Marijuana 2.0 – Not Your Daddy’s Old Weed

The marijuana sold in the United States is nearly two and a half times stronger than it was in 1988.

The marijuana being sold across the United States is stronger than ever, which could explain a growing number of medical emergencies that involve the drug, government drug experts on Wednesday. Analysis of seized samples of marijuana and hashish showed that more of the cannabis on the market is of the strongest grade, the White House and National Institute for Drug Abuse said. They cited data from the University of Mississippi’s Marijuana Potency Project showing the average levels of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, in the products rose from 7 percent in 2003 to 8.5 percent in 2006. The level had risen steadily from 3.5 percent in 1988.

National Institute on Drug Abuse Director Dr. Nora Volkow fears the problem is not being taken seriously because many adults remember the marijuana of their youth as harmless. “It’s really not the same type of marijuana,” Volkow said in a telephone interview.

“This could explain why there has been an increase in the number of medical emergencies involving marijuana.”

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Adminstration, marijuana was involved in 242,200 visits to hospital emergency rooms in 2005. This means that the patient mentioned using marijuana and does not mean the drug directly caused the accident or condition being treated, SAMHSA says. The number is up from 215,000 visits in 2004.

What’s interesting is that this is the result of simple economics:

Volkow said demand has driven growers to cultivate the stronger stuff. “It is the market,” she said. “Like in the market you favor the best tomatoes. When people buy marijuana, they don’t want a weak cigarette.”

I haven’t found reliable data for the evolution in marijuana prices over that period but I gather that they’re actually lower now in real terms. If so, it’s a remarkably fast evolution in what is still basically an agricultural product.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Billy says:

    You should try to find reliable data on these “medical emergencies.” This is just so much propaganda from a government that can’t admit that the war on drugs isn’t about protecting the public, it’s about keeping a captive population in order to justify prison revenue.

    Follow the money, and you’ll find the people responsible for this disinformative fiction.

  2. lunacy says:

    In my youth, I was a horticultural hobbiest.

    It didn’t take much to find the few seeds in high dollar sinsemillia and produce seed producing plants.

    The “sinsemillia” that I gleaned seeds from was about 100 dollars a quarter ounce at the time. We called in ghanja or skunk weed or what have you but it was not cannabis sativa. It was cannabis indica or thai weed or some other large budded super strong asian strain. Sticky bud, High Times cover quality.

    Marijuana is an annual, which really doesn’t make it too difficult to see that even just a few seeds of super strong asian bud can produce a pound or so of 400 dollar an ounce skunk bud. Thereby producing seeds that will next year produce a field. Or a basement full.

    That was in the 80s. And at the time I could sell sativa all day long for 100 dollars an ounce, 25 a quarter. But folks would beat my door down to pay way too much (100 dollars for a quarter) for the good stuff. Today, I don’t know what the cost is. But I would guess that, unlike beer, coffee and cigarettes, the price is relatively the same as it was then.

    Difference is (in my guesstimation) more people produce it locally, faster, bigger, better, more.

    It didn’t take long for Best Boy tomatoes to infiltrate the market either.

    Any thing that grows as an annual can be tweaked and spread fairly quickly, as far as plants go anyway.


  3. You should try to find reliable data on these “medical emergencies.”

    That was the exact thought I had when I read it. What, “severe cottonmouth” is an emergency?