EDITOR: | September 21st, 2014 | 7 Comments

What Hippies knew as pot is infinitely different from contemporary cannabis: points to future research

| September 21, 2014 | 7 Comments

Thom-Calandra-Hippie-YearsA study on the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content of street marijuana over the past three decades shows that the THC content has increased three fold over time to show that what was called marijuana in the 1980s is a vastly different beast from what we now call marijuana. Further our growing understanding of other therapeutic molecules show that what Hippies new as cannabis does not exist anymore, except perhaps in recurring psychedelic flashbacks. This is yet another example urging the legalization and oversight of the marijuana industry.

In the USA the THC content of confiscated street marijuana (Figure 1), has been steadily increasing from about 3% in the 1980s to 12% in 2012 (ElSohly 2013 cited in Volkow et al. 2014 accessed, click here).


Figure 1: THC content over from seized street marijuana (From Volkow et al. 2014)

This increase in THC content raises concerns that the consequences of marijuana use may be worse now than in the past and may account for increases in emergency department visits by persons reporting marijuana use as well as an increase in fatal motor-vehicle accidents. However, the supporting data for these observations spans only over a 9-year period (source, click here).

A bottle of Budweiser beer has an alcohol content of 5.0%, Malbec wines have an alcohol content of 13.5-15%. If THC were the only active ingredient of marijuana, smoking today’s street marijuana like Hippies smoked pot would be like drinking wine like it was beer. Notwithstanding the difference in taste and texture, it would be irresponsible and dangerous. Regardless governments need to regulate the marijuana industry to provide product labelling and report THC content. For this, of course, recreational marijuana has to be legalized, which is another debate.

But using only THC as the single point of comparison is a shallow assessment at best because the diversity of cannabinoids of marijuana offers an additional layer of complexity.

Traditionally, cannabis users attributed strain potency to high levels of the cannabinoid THC, which has led to the proliferation of strains with increased THC concentrations. While THC may be the most prevalent active compound in marijuana, it is only one of at least 85 cannabinoids that are catalogued.

Thanks to marijuana’s growing legitimacy as a medicinal option, cannabidiol (CBD) is starting to emerge as the cannabinoid poised to complement or even displace THC in medical applications.

The THC of commercial medical marijuana in Canada content varies broadly from 1% to 23% depending on the strains grown by the licensed producers. Some low THC strains are bred for high CBD content, which has medical purposes of its own. These strains have a medical effect that is unique as supported by experimental evidence. Notably, the National Cancer Institute published an excellent synopsis of the potential for CBD in medicine, including antitumor effects, analgesia and appetite stimulation (source, click here).

For example a 2007 study showed that CBD reduced the proliferation of cancerous breast cells in vivo through the inhibition of cancer gene expression in laboratory experiments, though there is no clinical trials making that demonstration. But this data and a great deal of anecdotal data was enough to support the effort of breeders.

Charlotte’s Web is a sativa strain that has gained popularity for the treatment of seizures as well as a range of other medical conditions. The medical efficacy is a high-CBD content, which was specifically cultivated by Colorado breeders The Stanley Brothers for a young epileptic patient named Charlotte. However, the thick “web” of trichomes on Charlotte’s flowers are also storied to have led to the name. Because the strain has low THC content, it is effective with little to no psychoactive effects, making it great for those who don’t want their medication to affect their daily tasks.

Sour Tsunami is a strain that became famous for being one of the first to be specifically bred for high CBD rather than THC content. The result is a strain that’s effective at treating pain and inflammation without producing a significant “high” that is linked to high THC.

In short what we call marijuana now is not what was called marijuana three decades ago: it might smell more or less the same skunky bouquet but their potency and effects are hugely distinctive. The new strains emerging in response to breeding efforts push the frontiers of three thousand years of medical marijuana history.

This makes me wonder what cannabis will be in twenty years from now as we investigate the effects of other cannabinoids.

Dr. Luc Duchesne


Dr. Luc C. Duchesne is a Speaker and Author with a PhD in Biochemistry. With three decades of scientific and business experience, he has published ... <Read more about Dr. Luc Duchesne>

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  • Curt

    The beer to wine analogy doesn’t work for cannabis. If I drink too much alcohol I can pass out and die. THC has a ceiling. Once you hit that ceiling you simply cannot get any higher and you certainly cannot die from it or pass out or even start getting slurred speech. Those are purely the consequences of potent alcohol not potent cannabis. When I smoke the higher grade cannabis it just takes far fewer hits to achieve my desired affect. That’s great cause less smoking is better:)

    September 21, 2014 - 9:11 PM

  • Tracy Weslosky

    Special thanks to well-known industry speaker and writer Thom Calandra for allowing us to publish his 70’s era hippie shot….;-)

    September 22, 2014 - 9:31 AM

  • GoBucks

    One may not pass out from it, but weight gain from ordering of too many pizza deliveries is a definite health hazard…


    September 22, 2014 - 10:25 AM

  • BossIlluminati

    the greatest plant in the universe is almost free, LET FREEDOM RING! 13

    1000s of my friends and family have grown 30-99 plants for 20 years, thanks for keeping prices high and NORCAL wealthy…#1 crop in cali = $15 Billion Untaxed…

    “any doctor against marijuana is a doctor of death” – cali secret 420

    from 0 states to half the country, from low 20% approval to almost 70%, cali runs this planet by 2 decades, time to tie marijuana to the 2014, 2016 elections, out with the old, in with the new

    20 years behind us southern states and NEW YORK, sad and scary….nobody denies freedoms like the south, nobody…the top ten incarcerators on the planet are southern states and more blacks are in prison then were slaves before the civil war…even if marijuana reforms did pass the republiCANTS in charge would deny you all your freedoms, centuries of practice…no matter though, we never planned on getting your backwards brethren from day one, half the country already but not one southern state, lol…not 1….the new generations are taking over in the south and they are nothing like their freedom denying parents, let’s ride…

    Deaths by Alcohol: Millions
    Deaths by Tobacco: Millions

    Deaths by Prescription Drugs: Quadrupled in last decade
Deaths by Guns: Millions
Deaths by the food we are fed: Millions
Deaths by Marijuana: 0, ever…they are killing my American family while denying freedom

    love and freedom forever


    September 22, 2014 - 10:43 AM

  • GoBucks

    I think it’s time we talk about the BENEFITS of pot!!

    For example, it’s aaahhh, it’s…well, and then you…aaahhh, I, ahhh…we then….no, wait, I got this….DOH!!!

    September 22, 2014 - 11:17 AM

  • Reverend Ryan

    Sorry. Don’t think so. I (fondly) remember cannabis from the 1970’s that was FAR more psychoactive that anything found in today’s market. Grown in the high mountains of Oaxaca. The taxonomy of the Cannabaceae species shows divergent lines from 34 million years ago… the so-called “drug” genetics being the most common worldwide. Most interesting is that the “Indica” ssp is dominant ~ even in the modern “hemp” industry. What we have been “told” does not stand up to science.
    Charlotte’s web was bred from industrial strains crossed with so-called medical strains. Go figure. The industrial “hemp” today is generally Indica strains bred for poor THC expression since the 1970’s in France.

    September 24, 2014 - 8:16 PM

  • PuffingBilly

    Reverend – remember the article is about average street weed and not a particular strain. Huge difference. There always have been potent strains (otherwise it would be impossible to increase average potency). So your personal experience doesn’t count as a valid criticism. Sorry!

    March 21, 2015 - 4:47 AM

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