Yes, cannabis is getting stronger. If you listen to folks who have been toking since the 1970s, they’ll tell you as much.
The potency of marijuana is typically measured by the amount of THC it contains. Because THC is a psychoactive compound, the potency of the cannabis should be easily felt.
Let’s look back. In 1975, the percentage of THC found in cannabis was tested to be less than 1%. These days it’s common to find cannabis that is scores over 15%, 20%, and sometimes even over 30%.
Why is this happening? Why is weed so potent today as opposed to decades past?
An increase in Domestic Cannabis Agriculture
Back in the ‘70s, the growing techniques were far different and less sophisticated than they are today. For one, much of the weed was imported from Colombia, and due to the stretch of time that was required to grow, pack, and transport the weed to the states, it was a bit old by the time it reached the consumer’s hand. The weed that was imported was a mix of leaves, stems and flowers. The weed was not grown via the feminized flower (sinsemilla) process. Sinsemilla is the product that’s produced from the flowering tops of female plants that have not been fertilized. The flowering top is the part of the cannabis with the highest content of THC.
Today, cannabis cultivated with the sinsemilla method is what you expect when you walk into any dispensary. Today, cultivators trim off the large leaves (which have low THC content), leaving only the potent parts of the cannabis plant.
The Rise of Hydroponic Systems
Hydroponics is a method of growing plants in a water-based and nutrient-dense environment. Hydroponics doesn’t require soil because the plant’s root is exposed to the mineral nutrient solution. The plant is grown in pH-balanced environment where it easily gets the nutrients it needs. When the cannabis plant is grown in the soil, the roots must search for the nutrients and extract them from the soil. The hydroponic method is far more efficient and is considered by many to be more effective. The hydroponic system also gave people the opportunity to grow cannabis within the confines of their own home and backyard. When cannabis is grown close to home, it reaches the consumer’s hands faster, which is also why cannabis is stronger today than years past (cannabis loses potency over time).
A Growing Demand
As marijuana became known for its medicinal properties, the demand for it grew substantially. To meet the demand, cultivators needed to grow cannabis that was potent, as weak cannabis won’t have the same anti-inflammatory and analgesic benefits as cannabis high in THC or CBD. Breeders and extractors actively work to develop potent strains that will help treat those with issues like autoimmune conditions, anxiety, depression, insomnia, chronic pain, PTSD, and more.
Even the average consumer who uses marijuana for recreation (not medicinally) has a demand for more potent bud. THC is known to establish a tolerance in frequent users. For these users to get the high they’re accustomed to, they need more THC in their marijuana. Both recreational and medicinal users influence the market.