How was marijuana in the 1970s

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Marijuana Myths

Part 2

A multi-part series taps the rampant growth of marijuana myths. What does it actually look like: What benefits and what damage can cannabis users derive from the herbal active ingredients? Where are the dangers for body and mind, where are the chances for their recovery? This time the HanfBlatt checks the claim:

"The potency of marijuana has increased significantly over the decades"

A classic argument from opponents of legalization. It is claimed that the potency of weed has increased 10, 20 or even 30 times since the 1970s. In doing so, the prohibitionists are responding to early studies that have shown the drug's relative harmlessness. The risk of being overwhelmed by a concentrated intoxicant is much higher. Consumers should be convinced that smoking weed is riskier and ominous today.

The facts

It's nice that in this case numbers can be accessed from official sources. The Potency Monitoring Project (PMP), which the University of Mississippi has been running for over 20 years, has been financially supported by the state. The abstinence apostles hoped for proof of their suspicion that the illegal farmers are growing ever stronger hemp. The researchers examined marijuana seized by the police, which in the early 1970s could not have met the normal standard on the market, because they only found THC levels (tetrahydrocannabiol, the most powerful active ingredient in binge hemp) of less than one percent, in 1974 even only 0.4 percent. It is clear that the generation of the late hippies was not satisfied with such fabric softeners, especially since there is almost no psychoactive effect in the grass with a THC content of less than 0.5 percent. Only when the sheriffs saw the light and they no longer only delivered the stems of the plant to the laboratory, but also the buds (flower heads), did the results approach the reality of the black market.

Any other analysis initially came to different conclusions. For example, the 59 samples examined by PharmChem Laboratories in 1973 contained an average THC value of 1.62 percent, only 16 units of the confiscated material were below one, more than half were above two, more than a fifth over four percent. An analysis from 1975 confirmed the researchers. PharmChem checked marijuana again, this time the content of the active ingredient was between two and five percent, one unit triumphed with a whopping 14 percent.


The number of seizures has increased dramatically since 1980. However, the PMP still accessed the goods indiscriminately, the examined grasses and thus the results were not representative. As can be seen from the table, the THC value increased slightly over the years:

Percent THC of Marijuana Seized in the United States, 1981-1993, Mississippi Monitoring Project


























Whereas women used to like to process stems and leaves or even the male plant, today the market only demands the female umbels. This is how the higher potency can be explained according to some “insiders”. According to many experts, even the slight increase in THC levels is no cause for concern. Their argument: The alcohol logic falls short, because a more potent drug allows the consumer to take lower doses. With the widely used inhalation technique, this has the advantage that less smoking is required to achieve the desired effect. Of course, this requires the responsible user. This is exactly what is required if the “automatic titration” is to be successful. What is that? Well, the experienced stoner only smokes until he has achieved his personally desired effect - and no more. He also knows that varieties of the most varied of strengths are on the market. New dope is therefore tried cautiously, because anyone who was once “too stoned” does not want to experience it again.

Let's get to the point: First of all, hemp is an ancient plant, the active ingredient content of which does not fall extremely up or down within years. However, the achievements of the technical age do not stop before hemp cultivation. Eager breeders move a lot (including genes?) To ensure maximum yield with high potency. “Super Skunk”, for example, is a guarantee for a relatively undifferentiated, broad intoxication with excessive dosage - very popular in Germany. It can be assumed that the THC content in the flowers has also increased in the Germanic Republic and Europe, because the Dutch machinery is working effectively. Here and in general, only the responsible consumer can counter the increased risk caused by a potent drug.

Jörg on the Hövel


Addendum 2006:
The discussion about THC-strong cannabis has entered a new round. The results could not be taken into account here.

Addendum 2008:
The breeding of ever more potent plants has established itself on the market at the moment. The THC content has become the primary quality determinant. Consumers will have to decide whether “a lot helps a lot” really applies here. Dosing cannabis now requires more knowledge than it used to be.


Published by Jörg Auf dem Hövel

Jörg Auf dem Hövel (born December 7, 1965) is a political scientist and works as a freelance journalist, among others. for Telepolis, Spiegel and Der Freitag.