Pubdate: Sat, 16 May 2009
Source: AlterNet (US Web)
Copyright: 2009 Independent Media Institute
Author: Paul Armentano
Note: Paul Armentano is the senior policy analyst for the NORML 
Foundation in Washington, DC


"This ain't your grandfather's or your father's marijuana. This will 
hurt you. This will addict you. This will kill you."- Mark R. 
Trouville, DEA Miami, speaking to the Associated Press (June 22, 
2007) Government claims that today's pot is more potent, and thus 
more dangerous to health, than ever before  must be taken with a grain of salt.

Federal officials have made similarly dire assertions before. In a 
2004 Reuters News Wire story, government officials alleged, "Pot is 
no longer the gentle weed of the 1960s and may pose a greater threat 
than cocaine or even heroin." (Anti-drug officials failed to explain 
why, if previous decades' pot was so "gentle" and innocuous, police 
still arrested you for it.)

In 2007, Reuters again highlighted the alleged record rise in 
cannabis potency, proclaiming, "U.S. marijuana grows stronger than 
before: report." Quoted in the news story was ex-Drug Czar John 
Walters, who warned, "This report underscores that we are no longer 
talking about the drug of the 1960s and 1970s -- this is Pot 2.0."

Predictably, in 2008 the mainstream news media ran with yet another 
set of 'news' stories alleging that the pot plant's strength had 
reached all-time highs. According to a June 12, 2008 Associated Press story:

"The latest analysis from the University of Mississippi's Potency 
Monitoring Project tracked the average amount of THC, the 
psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, in samples seized by law 
enforcement agencies from 1975 through 2007. It found that the 
average amount of THC reached 9.6 percent in 2007, compared with 8.75 
percent the previous year."

Or not. An actual review of the 2008 U-Miss data revealed this nugget 
of information: The average THC in domestically grown marijuana -- 
which comprises the bulk of the US market -- is less than five 
percent, a figure that's remained unchanged for nearly a decade. 
(See:, page 12)

Which brings us to this year. Naturally, the Feds are once again 
sounding the alarm, as reported today by CNN: "Marijuana potency 
surpasses 10 percent, U.S. says."

I suppose, if nothing else, the government's annual "new and improved 
pot" claims are good advertising for marijuana dealers. As for the 
rest of the public, it's time for a reality check.

First, it's worth noting that police and lawmakers made these same 
alarmist claims about the suddenly 
not-as-dangerous-or-strong-as-we-once-said-it-was pot of the 1960s, 
'70s, and 80s. These allegations were false then and they are still false now.

Second, THC -- regardless of potency -- is virtually non-toxic to 
healthy cells or organs, and is incapable of causing a fatal 
overdose. Currently, doctors may legally prescribe a FDA-approved 
pill that contains 100 percent THC, and curiously, nobody at the 
University of Mississippi or at the Drug Czar's office seems to be 
overly concerned about its potential health effects.

Third, survey data gleaned from cannabis consumers in the 
Netherlands--where users may legally purchase pot of known 
quality--indicates that most cannabis consumers prefer less potent 
pot, just as the majority of those who drink alcohol prefer beer or 
wine rather than 190 proof Everclear or Bacardi 151. When consumers 
encounter unusually strong varieties of marijuana, they adjust their 
use accordingly and smoke less.

Finally, if US lawmakers and government researchers were truly 
concerned about potential risks posed by supposedly stronger 
marijuana, they would support regulating the drug, so that its 
potency would be consistent and this information would publicly 
displayed to the consumer. (Anyone ever been to a liquor store that 
sold a brand of booze that didn't post its alcohol content on the 
label? Didn't think so.)

So let's review, shall we? Our federal government ostensibly wants 
fewer Americans to consume pot. So they spend billions of dollars 
outlawing the plant and driving its producers underground where 
breeders, over time, clandestinely develop stronger and more 
sophisticated herbal strains than ever existed prior to prohibition. 
The Feds then inadvertently give America's marijuana growers billions 
of dollars in free advertising by telling the world that today's weed 
is more potent than anything Allen Ginsberg, Tommy Chong or Jerry 
Garcia ever smoked in their heyday. In response, tens of millions of 
Americans head immediately to their nearest street-corner in search 
of a dealer (or college student) willing to sell them a dimebag of 
the new, super-potent cannabis they've been hearing about on TV. The 
Feds then demand more of your hard-earned tax dollars so they can get 
more Americans "off the pot."

Then next year we do it all over again: same time, same station.

Any questions?
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom