The debate over the legalization of marijuana has been going on for decades. While some people contend that the drug does not produce ill-effects and should be legalized, others firmly believe that the marijuana of today is much more potent than the marijuana of decades past.
Higher Levels of THC
A 2008 study shocked Americans when it declared that the average potency of marijuana in the United States had exceeded 10 percent for the first time ever. The study examined levels of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, taken from samples seized by law enforcement agencies. Marijuana potency from 1983 averaged less than 4 percent. Today, some strains of marijuana test as high as 30 percent, which produces more effects on the user. “This potency level presents significantly more risk to the developing adolescent brain than past levels of marijuana,” said Kevin Friedrich, prevention director for the Community Assessment Referral and Education agency. “And as potency levels continue to increase, we’ve seen increased admissions to emergency rooms and drug treatment programs.” (1)
Greater Risk with More Potency
People fear what damage more potent marijuana will do to those who are expecting pot to be a harmless recreational drug. John Walters, former director of the National Drug Control Policy said, “Marijuana potency has grown steeply over the past decade, with serious implications in particular for young people, who may not only be at increased risk for various psychological conditions, cognitive deficits and respiratory problems, but are at significantly higher risk for developing dependency on other drugs, such as cocaine and heroin, than are nonsmokers.” (1)
Those who are in favor of legalizing marijuana, especially for medical purposes, don’t see the potency as necessarily a negative thing. In fact, those who want to see marijuana used nationwide for medical patients believe that more potent strains will be good for patients. “It’s my fervent hope that today’s marijuana is more potent,” Rick Thompson, member of the Michigan Association of Compassion Centers, said. “It’s like comparing aspirin to Vicodin. To achieve a higher level of pain relief, we need more potent varieties.” (1)
Looking to Other Countries
While the U.S. might not be ready to legalize marijuana, except maybe for medical purposes, we can also look to other countries to see how they handle the marijuana debate. The Netherlands are getting tougher on their marijuana laws, specifically for pot cafes that in the past have been allowed to operate with little repercussion. The Dutch government is working to classify marijuana strains that are higher than 15% as a more dangerous drug (average potency there is 17.8 percent), and will try to keep these more potent strains out of the marijuana cafes.
The marijuana debate has been a difficult one throughout the world. We can learn a lot by watching what other countries do about it. With marijuana becoming more potent over time, more countries might follow the lead of countries like the Netherlands, or keep it illegal like the United States.