Are More Potent Strains of Weed Actually Better?

Article by Zoe Wilder, Merry Jane

For some time now, high-THC potency cultivars have been the most revered form of cannabis for recreational consumption; and they often win major competitions, leading to increased demand in the marketplace and higher prices on dispensaryshelves. But breeding cannabis solely for its supercharged THC content and trichome frostiness overlooks the synergistic properties of all phytonutrients. So much so, we’re creating a form of genetically modified “steroid”-enhanced mutant weed.

Produce growers do a similar thing. Sunkist oranges are bred for pronounced sugars and sweetness, not necessarily nutrients. Compare the appearance of branded conventional produce versus organic locally grown, and you may notice that conventional options from companies like Dole, Green Giant, Chiquita, and Real Sweet are often sweeter and more uniform in color than like-varieties from lesser-known farms populating the local and organic sections. These characteristics don’t necessarily make the products better, or even point to increased quality in any way. We just perceive them to be more appealing. That’s just the way it is in retail. What dazzles on the shelves, sells. And successful companies put in a lot of time producing product that outshines competitors.

A look at cannabis cup entrants in 2015, highlighted in the High Times article “The Strongest Strains on Earth 2016,” shows that cannabis cultivated in the U.S. is clearly inching its way over the 30 percent THC point, with many entrants hovering between the 25 to 30-plus THC mark. In Denver that year, Chem Dog, by Next Harvest, recorded the highest THC potency at a High Times Cannabis Cup to date, measuring 32.13 percent.

Compare this to the most potent Jamaica Cup entrant that year, Kevie Skunk, an outdoor grown hybrid with a THC potency of just 17.8 percent. That’s nearly half the THC. While indoor is grown in Jamaica, a lot of Jamaican weed is grown outdoors by ganja grower associations, representing each province of the small island nation. The grower’s associations are comprised primarily of Rastafarians who have cultivated cannabis in Jamaica for decades, and Jamaica is a place where cannabis is still cultivated by its oldest indigenous people. Jamaica’s cultural traditions of cannabis cultivation have yet to be marred entirely by the U.S. space race to reach the highest THC.

Now, there can be discrepancies in lab results measuring potency—large ones at that. It has been rumored that some labs operate with a 40 percent margin of error when calculating THC potency. Comparing THC potency results can be further skewed due to varied lab testing techniques and by which buds on the plant are tested. Some growers even roll their flower in kief or soak them in hash oil to increase THC concentration before submitting their samples to labs. Nonetheless, THC potency in the U.S. is increasing.

While many lab tests measure the potency of several cannabinoids and sometimesterpenes as well, THC is the cannabinoid connected to making people feel “high.”And when you’re dropping $10 to $20 a gram, it’s assumed the nugs with the highest THC content will not only get you highest, but also stretch your budget. Not to mention, choosing those shiny, hand-trimmed frost-covered nugs is certain to impress your friends.

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