As an avid stoner and a medicinal marijuana grower I am constantly bombarded by statistics of the latest and greatest strains. With dispensaries, clubs, and your neighborhood dealer all telling you their shit is the best and citing 20% plus figures of THC content it is important to ask the question, 20% of what? And does it matter?
What The Hell Do THC Levels Mean?
But how is this measured? With alcohol, strength is measured in percent alcohol by volume (%ABV), but certainly 20% THC doesn’t mean that 1/5 of my herb is straight THC. So what it is a percentage of? Find out after the jump.
Scientist use a process called “gas chromatography” and claim that it is a percentage of the weight for weight THC available in a dry sample selected. But what does a dry sample mean? If its fresh and wet obviously it will have less THC in percentage to the amount of water still in the plant. If its bone dry then they could inflate the percentage while decreasing and even destroying quality. However to get percentages as high as 20% they would likely have to destroy all the biomass of the plant, leaving only the essential oils to measure the percentage of. Doing this however, inflates the percentage and leaves the bud un-smokable. What would be the point of this measurement or statistic? If it isn’t measuring the amount we are able to utilize when we consume it then it isn’t relevant.
Using statistics gathered by the University of Mississippi’s Marijuana Potency Monitoring Project research indicates that the average potency has raised from under 4% in 1983 to over 10% in 2009 with some samples hitting 30% THC. Good news for us, their research indicates in the next 5 years we will see a 5-6% increase in THC.
But has it really increased? Or is this government funded study potentially biased? The samples used by the University of Mississippi are collected from police departments across the country and voluntarily submitted. It would be impossible to take weed from the 70-80’s and get an accurate reading of its THC content. And even if there was data available during that time, I am sure it was not flooding in like it is today.
The most legitimate study in recent times was conducted by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug addiction in 2004 (read it here). It suggests that European data similar to that done by the University of Mississippi is unreliable and difficult to analyze for valid conclusions. It contends that there has always been strong cannabis that can compare to todays 20%+ potent strains but that breading and selection methods have increased the prevalence of quality marijuana. Death to swag! Finally it concludes that the most potent cannabis is going to be homegrown, as it is fresher and thus stronger because Cannabis breaks down over age.
So grow your own! And next time you hear your street pharmacist or dispensary owner dropping statistics on THC trying to sound smart, think twice. While a higher percentage THC is a draw towards any strain. When one strain claims to be 17% and another strain 22% it does not mean that the higher one is necessarily better than the lower. It is important to remember we do not just get high on THC, but also a number of Cannabinoids- some of which have not even been examined by researchers. Gas Chromatography and university studies do not measure or consider the effects of Cannabinoids. It is the unique combination of a number of Cannabinoids interacting with THC in varying degrees that create the diversity in flavor, highs, and medicinal value of the Cannabis we all love.
If you want more info on the science of THC, check out Cannabis Culture’s Marijuana Man hosting his show, The Grow Show, on Youtube. You may need to be signed into a Youtube account to view.