Local law enforcement and a marijuana dispensary employee disagree about the THC timeline.
“Modern weed is not your Woodstock weed,” said Pueblo County Sheriff Kirk Taylor, refering to the 1969 music festival. “Weed at Woodstock had 3 to 6 percent THC.”
Tetrahydrocannabinol levels in modern Colorado marijuana can hit 20 or 30 percent, he said, while THC levels in edibles vary. Hash oil and shatter can reach levels up to 90 percent. Shatter is a marijuana concentrate that resembles a honey-colored glass. Hash oil is made when oil is extracted from cannabis.
“Because the THC is so high, Colorado weed is in huge, high demand,” Taylor said. “We are at the point where everyone wants Colorado weed.”
People who want a product with high THC levels may go to drastic measures to obtain it, he said.
“An armed robbery recently happened in the county because he wanted shatter,” Taylor said. “Shatter is up to six times higher in potency than marijuana.”
Undersheriff JR Hall argues that high THC levels can be harmful.
“THC is known to cause an increase in psychosis,” he said. “This can be dangerous for law enforcement. Marijuana isn’t calming for everyone.”
According to a CNN article published in August 2013, Mahmoud ElSohly, the director of the Marijuana Potency Project at the University of Mississippi, said THC levels have risen.
“Since 1972, ElSohly says, the average THC content of marijuana has soared from less than 1% to 3 to 4% in the 1990s, to nearly 13% today,” the CNN article stated.
Colorado State University Pueblo did not have a scientist to speak about THC, and the University of Colorado Boulder did not respond to THC questions by press time.
Michael Lemon, a pro-marijuana advocate and a budtender at The Spot in Pueblo West, said high-potency weed products aren’t new.
“Hash that’s 60 percent pure has been around for 10,000 years,” he said. “The Marinol pill is 100 percent THC, and that’s been around for 30 years.”
Lemon said THC statistics from the Woodstock era are skewed.
“A large portion of what’s included in the (past) national data is feral hemp,” he said. “. . . Today’s recreational market in Colorado is the only market that’s testing all of the products going to the consumer, rather than what gets found, confiscated, lab tested for a court trial.”
There is currently no limit to how much THC is in a product, but backers of a former proposed ballot measure spent time trying to cap it at 16 percent.
The measure won’t make it to ballots this November, however. The proposal was cancelled because the backers didn’t think they had enough funds to advertise it,
Lemon said an initiative such as this would have negative impacts on the marijuana business.
“Huge portions of the industry would immediately vanish if it passed. . . . They would have to start fresh, destroy everything they have now, find genetics that produce an allowable amount of THC. It would really hit the reset button on the Colorado marijuana industry,” he said.