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May 14th, 2009
04:22 PM ET

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Program Note: Tune in tonight for Randi Kaye’s full report on AC360° 10 p.m. ET.

Randi Kaye | Bio
AC360° Correspondent

If scientists at the University of Mississippi are right, marijuana smokers are in for a surprise.

A study of thousands of samples at the University found that the drug has seriously increased in potency. The key ingredient in marijuana which gives you the “high” is called THC and scientists have found that it has increased from about 4 percent potency back in the 1980s to 10.1 percent these days, and they say it will likely keep rising before it levels off at about 15 or 16 percent. Some samples have even shown THC levels of 30 percent.

This is not your mom’s and dad’s marijuana, that is for sure!

For my story on AC360 tonight, I talked to people on both sides of the marijuana debate to see how concerned they are, or aren’t, about this increased potency.

Bruce Mirken with the Marijuana Policy Project, which is working to legalize marijuana, says increased potency is a good thing. He says THC isn’t the problem, it’s the respiratory effects that are the real concern. Mirken says people will smoke less of a higher-potency drug so there will be less of an impact on a smoker’s lungs.

On the flip side of that is John Walters, former Drug Czar for the United States during the Bush Administration. He argues that higher potency just produces more dependency on the drug.

Walter says government studies show smokers will crave it more and that THC at these levels could trigger mental illness, psychosis, and thoughts of suicide. He says more and more people are going to the ER with complaints about the effects of stronger marijuana than ever before.

He’s also concerned about the younger marijuana user. He says stronger pot will just increase their potential for addiction because the human brain is maturing until about the age of 20.

Back at the Marijuana Policy Project, Bruce Mirken says all these studies by government scientists by government scientists over the years about higher potency are much ado about nothing. He says it’s all just an attempt to scare people about marijuana and that it was nonsense when the government tried this years ago and it’s nonsense now.

How concerned do you think marijuana users should be? If the potency is on the rise, where might it take us as a country?

soundoff (11 Responses)
  1. Rod Torrez

    Funny thing is it will likely get decriminalized, and now it is stronger and probably more addictive...sounds like another tobacco industry waiting to happen...

    May 14, 2009 at 5:15 pm |
  2. Joseph

    That's good news!!! That way we use less! Yeah Right.

    May 14, 2009 at 5:14 pm |
  3. Janet

    "If the potency is on the rise, where might it take us as a country?"

    To a trip on the Yellow Submarine, or the Strawberry Fields Forever.

    May 14, 2009 at 5:02 pm |
  4. Rebecca, Louisville, KY

    The best way to ensure regulations on the potency of something is to legalize it. Hmmmm...

    May 14, 2009 at 5:01 pm |
  5. matthew allen

    countries with looser drug laws in general are more peacful countries. Maybe it a coincidence. Further more alcohol is terrible for you, makes people violent, makes the roads unsafe, and yet everyone is far more worried about weed. We live in a "free country" maybe we should actually introduce more freedom

    May 14, 2009 at 4:59 pm |
  6. suze1

    Its great to learn about, but the shallowness in which most things pot related (or anything related to anything...it seems) is truly shocking. If we keep it shallow...it won't really matter weather we all become pot heads in the end....will it?

    May 14, 2009 at 4:58 pm |
  7. paula odagaki

    Please say it ain't so! Why can't we leave natures medicine alone!

    May 14, 2009 at 4:57 pm |
  8. Frank

    thanks for allow me collaborate with an opinion :)

    May 14, 2009 at 4:57 pm |
  9. Frank

    if the reaction of smoke weed affects ppl in the most and non responsabilty about smoking it, i think the better way is sell it on special places to weed smokers over the age allowed.

    May 14, 2009 at 4:55 pm |
  10. brett

    In respect to respitory health, take the weed and clarify it with butter and cook with it.

    May 14, 2009 at 4:55 pm |
  11. earle,florida

    Kinda reminds me of the tobacco companies growing their product in south america, and adding nicotine into to a hybrid crop to be mixed with a less potent crop in the states. Bingo,your addicted! Same holds true for pot,cocaine,and heroine. All the dealers/manufactuers/labs do is increase the potency temporarily while lowering the price, and you've got a generation of addicts,..."Rocket Science",I don't think so.

    May 14, 2009 at 4:43 pm |