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Hemp Is Not Skunk Weed

For those initiated, in the UK skunk weed refers to any high THC marijuana derived from unpollinated cannabis, usually grown indoors. 

The name is popular with the UK media as a representation of how cannabis has changed over the last twenty to thirty years, as street dealers use THC levels as a yardstick for product quality and push out other types of marijuana in an effort to meet demand for skunk weed.

In 2016, 94% of UK police seizures of cannabis were of high potency skunk compared to just 51% in 2005.

This matters as THC is the compound in cannabis which gets you high, and more of it increases the likelihood of undesirable side effects. 

Along with the fact that higher THC is usually at the detriment of CBD, which is proven to counterbalance the adverse effects of THC.

cannabis leaves

Origins of Skunk Cannabis

Rapid improvements in growing technology in the 1990s led to the black market pivoting to high tech indoor grows, using hydroponics to grow seedless flower known as sensimilla without the need for soil.

The use of hydroponic setups opened up a new world of efficiency. 

By mimicking optimum conditions in terms of light, heat and nutrients 24/7, they were able to pump out harvests like never seen before. 

This, in combination with black market botanists breeding plants to prioritise THC genetics, and using female seeds obtained from this practice to grow cannabis.

Consequently, THC levels shot through the roof and the availability of high-quality cannabis flower became commonplace, at the expense of cannabis resin and low (1-6%) THC weed seen in the 60s and 70s, also often referred to as thai weed. 

hydroponics and cannabis
Hydroponics in action

Hemp vs Skunk vs Weed

The two major cannabinoids found in cannabis are THC and CBD. 

  • In skunk weed average THC potency is in 15-20% whereas CBD is <0.1%
  • In hemp average THC potency is between 0.2-0.3% whereas CBD is between 5-10%
  • Other cannabis such as Thai stick weed, THC potency is between 6-7% and CBD is thought to be 2-3%

While the mix of other cannabinoids and essential oils is similar across hemp and high THC cannabis, they are usually only found in trace amounts.

Products derived from hemp such as CBD oil only contain trace amounts of THC (or none at all depending on the exact product), and consequently you cannot get high from using them.

Common High THC Strains

Sativa strains are energising and the effects are felt more in the head than the body. Common high THC sativas include:

  • Stardawg
  • Durban Poison
  • Amnesia Haze

Indica strains offer a more traditional couch lock sort of high, and are the status quo of cannabis. High THC strains include:

  • Skywalker OG
  • Gorilla Glue
  • Hindu Kush

Skunk Cannabis and Drug Induced Psychosis

While Cannabis has been used for millennia and is the most widely used drug in the world, the magnitude of its effect on mental health has become a much larger global problem in the last 30 years.

A recent study concluded that the frequent use of high potency cannabis could increase the risk of developing drug-induced psychosis by 500%.

Although, the risk of cannabis psychosis is heavily weighted to individuals who are predisposed to suffer from mental illness, and as a result, it’s essential to work out who is most vulnerable and at risk. 

It’s also clear that increased THC potency is increases the likelihood of an episode. 

Researchers at Kings College London recently concluded that CBD could counteract the effects of THC. As skunk contains little or no CBD, the risk of psychosis jumps when compared to other forms of less potent Cannabis.

This aligns with previous research suggesting CBD has antipsychotic properties.