Why Is Weed Getting More Potent?

The feds began monitoring the potency of the nation’s pot supply in the ‘70s by drawing samples from stashes seized by law enforcement, and boy was it schwag. The percentage of THC—the main psychoactive component in cannabis—averaged from less than 1% in 1975 to just under 3% a decade later, according to the data.

These notoriously low levels reflected the times, as the weed subculture in America was just starting to take root and could help explain why some of the most memorable old school brands have names like Acapulco Gold, Panama Red, Afghani, Thai stick, and Jamaican sensi; they were all originally cultivated outside of the country.

Now, as some critics have pointed out, it’s impossible to empirically confirm how strong domestically grown pot was back in the day due to inferior testing and sampling methods, however, there does seem to be enough prevailing research, firsthand testimony, and common sense to show that the illicit reefer from decades ago wasn’t nearly as powerful as today’s.

A recent federal study found that “the potency of illicit cannabis plant material has consistently risen over time since 1995 from approximately 4% in 1995 to approximately 12% in 2014.” This marked increase represents a shift when smokers began to pivot from dirt to mid-grade and hydro. In one standout bust from 2009, the DEA nabbed some sticky-icky that scored an impressive 33.12%, the highest concentration of THC the agency has ever seen in a domestic sample of weed.

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