Double Trouble: Colorado Pot Potent, Contaminated
Denver-based Charas Scientific released the results of its analysis March 23 at the 249th session of the American Chemical Society (ACS). Using samples culled from legally available pot supplies, Charas researchers found concentrations of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) approaching 30 percent. THC is the active psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, responsible for its mind-altering capacities and its ability to create psychological dependency through repeated use. Despite marijuana’s benign reputation, THC is a potent chemical that has profound effects on the human mind and body, and 30 percent concentrations are quite high in comparison to what was discovered in past pot samples.
For example, in the 1980s federal government testing discovered THC levels hovering around 4 percent (on average) in seized supplies of illicit marijuana. This may sound unimpressive, but it was apparently strong enough to please consumers in that time period, since the rules of supply and demand could certainly have pushed growers to boost THC levels significantly had it been necessary to do so.
The THC concentrations in Colorado’s pot aren’t just high in comparison to historical samples, however. Only three years ago—not long before the referendum legalizing the drug was passed, in other words—government tests found THC levels of around 15 percent in confiscated marijuana, meaning that products with double the strength have been developed in a very brief period of time. With pot growers able to experiment openly and freely now, cross-breeding techniques may be advancing rapidly, allowing retailers to ratchet up the intensity of the marijuana buzz they’re peddling to unprecedented heights.
In addition to its high THC content, the Charas researchers uncovered another disturbing fact about Colorado’s legally available marijuana. Most would probably expect legal pot to be purer and cleaner than the illicit variety, but it seems Colorado’s supplies are loaded with a multitude of contaminants. Among other substances, Charas scientists found bacteria, fungi, heavy metals and butane in the samples they tested, all of which are potentially hazardous to human health. None of these contaminants were present in prodigious amounts, but even in traces such substances can do damage to biological entities and therefore cannot be considered safe at any level of consumption.
Is Super Pot Super Addictive?
Whether this “super pot” proves to be more addictive than its defanged predecessors remains to be seen. But it seems reasonable to speculate that it will be. Keeping customers coming back for more is what makes any business profitable, and stronger marijuana products could change the addicting capacities of a drug that has always been considered benign (relatively speaking, of course).
Marijuana overdoses are likely to increase with these high-THC products, especially if users fail to adjust their consumption patterns to compensate for boosted potency. Overdosing on pot is not a life-threatening experience by any means, but since THC is a psychoactive substance, having too much of it circulating through the body can produce a number of scary and unpleasant symptoms. These include hallucinations, tremors, uncontrollable shaking, rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, dizziness, disorientation, paranoia, vomiting and panic attacks.
What Is Legal Today May Be Forbidden Tomorrow
People have a tendency to view marijuana in static terms, as an unchanging substance destined to remain forever harmless (relatively speaking, of course). But the active ingredient in pot is a mind-altering chemical, and the more of it a person gets in a single dose, the more problems it has the potential to cause. The risks of taking turbocharged pot could be especially real for adolescents, unaccustomed and unprepared as they are to deal with the impact of drug products that pack a more formidable punch than they expect.
One positive aspect of the situation in Colorado is that legalization has brought monitoring, regulation and oversight to a formerly rogue industry. If the Colorado legislature chooses to pass laws mandating less potent marijuana, they will presumably be free to do so. In the meantime, pot patrons expecting a familiar high from a familiar product should be aware the drugs they’re buying in stores may be more dangerous than the drugs they used to purchase on the black market.