Article by Lester Black, The Stranger
I used to be a cook at a Bavarian lodge in the Rocky Mountains. The work was extremely tiring, and after hour 10 of slinging schnitzel and spätzle to Texan tourists, a coworker of mine would pull out his vape pen filled with concentrated cannabis. I would take my hands off the half-dozen sauté pans in front of me to take a nice long drag.
It would feel like a heavy wave washed over me. For a moment, I’d forget the stress of the day, my legs would stop hurting, and everything would become more like nothing. Then that wave would pass and I would work through a haze for the rest of my shift.
We were vaping the cheap butane hash oil that was almost completely tetrahydrocannabinol, aka THC. It is an ironic product: When you ingest the strongest chemical of cannabis by itself, it doesn’t feel much like cannabis at all.
“THC on its own is a crummy drug—people are generally not going to like it. It’s quite disorienting and it produces pretty severe short-term memory loss,” said Dr. Ethan Russo, a board-certified neurologist who lives on Vashon Island and has studied cannabis for decades.
If THC alone were responsible for the benefits of cannabis, then Marinol (a synthesized version of THC that has been FDA approved since 1985) would have replaced pot. It hasn’t. THC alone is not an effective medicine, and there’s reproducible science that shows the entire cannabis plant is more effective than any single compound derived from it.
Understanding THC’s limitations has implications for recreational users as well as medical users. I would somewhat enjoy my friend’s crude THC concentrate at the end of a cooking shift, but opioid painkillers are also popular in that setting, so that’s not a good barometer. Great cannabis is great not because of its THC potency but due to the right ratios of everything else other than THC.