Since the 1980s growers keep crossbreeding high-octane thoroughbred cannabis strains to steadily drive up THC content while breeding out an essential cannabinoid: CBD. According the National Institute on Drug Abuse, potency has increased from around 4 percent in the 1980s to 15 percent (as of 2012).
For most consumers, “high-octane” THC is ill-suited for them on many levels. High THC is therapeutically less effective. It’s not as enjoyable. And, it’s far more likely to produce adverse — short and long-term — effects. So why do growers keep breeding stronger strains? Good question!
As humans, we’re conditioned to think, “if a little bit is good, then more is better.” Right? Rarely is this the case. Cannabis, like many substances, produces biphasic effects. What is the “biphasic effect?” Think of alcohol. What happens when you drink a glass (or two) of wine? You feel relaxed, more sociable, the effects are pleasurable. Drink too much, and you can get overly emotional, aggressive, even physically ill. That’s the biphasic effect at work. Low to moderate doses elicit desired effects; high doses do just the opposite.
Consumers Prefer Moderate THC Over High THC
Research has validated widespread anecdotal reports that consumers prefer mildly euphoric effects and therapeutic efficacy over getting as “high” as possible.
In a randomized-controlled trial (RCT) of 18 active cannabis users comparing the effects of vaping to smoking, San Francisco oncologist Dr. Donald Abrams and his team measured subjective outcomes like ‘self-reported high’ and how ‘enjoyable’ the experience was.
Participants were given low, medium, and high THC dose cannabis randomly on different days. Of those who expressed a preference, no one preferred the lowest dose, but twice as many people preferred the medium dose over the high dose.
As cannabis becomes more mainstream and savvier consumers start to favor strains (like wines) for properties beyond potency — bouquet, diverse terpenes and aromas, craftsmanship — growers may take note. Instead of growers trying to outdo each other with their obsession to drive up psychoactive potency, they’ll focus their efforts on creating a wider array of complex strains rich in a variety of terpenoids and cannabinoids beyond THC.
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