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How Strong is Marijuana?

How Potent Is Marijuana?

How Strong Is Your Cannabis And How Do You Know?

Posted by:
Oaktree on Saturday Jan 30, 2016


Potency of Marijuana 

How Strong is Marijuana?


The main ingredient in marijuana responsible for its psychoactive, or mood altering, effects is a 

cannabinoid called delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or "THC" for short. In combination with other 

cannabinoids, the amount of THC in marijuana determines the strength of the effect of the drug. 

The level of THC in marijuana is not always the same. It can vary depending on the strain or 

variety of the plant, the way in which the plant is grown, the part of the plant that is used, and the 

way the plant is prepared for use and how it is stored.


Strain and Cultivation Technique

The way marijuana is grown can affect the amount of THC in the plant, and therefore its potency. 

Cannabis sativa is the species of plant that most commonly produces the drugs known as 

marijuana, hash, or hashish. Normally, the male cannabis plant fertilizes the female plant. If 

female plants are grown in isolation, then the flowering tops of the plant remain unfertilized.

These unfertilized flowering tops, known as “sinsemilla," have particularIy high THC levels. 

Crossbreeding and genetic selection can also produce strains of the cannabis plant with 

particularly high levels of THC.


Some argue that cannabis grown hydroponically or under artificial light is stronger than cannabis 

grown outdoors in natural light. Because the amount and quality of resin produced depends on 

temperature, humidity, light, and soil acidity. Cannabis grown outdoors varies considerably in 

potency, whereas intensive indoor cultivation, often done with female plants and clones, under 

artificial light, and without soil, produces optimized cultivation conditions and cannabis of a 

consistently higher potency (UNODC, 2009). Some users of the drug say they can tell when they 

are using "hydro" cannabis versus “bush weed" because the effects are so much stronger. 

However, some people do not believe it is hydroponic cultivation itself that makes cannabis 

stronger; large scale hydroponic cultivators may simply be more likely to use more potent strains 

and grow plants to their full potential.


Part of Plant Used

The flowering tops, or "buds" of the female cannabis plant have the highest concentrations of 

THC, followed by the leaves. Much lower THC levels are found in the stalks and seeds of the 

cannabis plant.


Preparation for Use

The cannabis plant can be prepared in different ways for use, and these different forms have 

different potency. The strongest preparation is known as "hash oil," which is made by extracting 

THC from the cannabis plant in oil. Hash oil has been found to contain 15% to 30% THC. The 

resin secreted from the plant can be dried to make "hash," which is the second strongest 

preparation. Hash has THC concentrations ranging from 10% to 20%. The form with the lowest 

THC level is tire dried buds and leaves of the plant, commonly known as marijuana. Marijuana is 

the most common form of cannabis available in the USA and can vary widely in potency from 

less than 1% to 20%.


Has Marijuana Become Stronger?

The marijuana used today is stronger than it used to be, but not as strong as has been written in 

some media reports (claiming marijuana is 30 times stronger today than during the 1970s). 

Depending on how analysis was conducted and the sample analyzed, marijuana strength has 

increased by 2 to 7 times since the 1970s, measured by THC levels.

Another difference between then and now is that marijuana users in the 1970s were more likely 

to smoke the leaves and to initiate use around 20 years of age. Marijuana users today, 

however, often start in their mid-teens and prefer to smoke the more potent flowering tops, 

(buds) of the plant. Research shows that young, regular (daily or near daily) users are most at 

risk for many of the adverse effects of marijuana, including mental health problems and 



So what’s the Story?

Anecdotal reports as well as measurement in lab tests suggest that cannabis used today is 

stronger than in the past. Based on available scientific evidence, it would appear that the 

strength of marijuana has increased to some extent over the last 25 years, though far less than 

is sometimes claimed.


Instead, it is likely that the main difference today is the part of the plant people smoke and the 

age at which people begin regular use. It is more common for people today to smoke the

flowering heads of the plant which are much more potent than the leaf product. These changes 

in the patterns of use may result in users of today taking in higher levels of THC than in the past. 

Additionally, the younger age at which people start and the more regularly they use, the more 

likely they are to be adversely affected by marijuana. Simply focusing on marijuana potency may 

obscure the fact that young regular users are most at risk of marijuana related harm.








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