Is there a downside to increasingly potent cannabis strains?

Published Nov 25, 2022 02:00 p.m. ET
iStock / David Gabrić

We’ve all heard about it – the seemingly never-ending trend of increasingly more potent cannabis strains and products. It’s no secret, the strongest cannabis on store shelves today is worlds away from the weed your grandparents toked in the 60s and ’70s, with four or more times the amount of THC the psychoactive cannabinoids responsible for the euphoric effects that are triggered after consuming products made from the plant.

To some, this news is great, as it means better more intense experiences are just around the corner, and easily accessible, but some experts fear this shift, as they’re expecting only the worst to happen. Here, we’d like to take a more balanced approach while looking at what this truly means for both consumers and anyone else who may be touched by the plant.

An ever-evolving scene

In the beginning, people smoked whatever they could find, and it sure wasn’t the premium product of today in any sense. To get to the point we are today, cultivators and extractors had to perfect their processes, cross-breed genetics, and spend many years playing a game of “hope for the best” to produce the most potent flower possible, something that, as far as we can tell, has always been in high demand.

As consumers craved more, producers did their best to oblige, practically breeding CBD and many other lesser-known elements out of existence with a sole focus on THC, the primary, and for many years, only truly understood or recognized cannabinoid produced by cannabis plants. Over time, it was inevitable for us to end up in this position, as weaker cultivars slowly faded into nothingness, replaced by superior genetics with more power than ever before.

That’s the power of consumer will and voices. It can literally change the future for entire plant species as it has for bananas, tomatoes, broccoli, and even cauliflower, all created by focusing on certain traits and amplifying them as much as possible. We, humans, have been doing this for hundreds of years to shape the world into the dream we all know and enjoy today.

Is this bad news for consumers?


Most enthusiasts are ecstatic to hear each time a potency record is broken, as it means a whole new experience awaits them if they so choose to walk that path, while some experts fear the potential negative effects it could have on consumers, with many pointing towards the enhanced risk of addiction. However, the majority would agree that cannabis and cannabinoids are not as addictive as some of the most common kitchen ingredients such as sugar or coffee, and that is especially true when consumers dabble in the experience on occasion instead of daily.

Bad things can happen when consumers use the strongest cannabis strains

The most potent cannabis strains may deliver a superior effect, in particular for those with a seasoned tolerance built up over years of use. However, those with little to no experience may end up dealing with adverse effects ranging in severity including:

  • Fear
  • Panic
  • Loss of motor function
  • Anxiety
  • Hallucinations
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea

It is also important to note that if consumers choose the strongest strains all of the time, their tolerance will only increase, making it more difficult for them to feel the same effects without delving into other high-dosed solutions. However, for the most part, potent weed isn’t necessarily something the average person really needs to worry about.

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