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Cannabis 1988 Old Drug, New Dangers, The Potency Debate

Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, Vol 20(1), Jan-Mar, 1988 pg 47. Mikuriya, Tod H. and Aldrich, Michael.,

Summary and Conclusions:

Observation of the real world of social and marijuana use, where autotitration is the norm, renders the scare tactics of the new marijuana proponents not only inaccurate but irrelevant (*). There is much published evidence about the availability of highly potent varieties of cannabis from the nineteenth century through the present day. The effects attributed to the new marijuana are the same ones debated for centuries in many different cultures. The assertion that "all marijuana research to date has been done on 1 or 2 percent THC material" (Cohen 1968) ignores several thousand years of human experience with the drug. The old medical cannabis extracts were stronger than most of the forms now available, though the potency of illicit hash oils by the mid-1970's was approaching the level of medicinal preparations available before their removal from the USP.

While it may be true that sinsemilla is more widely available than 10 or 15 years ago, its potency has not changed significantly from the 2.4 to 9.5 percent THC materials available in 1973-1974 (see Table I), or the five to 14 percent sinsemilla of 1975 (Perry 1977). The range of potencies available then (marijuana at 0.1% to 7.8% THC, averaging 2.0% to 5.0% THC by 1975) was approximately the same as that reported now. With such a range, the evidence simply cannot support the argument by Cohen (1986) that marijuana is "ten or more times more potent than the product smoked ten years ago." And to say that marijuana potency has increased 1,400 percent since any date in history is patent nonsense.

It is not legitimate to imply that average low potencies represent the full range of potencies available in reality.

Neither is it valid to cite the low end of the range then as a baseline to compare with the high end of the range now.

The claimed baseline for THC content in the early 1970's would appear to be too low, probably because confiscated, stored police samples were utilized; and this low baseline makes the claimed difference in potency appear to be greater than it has been in reality.

In sum, the new marijuana is not new and neither is the hyperbole surrounding this issue. The implications of the new disinformation campaign are serious. Many people, particularly the experienced users of the 1960's and their children, will once again shrug off the warnings of drug experts and not heed more reasonable admonishments about more dangerous drugs. This is not only abusive to those who look to science, the medical profession, and government for intelligent leadership, but will sully the reputations of drug educators who wittingly cry wolf, and will inevitably diminish the credibility of drug abuse treatment professionals who pass on such flawed reports.

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