Stronger strains cause reefer madness

55% of people in Vancouver have experimented with marijuana. Despite its illegality, it's deeply incorporated into Vancouver culture, through places like the New Amsterdam Cafe, and its Vapour lounge. Partially responsible for this popularity is marijuana's image as a fairly harmless drug, though emerging scientific studies have contested this belief recently, mostly due to the selective breeding of plant strains to yield more fruit, or buds.

To put it simply, cannabis has two notable active properties, Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD). As the cannabis plant has been selectively bred, the THC quantity has increased in order to increase it's potency. In the 1960's the THC content of marijuana was at 1 percent, but according to the American Council for Drug Education, marijuana currently runs a THC content of around 7.5-24 percent and rising.

A study by the Trimbos Institute for Mental Health and Addiction was carried out to determine the THC quantity of cannabis available for sale in Dutch coffee shops. The study started in 2000 and  observed the THC content double by 2004, compared to the relatively unchanged levels of imported strains. You've probably heard someone's parents mention that weed is different now than when they were growing up, often to rationalize their own experimentation with cannabis and to attack your own, but they're not so far off. There are some negative consequences to this THC strengthening process.

The Trimbos study concluded that as THC content rises in marijuana, the CBD content stays the same, as CBD doesn't have the desired psychotropic qualities of THC. CBD is responsible, however, for many positive side-effects, most notably as an equalizing agent. Not only does it inhibit invasive cancer growth, it also helps to negate the psychogenic effects of THC. CBD helps metabolize THC, balancing the high, and is even effective in treating psychoses. By excluding this natural occurring psychoactive by drastically upping THC content, we may make cannabis more of a risk to users.

With these effects in mind, we can see how stronger marijuana strains have a similarity to LSD, which is known to catalyse schizophrenia in youth if one is genetically predisposed. This new information on THC, the prominent psychoactive content of marijuana, has exposed similar consequences. Numerous studies demonstrate that THC causes short term psychosis, and carries the possibility of early-onset schizophrenia. Picked up by the media, modern strains of street cannabis are now under the microscope.

The Risks of THC

A statistic put forward by the Beckley Foundation claims that 40-50 percent of healthy people who consume cannabis experience a state of transient psychoses, though when CBD is introduced these symptoms are minimized. The symptoms of this cannabis-induced transient psychoses include depersonalization, paranoid feelings and derealisation. Admittedly, “transient psychosis” just sounds like a scientific description of what it is to be totally baked, so it may not be enough to make somebody think twice before twisting one up.

There is evidence that marijuana usage can catalyze an early schizophrenic episode if its use pre-dates brain development, so look out teens. The quality of the substance, how often it is used, and the age of the user are all variable factors. Evidence also shows that THC can worsen mental illnesses. It is inconclusive whether smoking marijuana, while your brain is still in development or otherwise, can actually cause schizophrenia. It is also worth noting that the consumption of alcohol carries four times the risks described.

Overall, it appears as if the global 'green' industry has reached critical mass, unfortunately due to the greed of growers eschewing negative health effects in favour of profitable yields – but there is a solution for you die hards. Grow your own, and grow it simply. We can conclude that no one is really benefiting from overwhelming THC levels other than the profiteering grower. The average smoker doesn't really need 'wheelchair' weed, despite how cool it sounds. Also, if the upward THC trend continues, it appears that the health negatives will drastically outweigh the positives and society will have all the more reason to rant 'reefer madness' at the top of their pristine, pearly white lungs.

// Marco Ferreira

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