The pursuit of potency in cannabis has transformed a once-mellow herb into a freak of strength.
As marijuana evolved from its modest roots with THC levels hovering around 1-3% in the 1970s to the 30%+ behemoths on shelves today, the question arises: does stronger mean better? In this exploration, we’ll delve into the ascent of cannabis potency and why embracing equilibrium could be the key to unlocking the plant’s true potential.
Historical Timeline: Charting the Rise in Cannabis Potency
The cannabis landscape has undeniably undergone a significant transformation over the decades.
What began as a plant enjoyed for its modest psychoactive properties has evolved into a potent product of scientific and horticultural interference. Here, we map the historical journey of cannabis potency, offering a clearer view of its escalation, the societal factors that influenced this trend, and the unintended issues it caused.
Love & Peace: 1960s – 1970s
During the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s, cannabis was widely recognized as the quintessential emblem of the counterculture movement.
With THC concentrations typically under 3%, users enjoyed a mild euphoria conducive to social interaction and introspection. Historically, cannabis was less a means to an intense psychoactive experience and more a facilitator of communal bonding and artistic inspiration.
The 1980s: The Response to Legal Pressure
As the War on Drugs intensified under President Reagan, growers faced heightened risks.
The need to minimize the chance of detection led to the initial push towards increasing THC levels. Cannabis cultivated in this era began to exhibit a gradual increase in potency, with levels inching above the single-digit threshold as cultivators selectively bred more robust plants.
The 1990s: Technological Advances and Market Shifts
The 1990s witnessed a spike in THC content as advances in technology, such as hydroponics and controlled indoor growing environments, became more accessible.
Growers leveraged these technologies to amplify potency, with some strains reaching THC levels of approximately 10-15%, a significant rise from previous decades. This era marked the dawn of growers and dealers positioning higher THC content as a marker of premium quality in the consumer’s mind.
The 2000s: Genetic Finesse and Legal Landscapes
Entering the 21st century, the trajectory of THC concentration continued its upward trend.
By now, some strains boasted levels upwards of 20%, and the scientific community began to explore the plant’s genome with greater precision. During this period, there was also a shift in the legal landscape as some regions initiated decriminalization and medical legalization, subtly influencing the potency narrative.
Post-Legalization: The Pursuit of Potency Persists
Even with legalization in various states and countries during the 2010s and beyond, the market did not revert to milder strains.
Instead, economic incentives perpetuated the potency push. Dispensaries frequently showcased high-THC cannabis, which commanded premium prices, feeding into a cycle of breeding for strength. Consequently, today’s dispensaries often feature products that soar to over 30% THC.
Motivations Behind the Pursuit of Potency
Moving to the motivations, the escalation in cannabis potency has been primarily driven by risk mitigation and economic gain.
The limited legal framework for cannabis throughout the latter half of the 20th century meant that more potent cannabis offered a more discreet and profitable product. It required less space to grow, presented less risk of being caught, and smaller quantities could be sold at higher prices due to its increased strength.
However, the progression towards higher potency didn’t halt post-legalization. On the contrary, it gained a new dimension—competitive differentiation in a legal market.
Dispensaries and producers continue to seek an edge in a crowded marketplace, and high-THC products offer a straightforward, albeit myopic, selling point. The legal market has not dampened the consumer’s association of THC levels with quality, further entrenching the desire for high-potency options.
Unfortunately, this inclination towards stronger strains has led to a narrowing of the cannabis gene pool, focusing on high THC production at the expense of other cannabinoids and terpenes. The result is a product line that often lacks the full spectrum of the plant’s natural chemical diversity, which many argue is crucial for the full therapeutic and experiential benefits of cannabis.
As the industry matures, it faces the challenge of educating consumers about the nuances of potency and the importance of a balanced cannabinoid profile. Pioneering companies like Bud Love are at the forefront, advocating for a return to equilibrium, where the pleasures of cannabis are not measured solely by the strength of THC but by the quality of the overall experience.
Why Stronger Weed Isn’t Necessarily Better
The narrative that equates higher THC with superior cannabis is being increasingly scrutinized.
Not only does this narrative overlook the multifaceted nature of the plant, but it also ignores the potential downsides of ultra-potent strains. Tellingly, notable Emerald Cup winners and connoisseur preferences often defy the high-THC trend, celebrating strains for their complex flavor profiles, aromatic bouquets, and balanced effects.
To properly understand why high-THC cannabis isn’t necessarily better, we must explore the entourage effect.
Revisiting the Entourage Effect
The entourage effect is a concept integral to understanding the complexities of cannabis.
It refers to the synergistic interaction between the plant’s myriad components: cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids. These substances work together to enhance the therapeutic and experiential qualities of cannabis when present in balanced ratios.
Cannabinoids such as CBG, CBD, CBN, and THC interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system, but their effects can be modulated by the presence of other compounds. Terpenes, the aromatic oils found in cannabis, contribute to the scent and flavor and have been suggested to influence the effects of cannabinoids. Flavonoids, another group of compounds, are known for their antioxidant properties and also play a role in the overall effect profile of cannabis.
The balance of these compounds is critical. In naturally occurring ratios, they may provide a harmonious effect that many users find more pleasant and therapeutic. However, in high-THC strains, the elevated levels of the psychoactive component are not matched by an increase in the other entourage elements, potentially skewing the experience towards the less desirable effects of THC, such as anxiety and paranoia.
Research into the administration of pure THC has been telling: a study found that when THC was used in isolation, without the moderating presence of other cannabinoids or terpenes, there was a significant increase in paranoia. This study highlights the importance of the entourage effect in crafting a more balanced and less anxiety-provoking experience.
More worryingly, a growing body of research indicates a strong relationship between high THC levels and mental health issues. Several studies have suggested an association between cannabis use, particularly high-THC strains, and psychiatric disorders such as anxiety, depression, and psychosis.
A 2017 report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine stated that there is substantial evidence of a statistical association between higher THC levels and an increased risk of anxiety and paranoia. A 2015 study published in the Lancet found a 3 fold
Restoring Entourage Harmony: The Bud Love Approach
As the cannabis industry veers towards THC dominance, Bud Love pioneers the return to a more centered cannabis ethos.
Our unique blends are precisely crafted to counterbalance today’s high-THC narrative, introducing a 1:1 THC to CBG ratio when combined in equal parts with contemporary strains. This is the heart of our philosophy: to foster a cannabis experience that’s enriched with the benefits of a balanced entourage effect.
The Essence of CBG in Bud Love’s Blends
At the core of our blends lies CBG, the renowned “mother” cannabinoid.
With 15% CBG in our mixer, Bud Love isn’t simply tempering THC; it’s enhancing the overall experience. CBG’s role is pivotal – it’s shown promise in mitigating the anxiety and paranoia that can be amplified by THC.
This has been validated by our own 650 blind study that found the addition of CBG at a 1:1 ratio with THC eliminated the occurrence of anxiety or paranoia in cannabis consumers, whereas without it the incidence rate was about 25%. Users report a more balanced, happy, and zen-like high with the addition of CBG. Our blends strive for this equilibrium, delivering a harmonious high that’s both elevated and grounding.
Natural Terpenes and Botanicals: Completing the Experience
Complementing CBG’s balancing properties, our carefully selected natural terpenes enrich the sensory journey.
Terpenes contribute not only to the fragrance and flavor but also bolster the therapeutic potential of cannabis. This synergy of terpenes with cannabinoids is critical to restoring the nuanced complexity that modern cannabis strains often lack.
Furthermore, the inclusion of marshmallow leaf in our products ensures a smoother inhalation, lessening the respiratory irritation that can accompany smoking. This botanical wisdom accentuates the pleasure of the session, making each moment last, reducing the need for intense, rapid effects and instead allowing for a drawn-out, enjoyable experience.
Bud Love’s Vision for a Revitalized Cannabis Culture
Bud Love’s initiative goes beyond reminiscing about the past—it’s about shaping a future where cannabis is appreciated for its full spectrum of effects.
By blending modern cannabis with our premium herbal mixer, we not only neutralize the potential negatives of high-THC consumption but also rekindle the true spirit of the plant. It’s a movement towards a happier, more centered high that honors both the heritage and the potential of cannabis, making every encounter with the herb a profound one for novices and connoisseurs alike.
––This article comes to you from the Bud Love team.