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Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Skunk Debunked?

Over the last few years, an almost separate debate has raged; like a hybrid version of the issue, Skunk has now taken the place of contention over cannabis.

Cannabis was downgraded from class B to C in 2004, but was moved back to class B in 2008, due to the “new breed of cannabis” - the “super strength cousin” - namely, Skunk.  The potency of Skunk was suggested to be three or four times stronger than that of cannabis.

Dr. Ben Goldacre has played an intrinsic part in debunking the Skunk myths; his piece in Bad Science repudiated the now infamous Independent piece that retracted their calls for cannabis regulation.  Please see here for Dr. Goldacre’s work on debunking the potency myths.

It is perhaps western arrogance personified that we proclaim cannabis botany has progressed in a few years of domestic cultivation when eastern countries have thousands of years to show for their production of the plant.

Debra Bell - a prohibitionist campaigner - only talks in terms of Skunk and the high potency.  This directly from her site:

"It is not the same stuff as you may have smoked at college in the 60s, 70s, and 80s and can have devastating effects on the young.THC (the chemical that gives the high) has increased in the new super-strength cousin of cannabis – sinsemilla (called ‘skunk’ because of its pungent smell). Average THC in skunk is 16%, sometimes more. This is much higher than the herb (1-3%) and the resin (4-6%)    Another chemical present in cannabis is cannabidiol (CBD), occurring in negligible amounts in the stronger strains. CBD is thought to contain anti-psychotic properties, counteracting the effects of THC. Smaller amounts in skunk may account for the commonly reported psychotic reactions.Interestingly, CBD appears to have been virtually bred out of skunk, which may account for the devastating effects we are seeing, especially among the young."

Interestingly, the opening paragraphs seem to indicate that, yes indeed, the cannabis of yesteryear was relatively harmless.  So why do we have the perceived super strength cousin, and why did the government reclassify solely on the the higher potency of Skunk?  Skunk now justifies all actions within media and government circles.

It is very interesting, however, that on the 4th of April 2011; in a Written answers and Statement, Charles Walker MP asked:

“…what the average THC content of seized skunk cannabis was in the latest period for which figures are available; what the average THC content of cannabis seizures was (a) five, (b) 10 and (c) 20 years ago”

Given the dangerous potency of Skunk, this is an exemplary question.  The answer given by James Brokenshire is interesting:

The latest data from the Forensic Science Service Ltd (FSS) show that the average tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content of mature flowering tops from plants, otherwise known as sinsemilla, seized and submitted to the FSS from the 1 January 2008 to the present day was 14.0%. By comparison, during the same period, the average THC content of traditional imported cannabis and cannabis resin was 12.5% and 5.5% respectively.
Information on average THC levels of cannabis available in the UK prior to 2008 is available in the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs 2008 report 'Cannabis: Classification and Public Health', which can be found on the Home Office website via the following link:

This summarises data available at that time, including FSS data from 1995 to 2007 and data from the Home Office's Cannabis Potency Study 2008, published by the Home Office Scientific Development Branch. Information on average THC levels of cannabis prior to 1995 is not available.”

So, we have no information on the THC potency prior to 1995.

As with David Cameron’s statement in the Al-Jazeer interview regarding his “very very toxic” comments (as documented by Peter Reynolds), the Prime Minister also made reference to the high potency of modern day cannabis.  Once more, no evidence is available to substantiate the claims.

Don’t be fooled, we do not have super strength strains, we simply have good quality and bad quality.  The government & media’s version of Skunk is simply a marketing campaign.  Skunk is also known as “street weed” - badly cultivated cannabis that has been harvested too early, has not been flushed correctly thus meaning growing chemicals still are present.  The balance of cannabinoids are incorrect, and often the cannabis is cut with harder drugs, glass, or better known as “grit weed”.

Consequently, I would like to place it on record; the government has no evidence for the claims of higher potency cannabis, or “Skunk”.


  1. Holy shit! That is immense, they are well and truly caught out! hahahaha!! Love it, really love it!

  2. You've got them bang to bloody rights there mate, you really have. There is no way you can claim something is evidence when there are no figures to justify it, WTF?!! Lying sods. You and Ben Goldacre, bloody legends I tell thee.

  3. Good article!

  4. My my my, one by one we're breaking them down and killing their propaganda machine! AT LAST, we have citations that dispels the higher potency theory. They can't get away with this, it's immoral to govern in such a way.

    Thank you so so much Outlaw for your vigilance, you have nailed them on this one I agree.

    At no point can you profess, proclaim, preach and justify your actions on the basis of non information. It's wrong. It's lying by any other name.

  5. What can I say? I love your work Mr Outlaw, Jason, you're a f88king legend mate. For years, this one has bugged the hell out of me. The media's interpretation of skunk and super strength is plain wrong. Sure, we play around with potency, but it's the same principle as alcohol units, you have high grade, you take less. Skunk is pure rubbish. Thank god you've put this together so I can say "up yours" whenever I have to argue the points. This is a keeper!!!!!

  6. Very nice work my young friend, you have a very large and sharp point there. It matters not that they can speculate on strength, it only matters what they can prove. And they can't prove a damn thing. Shocking stuff, really is.

  7. Fanbloodytastic! I love you Outlaw mucker, you bloody star, I knew this was all bullshit, now I can officially call it. "I CALL BULLSHIT"
    You and Ben Goldacre, when you teaming up? You two would have this sorted in no time at all!!!!

    Luv from that forum guy, you'll know I'm sure. ;)

  8. if the problem can be avoided by regulation, then the problem is one caused by no regulation ! its the side effects of no regulation and prohibition we are given as examples and reasons to implement more prohibition with the notion it will solve the problem caused by no regulation and prohibition , i call on all to ask them prohibitionists to give you a reason why cannabis is bad thats not a lie , side effect of prohibition or of no regulation , it will make them lose it or highligh their ignorance and stupidity

    peas jw

  9. one of several skunk psychosis study reports asked for in 2008 to be ready in 2010 , the regulation supporting conclusion cracks me up


    The antagonistic effects of cannabidiol at the CB1 receptor are probably responsible for its profile in smoked cannabis, attenuating the memory-impairing effects of THC. In terms of harm reduction, users should be made aware of the higher risk of memory impairment associated with smoking low-cannabidiol strains of cannabis like ‘skunk’ and encouraged to use strains containing higher levels of cannabidiol."


  10. Get me going about the "science" used to monitor cannabis!

    The Home Office potency study a few years ago was almost laughable in the way it collected data. It's important to remember that garbage in = garbage out

    The way strength and potency is talked about is also misleading, it's an issue worth getting our collective heads around

    Weak cannabis can be potent, strong cannabis can be low potency.

  11. Nice one Jason; I can feel another letter coming on. I wrote to Jackie Smith on the subject sometime back; She sent a copy of the Report of the AMCD which contained a reference to higher strength cannabis and no detail; I have been considering writing again as I had heard the latest report disproved the extra strong skunk bull***t: The original letter is too long to put up in this reply, so I will try putting it as a separate reply if that doesn't work I shall put it on the LCA letter writers page then set about doing a new letter.

  12. All good, liked the last paragraph.

    Been trying to get 'em to understand a regulated industry is required so cannabis is quality controlled as to maturity, have said, this is why the Institute of Psychiatry found little or no CBD in the Skunk they researched, yeah, because it was cropped at point of diminishing returns when bud isn't ripe and Trichomes are all clear, were they to test a properly matured and cured Skunk plant bud with Trichomes at around %40 amber from milky opaque, they'd find CBD, lowish percentage, but they'd find it and enough to round off effects.

    Prohibition is directly responsible for immature cannabis being predominantly available for public consumption via cashcroppers who crop far too early for whatever reasons, whether they don’t care, don’t know and crop as soon as they see something saleable but don’t bother to ensure it is ripe cannabis, usually a couple of weeks too early for most commercial strains, obviously slightly longer with longer flowering strains/hybrids, because there are no regulations as to point when plants are to be cropped, ensuring product meant for general sale is cropped when trichomes are %30-50 amber, not clear, then cured for around 6 weeks, then product is fine for general use.

    If people want product with more raw THC, they grow it themselves as a preference or an unripe product could be in minimal stock and requested as not everybody has adverse symptoms with raw THC complex, some in fact prefer it, but many do have adverse effects and that is the main reason, unripe and uncured product, wouldn't happen if there was a regulated industry, would it, with spot checks on vendors stock simply using a jewellers loupe to check the trichomes.

    Simple, but too ruddy complex for these prohibitionists who seem to think theirs is the sum of all knowledge but profess on something they really don’t have much of a clue about, that is blatantly obvious as they regurgitate propaganda and misconceptions as though they know everything about cannabis, in reality, they are not knowledgeable at all and fail to understand jack.

    Cannabis is not like chemical drugs like speed, mix chemicals to ratio and ye've got the drug, not like Cocaine or Heroin, where alkaloids are extracted from leaves or Opium resin doesn't produce unless at a certain ripeness, cannabis is maturity dependant and plants need to mature unless somebody specifically wants raw THC for it's speedy effects etc, outside of those with a preference for raw THC, all should be mature at point of cropping the cured.

    All cannabis has CBD at point of maturity without exception, even the most potent equatorial Sativa’s will have CBD albeit low as having greater ratio of THC delta complex and Terpenoids usually a high ratio of THCv/delta 6, that is a fact, some low, some high levels of CBD to THC's ratio, but all cannabis plants contain CBD at maturity, if they find negligible or none when tested it merely indicates the plants were unripe when cropped and likely dried and sold rather than cured.

    No such thing as Skunk not containing CBD like some have tried to assert, what that means is they tested cannabis which is immature, all clear trichomes and that, is a problem prohibition causes DIRECTLY.

    Peace. : )

  13. i dont believe modern cannabis hybrids(skunk)are all that exceptional compared to the classic landrace cannabis(colombian,mexican,jamaican and thai)the only difference really is that the modern hybrids are grown locally and havent degraded like the old commercial grasses had. buds would be packed in boxes(shader leaves, stems, seeds,kitchen sink etc) and would be cured/dried in transit.the thc in these would have degraded significantly by the time the consumer got it.whenever seeds from these grasses were grown the smoke was always stronger than the grass you had it from,some of the mexican was 1 toke grass even though it was grown locally,this was 20 years ago and i still havent smoked anything in the last ten years to touch it.btw ive smoked cannabis for 22 years and never had psychosis. i feel left

  14. Fully agree with all said. Good collection of comments too. How can they get away with this? Where's the news reporting on this kind of travesty?

  15. I'd say you've got them hook line and sinker mate. Skunk is just a gimmick, we could all go into the genetics of it and be boring, but you've won this argument outlaw. As said, you can't proclaim something when there are no facts of figures to back it up, that's not how it works!

  16. Hi Jason just wanted to point out that cannabis got back to class B and not class C as stated in your article, Thanks for the interesting facts nice post!

  17. Thank you for the comments, there'll be a few follow up posts to this blog as there have been some great contributors to the potency discussion, namely UKCIA, Phil Walsh and Transform.

    Also, thank you very much for pointing out my error Anonymous, you're right. Typo, sorry! Well done for noticing! Thanks again! :-)

  18. I should say you've scored a bullseye there my friend.

  19. Skunk is a non starter of an issue and it's with actual credit to the spinners of the issue politically. There's no doubt they did a good job in marketing this myth.

    Outlaw - THANK YOU for this find. Good vigilance on this, sure, we all know it, but to actually have the proof that they are speculating is invaluable.

  20. Nice find, for ages now this has bugged the hell out of me. Saying Skunk accounts for all cannabis is like saying we now term cars as BMW's. It's generic madness.

  21. How can they blatantly lie like this?!


  22. Saw you on the news and thought I'd thank you for your work in trying to put things straight. You clearly know what you're talking about and deserve a medal for all you've clearly done. xxxXXX

  23. I just have to say that you should probably change the bit near the end where it is claimed that cannabis is often cut with harder drugs. This is very rare for dealers to do since it would cost them more and doesn't make economic sense. Most claims of people saying their weed has been laced are unfounded. It doesn't help to spread misinformation like the media, even if it would help our cause