What is Skunk?
Skunk was the name given to one of the first cannabis cultivars developed for indoor cultivation. (A cultivar is an assemblage of plants selected for a particular attribute or combination of attributes that is clearly distinct, uniform and stable in those characteristics and that, when propagated by appropriate means, retains those characteristics.) Skunk’s characteristics were the production of multiple flower tops and high THC levels (see below).
The term ‘Skunk’ is now applied generically to any herbal cannabis that has been cultivated indoors with the help of artificial light. Not all of the cannabis grown indoors will contain high levels of THC. The levels of THC produced will depend on the strain of cannabis cultivated (there are hundreds of varieties) and the methods of cultivation used.
Is Skunk Stronger than the Cannabis that was smoked in the 1960s?
Several luminaries from the 1960s have slammed ‘skunk’ in the press over recent years for being dangerously different to what was smoked back in the good old days. The Daily Mail suggested that today’s cannabis is twenty five times stronger than it was a decade ago. Rosie Boycott claimed it was 30 times stronger. In fact, herbal cannabis with similar levels of THC was available in the 1970s: the only notable difference is that high potency cannabis used to only be available from places like Thailand, and now it can be produced at home. According to the scientific data available, the average THC level of domestically cultivated cannabis is twice as high now as the cannabis cultivated domestically in the seventies and eighties but no higher than THC levels that could be found in imported varieties in previous decades.
In its analysis of several skunk scare stories, Transform Drug Policy Foundation (TDPF), pointed out that an almost identical “misleading potency panic took place in the US in the late 1980’s”.
If it isn’t Stronger than Cannabis Available in the Sixties, Then Why All The Fuss?
Home Office data suggests that the UK cannabis market is now dominated by domestically cultivated cannabis and so it may be easier to obtain cannabis with high THC levels today than it was in earlier decades. Home Office data suggests that is now more difficult to obtain hashish (which generally has lower amounts of THC and higher amounts of CBD) than it used to be. THC is the primary psychoactive ingredient of cannabis and the fact that more people appear to be smoking more of it has been the source for a great deal of media hype.
What are THC and CBD?
THC and CBD are two of the sixty cannabinoids known to exist in cannabis. The role played by the various cannibanoids remains poorly understood by scientists. THC is regarded as the most important cannabinoid, mainly on account of the fact that it is consistently present in greater quantities than any of the other cannabinoids. THC has been studied more than other cannabinoids but our understanding of its effects on the brain remains limited and the way the various cannabinoids relate to each other even more so. CBD is now receiving more attention as a result of reports on its potential anti-psychotic properties.
Does Cannabis Cause Psychosis?
Only a small minority of people who smoke cannabis (including those who smoke large quantities) develop psychoses. It is not clear whether they develop psychoses as a result of their cannabis smoking, smoke as a result of their psychoses, or whether there is in fact any causal relationship whatsoever between cannabis and psychosis. Despite media alarm over the rise in the number of cannabis smokers (An Epidemic of Cannabis-Induced Psychosis), the number of new cases of schizophrenia does not support the hypothesis that cannabis increases the risk of developing schizophrenia.