As the state-legal cannabis industry continues advancing in both scientific knowledge and market share, one thing that has become clear is that cannabis today is a lot stronger than it used to be. Studies have found that marijuana in circulation today, both legal and illegal, is up to 5 times stronger than it was in the eighties, and this has raised serious questions on the effect of more potent weed on the body. According to a study of regular cannabis users published by the University of Colorado Boulder in JAMA Psychiatry, smoking high potency marijuana concentrates doesn’t necessarily make you higher.
After studying regular cannabis users who smoke high potency marijuana concentrates and those who smoked regular weed, researchers from the university found that while it did boost THC levels in the blood to more than twice as much as smoking conventional marijuana, it did not make the subjects ‘higher.’ “Surprisingly, we found that potency did not track with intoxication levels. While we saw striking differences in blood levels between the two groups, they were similarly impaired,” says lead author Cinnamon Bidwell, an assistant professor in the Institute of Cognitive Science.
As cannabis is still illegal at the federal level, researchers are prohibited from handling or administering marijuana, so the team from the University of Colorado Boulder had to think outside the box. They used two white Dodge Sprinter vans dubbed the ‘cannavans’ to visit study subjects at their place of residence, where after purchasing their own cannabis and using it in their own homes, the subjects walked out for tests. Bidwell and her colleagues assessed 121 regular cannabis users, half of whom typically used concentrates and half who typically used flowers from the plant.
Flower users were instructed to use flower with either 16% or 24% THC and concentrate users were assigned a product with either 16% or 245% THC. At three time points, that it before, directly after and an hour after they used, researchers drew the subjects’ blood, measured their mood and intoxication level, and assessed their cognitive function and balance. THC levels in concentrate users spiked to 1,016 micrograms per milliliter a few minutes after use while in flower users they peaked at 455 micrograms per milliliter.
Despite this difference in THC blood levels, both groups had a relatively similar level of impairment. “People in the high concentration group were much less compromised than we thought they were going to be. If we gave people that high a concentration of alcohol it would have been a different story,” says Kent Hutchison, co-author of the study and a professor of psychology and neuroscience at CU Boulder who also studies alcohol addiction. The team of researchers hopes to learn the possible long term effects of THC-potent concentrates.
“Does long term, concentrate exposure mess with your cannabinoid receptors in a way that could have long term repercussions? Does it make it harder to quit when you want to? We just don’t know yet.”
The findings of this study are likely to have taken everyone, including The Supreme Cannabis Company Inc. (TSX: FIRE) (OTCQX: SPRWF), by surprise since it has always been assumed that the more intoxicants one takes, the more impaired they are likely to become.
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