If you tried to smoke as much pot today as the most bell-bottomed, patch-wearing, Mary Jane enthusiast smoked back in the ’70s, chances are you'd end up on your ass — or having a legendary existential freak-out á la Maureen Dowd.
The American Chemical Society has published a study showing how much marijuana has changed since the flower child generation, and like many technological advances over the past decades, it's evolved a lot.
“We’ve seen a big increase in marijuana potency compared to where it was 20 or 30 years ago,” said research director Dr. Andy LaFrate. “I would say the average potency of marijuana has probably increased by a factor of at least three. We’re looking at average potencies right now of around 20% THC.”
In the 1980s, federal officials said the average level was around 4% THC. Take one look at the brown, dry shwag that was good enough for High Times to feature back in 1977, and the drastic increase in potency is not surprising. As marijuana has become more widely accepted and decriminalized, leaps in science and variations in grow methods have allowed cultivators to not only develop more potent strains, but also control cannabinoid ratios to treat different ailments.
“As far as potency goes, it’s been surprising how strong a lot of the marijuana is,” LaFrate said. “We’ve seen potency values close to 30% THC, which is huge.”
Nothing anyone was smoking decades ago came near that level of potency, which is important to remind your now-retired parents of when they decide they miss the good ol' days and go to rip a bong like they used to.