Marijuana's Rising Potency Sparks Debate

Marijuana's Rising Potency Sparks Debate
Posted by CN Staff on June 23, 2008 at 06:23:10 PT
By Neil Munshi, Globe Correspondent 
Source: Boston Globe
Boston, MA -- It's a dangerous, highly addictive drug whose skyrocketing potency has only increased its stranglehold on our nation's youth. Or it's mostly harmless, a substance not much worse than caffeine - with medicinal value to boot.It's marijuana. And the polarized debate about its safety has been rekindled by two reports released separately this month by the federal government and a leading drug prohibition group. 
Both studies conclude that marijuana's potency has increased, which they link to reports of more addiction, mental health problems, and emergency room admissions related to marijuana use among teenagers.Advocates of less punitive marijuana laws immediately decried the reports as alarmist, saying there's no evidence linking greater potency to a rise in health problems among pot smokers.Academics say both sides are guilty of selectively presenting data to bolster their positions.In a field with limited research, partisans tend to create paper thin arguments, as easily made as they are countered, said Roger Roffman, professor of sociology at the University of Washington."I think [both sides] do a disservice to the general public," said Roffman, who has written papers and edited books on marijuana use and dependence. On websites of drug policy reform advocates, "you'll find lots of information about the very adverse consequences of criminalizing marijuana and very little mention of the very real harm associated with marijuana among some people in some circumstances," he said.Meanwhile, on government and prohibitionist websites, he said, "you'll find plenty of information on the harmful consequences of marijuana abuse and very little information, perhaps, on the harmful consequences of criminalizing marijuana."On the same day the government released its report, a peer-reviewed British scientific journal, "Addiction," sent out a press release that got much less attention, announcing the publication of a study in its July issue."More research is needed to determine whether increased potency . . . translates into harm for users," principal author Jennifer McLaren wrote in the study, which was conducted by four Australian scientists affiliated with university drug research centers and based on a review of the scientific literature and statistics on worldwide marijuana potency.The study notes that "claims about escalating potency [have been] made as far back as 1975; yet we know little about cannabis markets that can help support or reject recent claims."Two weeks ago, the National Institute on Drug Abuse reported that the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana - THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol - has reached an all-time high average concentration of 9.6 percent. Then last week, Columbia University's National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse reported that levels had reached 8.8 percent, which it said was a 175 percent increase since 1992. The report noted that during the same period, there was a similar rise in admissions for teenagers who abused marijuana."Many of the parents who smoked pot in the '70s and even the '80s, when it was less than 1 percent potency, really don't understand that it's a very different drug," Joseph A. Califano Jr., founding chairman and president of the center at Columbia, said in an interview. In a statement accompanying the report, Califano wrote, "The striking and parallel increases in marijuana's potency" and teen treatment and emergency room admissions "together sound an alarm for parents and teens across the country."Marijuana use among adolescents is a problem, said Michael Botticelli, director of the Massachusetts Bureau of Substance Abuse Services, but since 1996 there's been little change in the number of minors seeking drug treatment in this state who cite marijuana as the main drug they abuse.He said the US numbers showing increasing problems among teen marijuana abusers "gives us some pause," but because of the many variables involved "I would be somewhat hesitant to jump to the conclusion that that is definitively linked to a potency issue."Higher potency may not even be harmful, according to Craig Reinarman, professor of sociology at the University of California at Santa Cruz, who conducted research with Dutch colleagues on the habits of smokers in Amsterdam, where marijuana is de facto legal, and San Francisco. He found that the majority of users, when presented with more potent pot, reduced how much they smoked."It's true that hard liquor will get you drunk much faster with less liquid than beer or wine, but usually people are seeking a certain level of intoxication, not to be fall-down drunk - so they drink smaller amounts," said Reinarman, whose research was funded by a National Institute on Drug Abuse grant. "There's no evidence that suggests that people who use other drugs, however illegal, behave any differently."But Dr. David Murray, chief scientist for the Office of National Drug Control Policy, said while more research is necessary, public health policymakers often have to use a "precautionary principle.""At some point in public policy there is always that imperative that you have to make that judgment that enough is known now to justify certain precautions without unduly raising public alarm," Murray said.Of course, that's precisely what those on the other side of the debate think the government is doing.Source: Boston Globe (MA)Author: Neil Munshi, Globe Correspondent Published: June 23, 2008 Copyright: 2008 Globe Newspaper CompanyContact: letter globe.comWebsite: -- Cannabis Archives
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Comment #11 posted by Jimbo E on June 25, 2008 at 18:35:23 PT:
Never any mention of strains and their potencys
One very important thing they always seem to leave out is the well known fact in the cannabis growing community, that different strains have different potency and effects.
They never even mention that their are two basic land races known as "sativa" and "Indica" which have many different forms and are even cross bread to make many different hybrid varieties.
Sativa's by nature are well known for their clear and energetic effects and indicas are know for their medicinal value because of their downer type of narcotic effects and also have the appetite inducing effects (AKA "the munchies). 
All this information is freely and readily available at any seed bank website on the internet.
I think this is pertinent information if you want to make a claim that pot is more potent now than it used to be.
As a cannabis user of 20+ years, I can say that from personal experience, their were plenty of "one hit wonders" in the early 80's as well. So this is nothing new to the long time smoker and they are wanting people to believe something that is just not 100% true.
While their is some truth to their claims about potent pot, due to the little known fact that if you know where to look, you can actually acquire cannabis seeds from breeders in countries where it is legal to sell cannabis seeds.
There are many many of these "one hit wonder" strains available that will have any effect that you might desire (i.e.;up, clear and energetic or narcotic, sedative effects)
The real fact of the matter is that you can buy the seeds to grow any form of cannabis that suits your fancy.
I have looked the internet over for research that deals with different strains having different effects and potency, but I have yet to find any such research available on this subject what so ever.
If you only use one type of plant in a clinical trial, would that not mean that your conclusion would not be even close to accurate?
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Comment #10 posted by FoM on June 24, 2008 at 05:58:03 PT
News Brief From The Denver Post
Pot Backers Want National Clearance for Flying HigherJune 23, 2008The group behind an initiative that made busting pot smokers a low priority in Denver will hold a news conference today to call for the right to fly high nationwide. Safer Alternative for Enjoyable Recreation wants "marijuana lounges" in airports nationwide to "address the growing number of in-flight problems involving drunk and disorderly passengers." The group will make its case at the Federal Aviation Administration's Denver Airports District Office at noon. Marijuana is a much-needed mellowing agent to help travelers "relax and deal with anxiety" without hitting the bottle, SAFER executive director Mason Tvert said. The group said it will cite news reports and statistics about drunken passengers and crew. Copyright: 2008 The Denver Post URL:
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Comment #9 posted by Paint With Light on June 23, 2008 at 23:43:12 PT
Bad Connection
I don't know who Mr. Califano's connection was but the only thing I ever saw in the 70's or 80's that was 1% was some Kansas ditch weed(wild hemp).
I do remember early mexican that was very energetic and tripy.Of course who can forget the smell and taste of some sweet Columbian red tip or some beautiful gold. Then late 70's the domestic Indica wave started and you began to get a lot of great crosses after that. Some of the best I ever had during that time period was a strain that had been brought in during the early 70's and was Thai in origin.On another note(see sharp or you will be flat),
Lenny Bruce and George Carlin were both strong influences on my view of the world. I photographed George Carlin in the late 70's in Nashville. It always amazes me when a person can go on a stage and throughly entertailn a crowd for two or more hours with just the sound of their voice and the wisdom of their wit.Equal with alcohol is all I ask. 
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Comment #8 posted by John Tyler on June 23, 2008 at 18:24:33 PT
repetitive BS
This is so typical and so repetitive. The gov. does another junk science “study”, and then shills write commentary articles about it. So now there is a “debate” about this or that. They have run this same media hype over and over again for the last forty years. Every article I see like this tells me these people don’t know a thing about cannabis, and don’t want to know a thing about cannabis. All they have is a bad attitude.
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Comment #7 posted by FoM on June 23, 2008 at 12:19:11 PT
George Carlin was exactly right. I guess that is why I have looked at capitalism in a different way then most people politically.
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Comment #6 posted by OverwhelmSam on June 23, 2008 at 12:10:21 PT
I'm Starting To Understand
George figured it out a long time ago. People are just now starting to realize, he wasn't joking... nailed it Mr. Carlin.
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Comment #5 posted by FoM on June 23, 2008 at 08:41:30 PT
The Rapture was the essence of Fundamentalism. It allowed people to feel superior and not worry about the earth or much of anything since they would be gone. The one that always got me were pre tribbers. Why would people be more worthy in this time when history records terrible things happening to believers? It never made sense to me.
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Comment #4 posted by museman on June 23, 2008 at 08:34:12 PT
"Mankind will be so much better off when the prohibitionists finally "spin" themselves into oblivion."I find it quite interesting to note that on the Mayan Calendar, we are in what is referred to as the '5th night'
a slightly less than a year-long cycle, in which great and terrible things have happend in preceding cycles, that ends right about the time our new president will be decided.Right about then we should begin to see oblivion opening its welcoming maw for all these false beings, some human, some not.What if 'The Rapture' was all about 'taking' the error out of the world, by removing all the 'special people' and leaving creation to us normal humans?
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Comment #3 posted by Hope on June 23, 2008 at 07:46:02 PT
The only bad thing about stronger pot
is that it gives prohibitionist devil-dogs something else to chew on and spin even more outrageous lies about... and steal more resources to waste on and fuel their idiotic, catastrophic frenzy of prohibition.Mankind will be so much better off when the prohibitionists finally "spin" themselves into oblivion.
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Comment #2 posted by OverwhelmSam on June 23, 2008 at 06:48:24 PT
The Next Questions To ONDCP
How is stronger pot more harmful than weaker pot? Isn't weaker pot more harmful? If this is such a problem, why isn't marijuana regulated for adults with the specific amount labels for THC?
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Comment #1 posted by OverwhelmSam on June 23, 2008 at 06:46:07 PT
They Really Don't Know
Every time they come out with these "potency scare" fabrications, the majority of the people just laugh. Everyone knows stronger pot is better! That is my only retort to articles like this one, stronger pot is better, period. 
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