Marijuana Isn’t What It Used To Be

I live next to a 42-year-old hippy named Dale. He’s been smoking marijuana for the past 29 years and considers himself a recreational user. His extensive marriage to Mary Jane gives him a proverbial, transcendent aura whenever he discusses the illustrious herb. An abundance of knowledge and years spent under the influence make discussions with him as captivating as they are convoluted, though I enjoy our extensive chats on the front lawn of his modest home. Dale is wise and centred and was never caught up in the pro or anti-marijuana campaigns, instead remaining complacent and realising that, like any drug, marijuana affects everyone differently. He’s smoked in fourteen countries around the world and claims to have puffed back thousands of different strands and hybrids, giving him a good understanding of marijuana’s progression over the past three decades. Over time, Dale inadvertently became my motivation to write a piece on the evolution of bud, a drug I quit using two years ago. A piece like this was always going to piss some people off, though my intention was to remain impartial.

Having been a proud smoker and marijuana advocate for the most part of my pre-21 years, I’m well aware of the ideals such a community bring forth. During my time as a stoner – a term I find derogatory and will therefore only refer to myself as – if someone were to tell me smoking weed could negatively impact my mental and physical health, I’d have laughed in their face. I had a true knack for selective hearing, and while medical facts showing links between marijuana use and schizophrenia, anxiety and depression were all readily available, I was never able to digest such outlandish propaganda. My reluctance for reality was amplified by the fellow smokers I surrounded myself with, most of whom believed, as I did, that a plant from God could surely do no harm. Years on, a retrospective look at my stance on marijuana being relatively harmless was likely true in the earlier years, but that sure as hell wasn’t the case for the hydroponic, man-made rocket-ships I was toking on.

And thus we arrive at my first point; the potency of bud has become ridiculously excessive. “It’s harder and harder to score the natural stuff,” Dale told me recently, explaining, “kids out there are shunning the calmative effects of bush and calling it weak, which is a big fuck you to traditional marijuana culture.” He’s right. The last time I decided to smoke, it was impossible to get my hands on anything that wasn’t bright orange. I wound up smoking a strain from Nimbin called ‘Jesus’ and laying on my bed motionless for two hours wondering why my face felt like it was shrink-wrapped. It was the most antisocial experience I’ve ever had smoking marijuana and a true testament to the disconnect between modern weed and the plant that was rolled up and passed around in the days of yore.

When I was a kid you could just smoke a joint for a while. Now you take two hits and you go insane. It’s just not doable like it used to be. LOUIS C.K

This increase in potency is unfortunate for people who don’t like marijuana that turns them into vegetables, but it isn’t going to change. Like any business, dealers accommodate for their most profitable demographic. In this instance, the people who make the dealers the most money are the people who smoke the most weed, which means they’re also the people with the highest tolerances. The stuff that fries your average joe to the point of immobilisation is perfect for the hardened bong-head who’s been punching stompers since his 13th birthday. What’s scary is that marijuana is only getting stronger, all thanks to a hefty cohort of chemical enhancements delivered by new-age scientists with penchants for potency.

So, how omnipotent and genetically modified does marijuana have to become before it’s considered a hard drug? Scientists at Northwest Botanical Analysis in Seattle are registering THC levels of over 25% in some of the modern strands of home-grown marijuana. Looking at this from a user’s perspective, these extremely impressive levels put modern herb on a psychoactive scale more comparable to shrooms and acid than traditionally grown pot. In fact, these breeds are so genetically modified that for a user with low-to-moderate tolerance, they are near impossible to handle. Ridiculously hallucinatory and time-stutteringly strong may suit the weed-obsessed veterans, but the general public hates the progression of modern day weed. This makes the most commonly asked question for Northwest Botantical Analysis staff not one iota surprising: “Can you get me some weak weed?”

Halfway through my research for this piece, I decided to go around to Dale’s and ask if he’d had any of these super-strands I’d been reading about. “I had a few big tokes of something my dealer called Poly-1,” he told me, puffing on a 100% el natural blunt. “My heart started racing, I was short of breath and I felt dizzy for about half an hour,” he explained, more relaxed than ever. I told him that he’d likely had a panic attack, which he found extremely intriguing given he’d never suffered from a single anxious episode in his life. It was no real surprise to me though. While the rapid evolution of marijuana has never allowed scientists to conduct long-term studies on the strands people are smoking these days (a worrying fact in its own), drug-induced psychosis and marijuana have always held identifiable connections. And that leads me to my last point.

To even the most pro-marijuana readers, the fact we’re not smoking what our parents were must now be glaringly obvious. In accepting that fact, one must also accept the notion that no long-term studies on the new breed of marijuana have been conducted. Scientists can all but speculate on the repercussions such a dramatic increase in potency is having on users, though that’s not the worst part. By the time there’s rock-solid evidence, the plant will have once again evolved into something we know very little about. The addition of chemical composites and the concentration of the THC are both reasons to warrant the reconsideration of what exactly we’re inhaling, but it’s impossible to tell an avid smoker to think about that before lighting up. Thanks to a brilliant PR campaign built around marijuana before it become a byproduct of science, many see it as a valuable medicinal herb and nothing more. While many of these benefits are scientifically proven, there’s too much grey area to justify its admission based solely on this.

And here we are. It’s 2013 and I – a person who once classified marijuana as God’s greatest creation – have written a 1000 word piece on the ambiguous veil my ex-best friend now hides beneath. Alas, I stand sober and sure. I am pro-legalisation and I’m by no means anti-marijuana, but the abundance of question marks surrounding this new, obnoxiously potent breed of weed is legitimate cause for concern. I’ll remain cynical about modern Mary Jane, at least until someone with substantial factual evidence sways me one way (positive) or another (negative). In the meantime, I’ll continue to search for a nice, natural batch of bush that doesn’t melt my face and convince me there’s a blood-hungry SWAT team at my front door.

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Sammy Attwood is the founder of Your Friends House. He enjoys eating breakfast at cheap restaurants and is incapable of using his Twitter. You can follow him on Instagram though: @sammy_attwood.

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Sam says:

While I appreciate you have made an attempt to stay impartial in this article, it is riddled with false information and misleading phrases. The idea that a particular percentage of THC can place Cannabis in the ‘Hard Drugs’ category is absurd. It appears you have missed the idea of what hard and soft drugs are. THC will never be considered a ‘Hard Drug’ under the current definition. This article revolves around the theme that we are not smoking what our parents were due to increased THC levels within the Cannabis. This is further enforced by discoursing this as a bad thing. The increase in THC content can be in many cases considered a positive, as less smoke is required to enter ones lungs to receive the equivalent dose of THC. The only situation that comes to mind where this is a bad thing is when smokers do not intend to reach a high level of intoxication. In most cases less smoke inhalation is nothing but positive.
This article has a general aura about it in which the increases in THC potency have altered the way in which is affects us. In reality, short of molecular structure change, there is no alteration in the way THC binds with the brain’s receptors. This simply means more potency does not equal more dire consequences for smokers, only less harmful smoke required to be inhaled.

In summary,
‘We are not smoking what our parents were” is incorrect. We absolutely are, we just need to smoke less to get where they were. THC and related cannabinoids have not changed molecular structure, there are only more of them.

Charlotte says:

who goes to nimbin and gets hydro? in my experience the nimbin dealers usually offer a choice, and the bush out there is usually good old el natural organic produce. It’s true what you say about selectively absorbing information though… anyone who smokes knows that feeling. on thing i would say in regards to anti-social smoking, i think bongs are hugely problematic. If your a habitual smoker, and having trouble getting things done/feel as though your life is in the shitter, smash your bong. Stick to joints, and savour them. you’ll feel better

this guy says:

how come the weed is getting stronger and the pills are getting weaker.

Take it back to the good old days where you know your weed came from a plant and your pills were good.

Dev says:

How can he speak for the general public, did he actually take a statistical sample from the population? Nope! No hate against the author, but he’s pushing his own opinions and ideas as facts. I would love to agree with the him, but his article is filled with bias! Question everything, people!

Bea says:

Great article, keep it up. Continue to show the “other” side of current values and beliefs and to challenge popular thinking. After all that’s a big part of what a culture blog should do! Well done YFH and good luck for your event this weekend.

Matt says:

Nicely done. Now write one on the effects of alcohol and its ever increasing marketing targeting youth.

some guy says:

i like weed

Anon says:

Once my friend and I went to a beautiful look out during the day, shared a J, played on the playground and just chilled out looking over the ocean in Noosa. When she turned to me and said, what we’re doing right now is totally illegal.

I have never been so harmless to those around me or myself than when I’m high. But like anything, it should be done socially & occasionally. I agree that legalization would promote healthier weed and weed you can trust. That’s why I have cut back from being a daily smoker to a once-every-few-weeks as a treat smoker. Since my tolerance has gone down, holy balls I can’t keep up with my friends. So I see a lot of truth in this article and although I used to advocate weed left, right and center… Now I wish there was a way of knowing what I was smoking all those years. Legalization is the only way to keep bud out of the hands of kids and to regulate what goes into the herb.

Anxious says:

With a few corrections this could be pretty good. #1 – No pot is genetically modifies -it just isn’t. Perhaps you meant selectively bred? This is very different and you should correct it. To say that increased THC levels makes it more like shrooms or LSD is very misleading. 20 years ago you just had to smoke a lot more of it. The chemical make-up of these other drugs are what make them more psychoactive -not the concentrations. But the main thing you need to look up is what “genetically modified” means. Also, the orange color you mention has nothing to do with potency. Older, weaker strains had lots of “red hairs” and the strongest kush today is totally green. It’s the crystals that make it strong (as I’m sure you know) but then why suggest orange is the new strong weed? Anyway, besides that I liked your piece. Remember folks, THC is same molecule it always was -if the weed is too strong, just smoke less of it. If it makes you paranoid, don’t use the drug. More critical views like the one in this article are a welcomed voice.

Just Sayin says:

Strains openly available in the US that look and smell like blueberry muffins and pack a punch ten times that of natural marijuana are, in fact, genetically modified… irrespective of what you say.

Anxious says:

Before you just say that I am wrong do some research and you will see for yourself. People have been using sophisticated growing techniques and cross breeding to gradually raise the THC over many decades. Blueberry has been selectively bred to have the high THC. There was no slicing of genes the way scientists at Monsanto or other labs do it. The genes of these plants have certainly been altered but that doesn’t make them GMOs. Also, I’ve never seen weed that looked like a blueberry muffin. If that’s what you saw, it was probably laced with something which is a whole other issue.

James says:

Zzzz he is spot on, all these strains are just the product of cross pollination… Nothing to do with genetically modifiying it… They just didn’t know how to do this properly in the 70 etc….

Calvin says:

You are an articulate person who is just plain wrong!

Calvin says:

Oops the above response was to “anxious”

no expert says:

My only experience of GM is from year twelve biology, but under my teachers definition selective breeding fell under the definition of genetic modification. You’re cultivating sexual reproductive environments that don’t occur naturally, so in that sense its still very far from a ‘natural product’. just saying

Ex Stoner Dude says:

I smoked weed for about two years, when I was about 20 – 22 at first it was just once a month a mate would come over have beers watch footy and share a joint on a Friday night. Then it was once a week, then it became Friday, Saturday, Sunday. Then most nights of a week. Until I eventually quit my full time job and smoked all day everyday for about 3 months.

One day I decided to quit, cold turkey just like that. The withdrawal was intense I didn’t sleep for about a week, then one night I started hallucinating seeing shadows moving around and becoming paranoid. I called my dad at 3:30am and asked him to take me to the hospital.

I was diagnosed with drug induced psychosis, spent a week or so in the psych ward (that was an eye opening expierence, met some interesting characters). Was sent home with some anti psychotics to take at night, I was still a little paranoid / freaked out during the first week at home. But then shit got real intense, I started hearing voices. One day I was feeding some birds and when I stopped a voice said “No no, give them a little bit more” it scared the shit out of me, it was the strangest feeling, it felt like it was all around me. For about 2 weeks I occasionally heard this voice offering advice and commenting on things I was doing or seeing.

Eventually the doctors upped the dosage of anti psychotic and the voices went away. Now I’m off the anti psychotics and haven’t heard anything. But shit, the thought of those voices still haunt me, in particular the one of a little girl. It was freaky.

If I had my time again I wouldn’t fuck with drugs, mental health is way too important and very hard to fix. I’m just lucky it was only temporary. Some aren’t so lucky.

/endrant

Gary says:

cool story bro

Damo says:

#420yolo

Gavin says:

Perfect

Josh says:

Awesome read, an educated and experienced perspective too

H says:

Nice mane