Updated at 5:10 p.m. ET
For years, researchers have been complaining: This is some schwag.
Since marijuana is still illegal under federal law, scientists who want to study the drug in their labs have to get it from a government-licensed facility at the University of Mississippi. Such has been the arrangement for decades. And in that time, the weed you can buy on the street and now in legal dispensaries has become way stronger.
This is a longstanding problem. A new paper out in Scientific Reports finally puts some numbers on exactly how bad it is.
When it comes to THC, the chemical that gets you high in marijuana, the government-grown ones averaged around 5 percent. Strains from dispensaries in four cities—Denver, Oakland, Sacramento, and Seattle—averaged from 15 to 20 percent.
Levels of cannabidiol or CBD, a chemical in marijuana that isn’t psychoactive but is increasingly considered medically important, also varied quite a bit. The government’s averaged out to 6 percent, while the dispensaries’ strains ranged from an average of 8 to 13 percent.
Do you want to study what happens when patients smoke weed with four times as much THC as what’s available in government-issued stuff? You’re probably out of luck. The authors conclude, “this mismatch between what the public is using and what is available to researchers limits scientific study on the potential harms or benefits.” Other researchers have also raised questions about mold contamination in the government’s supply.