The science of THC potency of pot.


July 21, 2017

It’s a challenge that has tested parents for generations:
How do you warn your teens about risky behaviors that you may have engaged in when you were their age? When it comes to marijuana, the key may be the science of THC potency.

Smart Colorado has launched an educational campaign focused on Facebook, a social media site that’s likely to be used by both parents and their teen children.

“The scientific research is clear that marijuana can permanently harm teens’ developing brains,” said Henny Lasley, executive director of Smart Colorado.  “These skyrocketing THC potencies raise the stakes considerably for adolescents. Our educational effort is designed to give parents – including those who have used marijuana – the tools to start a conversation online or in person with their teen children about the very real dangers of today’s ultra-potent marijuana.”
Levels of THC, the chemical in marijuana responsible for most of its psychoactive effects, have been growing exponentially as marijuana has been commercialized in Colorado. THC potency averaged just 3.7% THC in the early 1990s.  Parents may recall the nicknames for the low-potency pot of earlier eras: ditch weed, schwag, brick weed. Average potency of flowers/buds in Colorado is now 17.1 percent, according to state research. But marijuana industry websites say strains can reach 30 percent. Concentrates average 62.1 percent but potency rates of up to 95 percent have been recorded, the state reports. Dabbing – heating nearly pure THC concentrates known as wax or shatter with a blowtorch and inhaling the vapor through a dab rig – is increasingly popular. It’s been called the “crack” of pot and “for the first time it seems possible to ‘overdose’ on cannabis,” says marijuana industry website Leafly.The Smart Colorado campaign features a compelling new video that describes the risks ultra-potent marijuana poses to teens.  It specifically highlights dabbing and features insightful interviews with a high school student, his mother, a prosecutor and an adolescent addiction specialist, among others. Watch the video below or view it on Youtube.

Smart Colorado notes that Gov. John Hickenlooper this year told a reporter for “When you’re a teenager, your brain is growing very, very rapidly. The high-THC marijuana we have is so intense in the way it affects your synapses and those parts of your brain that literally every brain scientist I’ve talked to feels there’s a very high probability that, even if you only smoke once a week, this high-THC marijuana, if you’re a teenager, it will take a sliver of your long-term memory forever. That doesn’t come back in two weeks or three weeks. Your brain is growing so fast that the synapses don’t connect so you can’t retrieve information that you remembered.”

We encourage you to check out this campaign and give us your feedback.  Does it provide new information that you find useful in talking to teens, parents or others about today’s highly potent marijuana?


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About Smart Colorado

Smart Colorado is a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to protecting the health, safety, and well-being of Colorado youth as marijuana becomes increasingly available and commercialized. Smart Colorado is a project of the Colorado Nonprofit Development Center. To learn more about Smart Colorado, please visit:

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