(Cannabist) To investigate the real-world effects of marijuana, however, researchers need a product that looks and feels like the real thing. And they’re increasingly frustrated with government weed that is something else entirely.
Don’t take their word for it. Sue Sisley, a researcher, just embarked on a first-of-its-kind clinical trial to test the efficacy of medical marijuana for military veterans suffering from PTSD. The government marijuana looks nothing like the commercial product. While the real stuff is chunky and dark green, the government weed is stringy and light in color. It appears to be full of stems, which most consumers don’t smoke.
“It doesn’t resemble cannabis. It doesn’t smell like cannabis,” Sisley told PBS NewsHour last week.
All federal marijuana is grown at a single facility at the University of Mississippi, overseen by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). Last summer the DEA formally took steps to allow other entities to supply marijuana for research purposes. So far, none have been approved.
The problems with the Mississippi weed go well beyond aesthetics.
For instance, the pot grown there maxes out, potency-wise, at about 13 percent THC (the main chemical that gets you high). And that might be an overstatement – Sisley’s own testing found that one of NIDA’s strains purported to be 13 percent THC was actually closer to 8 percent.
By comparison, the typical commercial weed available in Colorado is at about 19 percent THC, according to a laboratory that tests commercial marijuana in the state. And that’s just the average – some of the higher-end strains are pushing 30 percent THC or more.
For a researcher, it’s difficult to assess the real-world impact of high-end pot if you only have access to the low-quality stuff. It’s akin to investigating the effects of bourbon by giving people Bud Light.