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.]