit.

    Well, folks that load it will get more done, but it will still have a less intuitive interface than the Methintosh.

    You mean Crackintosh, which you obviously have confused with Windows MeTH.

  53. Back in my day, the pot was so potent I didn’t even have to inhale it.

  54. “Trust me, that Mexican dirt weed being passed off as pot in San Diego is what generic brand whisky is to Glenfiddich.”

    It definitely gets better as you travel north, getting good around the bay area and then better and better. But I have to say, prop 215 did wonders for quality state wide. My friends in Orange County use to always request a little care package when I came back home for a visit from NorCal. Now what they get at the local dispensary is pretty close. Hydroponics is a wonderful science.

  55. This report underscores that we are no longer talking about the drug of the 1960s and 1970s-this is Pot 2.0

    Can I gen an invite to the beta test?

  56. Of course, it’s at least partially the drug warriors’ fault that pot has gotten more potent. Remember the Iron Law of Prohibition.

  57. War on drugs = better stronger drugs

    ha ha ha ha ha ha

    They have admitted failure.

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