A much bandied-about factoid in the cannabis prohibition movement is that marijuana potency is much stronger than the stuff our parents’ and grandparents’ generation smoked. “It’s super-skunk!” they say, with all its negative connotations, going on about how the stuff smoked by the ‘60s counter-culture was a gentler variety from a more civilized age. They have a point – most weed today is stronger than it was forty-plus years ago. What they don’t realize is they’re the ones who made it that way.

marijuana potency in the 70s
Marijuana Potency in the 70s was nothing compared to today.

The Cause of Increased Marijuana Potency

We all know that prohibitionists, and their War on Drugs, criminalized weed’s production. What was originally a simple matter of planting some seeds and indulging in a little herbology, now became an imprisonable offence. Therefore, if you were going to break the law, you wanted the most return for your trouble – so you cultivated (or bred) the strains with the highest marijuana potency. Think of it like the classic Prohibition-era scenario: if you were going to run booze across the border, you’d be damn sure to make it the hardest liquor you could get your hands on.

Prohibition to Thank for Increased Marijuana Potency

marijuana potency prohibition
Prohibition equals higher marijuana potency. Sounds a little counterintuitive, doesn’t it?

Weed has been criminalized for almost eighty years now (with a few recent, happy exceptions), while alcohol Prohibition ran for just thirteen. Over the course of those eighty years, we’ve been breeding it stronger and stronger to make the risks worthwhile. You can bet if the States was still dry today, people would have developed alcohol that got you drunk off a shot’s worth.

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So what’s happening in the states that are legalizing? Are people favoring lower marijuana potency? If anything, the strains are diversifying into a greater spectrum of strengths: there will always be those connoisseurs of the strong stuff, but beginners might want something a little more delicate. Perhaps the most exciting diversification is coming from medically-minded growers, who can now explore medicinal strands – such as Charlotte’s Web, used to treat epilepsy – without the fear of having their doors kicked in.

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