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Is “Dangerously Potent Pot” Making People “Lose Their Minds?”


If you only read the title of an article published by Newsweek last week and use cannabis, you might be worried. “MARIJUANA: WHY DANGEROUSLY POTENT POT IS MAKING PEOPLE LOSE THEIR MINDS AND MEMORIES,” the headline blared on their website.

They don’t even phrase it as a question. They present this phenomenon as a fact and have moved on to telling you why it’s happening. But when you delve into the article itself, you realize a few things:

  1. They cite a small study out of England that shows that cannabis has higher levels of THC than ever, something few pro-legalization activists would dispute. That creates the “dangerously potent pot” part of the headline.
  2. They cite a single study that purports to show that using cannabis that has higher levels of THC leads to an increased possibility of “psychiatric problems.” That’s where the “making people lose their minds” part comes in.
  3. They claim that strains that have higher levels of THC and lower levels of CBD increase this risk. While there have been studies that show CBD helps mitigate some of the more unwelcome side effects of THC – mainly the euphoric/anxious feeling – this is in no way “settled science.” In fact, the research into these areas is just getting started.

So in the end, what we have is something that is becoming more common in cannabis reporting:  a misleading, scary headline leading to an article filled with cherry-picked studies and conjecture.

And, of course, we can’t forget an inaccurate quote thrown in for good measure. “Because both THC and CBD are made from the same material in the plant, more of one means less of the other,” Amir Englund, an expert in cannabinoid psychopharmacology at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at King’s College London, told Newsweek. This would only be true if THC and CBD were the only 2 compounds in cannabis, which they are not.

Using this logic, if a strain has 30% THC and 10% CBD, then increasing the THC to 35% would lower the CBD level to 5% in the same strain. But it doesn’t work that way. If a strain has 10% of both, it can also have 20% of both, or 25% of one and 20% of the other, and so on. There are many compounds in cannabis, each with its own function and strength, a strength that can vary from strain to strain and can even vary in different harvests of the same strain.

What we have learned is something we should all know already: Don’t judge an article by its headline and always think for yourself, no matter what a seemingly trustworthy source has to say on the subject.