They say you can't spell potency without pot. And that's maybe the problem, if you'd like to call it that.
Over time, weed growers have become obsessed with THC counts, and little else. A decent share of strains sold at dispensaries nowadays clock in at around 25 percent tetrahydrocannabinol, the naturally occuring compound in quality weed responsible for getting you high as a Georgia pine. The higher the THC count, of course, the higher you get. And that's great, if what you're going for is that distinctly heady rush that comes along with feeling like your face is being shrink wrapped.
If that's not your thing--and for a lot of people, it isn't--you're fucked, sort of. All you want is the weed-equivalent of a slow snifter of barley wine at the end of a long day, not a bareback romp down to the Laugh Farm on that trusty steed, 40-percent THC Sour Diesel. You'd much rather nurse something closer to, say, 10 percent THC, only with various terpenes (compounds that steer both the highs and sensory experiences of marijuana) present in the plant dialed accordingly to hit your desired "entourage effect". Only when the market is flush with cosmically high-grade bud, a result of rapidly-advancing grow technology and an expanding body of scientific research surrounding cannabis, it's either tread cautiously with the head/vy shit, or swallow your pride and pick up some reggies. And nobody wants reggies.
So you've probably been there: You're posted up with some kind folk, and that boat comes sailing your way. It's a THC-heavy indica, you're told, so you go easy, or at least you think. And then it hits. Wow, you tell yourself, this weed just got me waaay too fucking stoned. What am I, 20 and unemployed? Christ. Can a dude just get some weaker bud?
"Weaker" in the get-you-fried, and not the this-is-shitty-weed sense. But good luck, for now, scoring that mythical mid-level green. Indeed, there's a widening chasm in today's global marijuana yield--it's either Purple Haze, or reggies; the stickiest of sticky icky, exploding with deliciously plump crystals and generally looking good enough to eat, or ditch shwag. Not much of anything, really, in between. Pick a side.
But that could change. With both Washington State and Colorado taking the first steps into something like a post-prohibitive dawn, a growing chrous of sensible, savvy growers and potential users alike are pointing at what they say is sorely missing across the weed spectrum: low-potency, yet high-quality bud, the sort of product considered in a nice longtake by Emma Marris at Slate. Which brings us back to that pervasive THC fixation.
"This THC obsession," Marris writes, "has created a bimodal weed supply." She continues:
There’s the carefully bred marijuana, with excellent flavor and aroma and pleasing suite of effects—which are ridiculously, hallucinatory, time-stutteringly strong for a casual user. Then there’s ditch weed or Mexican brick weed. Sure, you can smoke it around the campfire until the stars go out, but it smells bad and tastes bad, and nobody is going to bother testing it or perfecting it.
That's because the analysts and grow-lab technicians that test marijauana must now keep up with meteorically THC'd weed, the big money-maker ever since potency became equated with quality. Not that it's a catastrophically bad thing, but for all intents and purposes this will all just keep getting higher and higher. As Todd Ellison, a longtime grower and co-founder of Colorado Marijuana Marketing, tells Marris, "Our potencies here are off the scale."
"When I was a kid you could just smoke a joint for awhile. Now you take two hits and you go insane."
So it's about effects. For serious stoners with heroic tolerances and a lot of spare time, by all means, crank the THC, good doctor. "They like it strong," Marris writes. Louis CK, on the other hand, doesn't. His remarks beginning around the 50-second mark in the above video can probably speak for a lot of casual users who just can't roll with mega-potent product.
What they could roll with--and what more and more of them are waiting around to pay good money for--is sweet-spot weed that hits an ideal, muscle-calming and creative "entourage effect" borne of varying mixtures of canabinoids and terpenes. It's a matter of complex chemistry, but also of a shift in thinking "as the industry matures with legalization and gets beyond its THC obsession," Marris adds.
Take myrcene, a terpene that's present in strains like White Dawg and also in mangoes. “We'll learn we like the 15 percent THC lemon haze with myrcene way more than the 20 percent THC lemon haze with no myrcene," Muraco Kyashna-tocha, director of the Evergreen State Cannabis Trade Alliance, tells Marris.
So yes, it's most certainly about effects. But it's also about making money, about business and, just maybe, about a coming Silicon Valley of Weed in the Rocky Mountain West. The elephant in the room here is a sizable untapped market of potential marijuana users craving something a bit milder, something not brimming with put-you-out THC counts. But so long as weed remains too good, that'll remain a pipe dream.
Reach Brian at email@example.com. @thebanderson