June 03, 2021 4 min read
Since smoking pot hit the mainstream and marijuana legalization is more widespread than ever, it may be difficult to imagine a time when stoners were marginalized and ganja was hard to come by. There are many differences in smoking weed in the past vs now. These are just a few.
It’s well known that marijuana is stronger now than it was in the past. Since high THC content is prized by stoners, cultivators select plants for their potency. This is thanks to legalization, which allows cannabis growers in legal states to experiment with genetics and potency freely, whereas in the past, most people had to hide their grows and smoked whatever they could get.
Many potheads today dream of living the hippie life of the 60s and 70s, where people blazed while rocking out to Jimi Hendrix and promoted peace and love. But how strong was weed in the past? There’s no way to know exactly how strong the ganja was prior to 1972 and the inception of the U.S. government’s Potency Monitoring Program, which tested seized marijuana. The average THC level was just 3-4%, however it’s important to note that the sample size was not very large and many of the tests were conducted months or longer after the herb was harvested.
A study published in 2016 fromBiological Psychiatry compared the THC level of marijuana samples seized by the DEA between 1995 and 2014. It was concluded that the average potency increased year over year from roughly 4% THC in 1995 to around 12% by the end of the study. Today, high quality marijuana from a dispensary is typically around 20% THC, with high THC strains having roughly 30%. A balanced CBD/THC strain will have under 15% THC and CBD respectively.
Prior to cannabis legalization in the U.S., most marijuana came to the states illegally from Mexico, Colombia, and later Canada. It was very poor quality with low THC content, which is why you often see images of hippies from the 60s and 70s smoking giant foot-long joints to get high. Called “brick weed”, this type of pot was usually filled mainly with leaves, stems, and seeds, most of which were still added to joints and smoked. After Ronald Reagan cracked down on marijuana during the War on Drugs in the 80s, it was difficult to get Latin American herb into the country and hash became the cannabis product that was more readily available. While many U.S. states have legalized marijuana and dispensaries are abundant, there is still high demand for black market pot due to its cheap price. Most recently, the 2018 Farm Bill legalized hemp cultivation, which generated a new market, CBD. This cannabinoid can be derived from legal hemp, making it permissible across the U.S.
Dabbing cannabis concentrates may seem like a new phenomena, however it has been around in a similar form for quite some time. The term dabbing refers to smoking solvent-based cannabis extracts like wax, budder, shatter, crumble, rosin, or hash oil. Unlike smoking marijuana, which can be done using a normal lighter, dabs need to vaporize and require specialized equipment like a vape or a dab rig with a quartz banger that can withstand the extreme temperatures of a dab torch. While dabbing has become extremely popular in recent years, it has been around since the 1800s, when marijuana extracts were sold in pharmacies as an oral herbal tonic. The cannabis concentrates of the 1970s were more similar to today since they used alcohol and activated charcoal as a solvent to create “honey oil”. One of the earliest and most detailed accounts of hash oil is from author Michael Starks, who wrote the bookMarijuana Chemistry: Genetics Processing and Potency,which notes extraction methods, equipment, solvents, and purification processes. This has paved the way for today’s advanced solventless extraction methods, flavor-enhanced distillates, and high terpene full spectrum extracts (HTFSE’s) that are currently making waves in the 710 community.
The invention of the dab rig closed loop system and the cannabis concentrate budder is credited to a Canadian pothead, who goes by the name Budderking. He invented a device to smoke this new extract in 2005, which is a basic version of the modern dab rig. With the easier way to smoke concentrates, dabbing caught on and by 2010, hash oil was entered into theHigh Times Cannabis Cup and sold at dispensaries.
Today, it’s common to see people puffing away on their sleek vape pens or high-tech portable dab rigs, but that wasn’t always the case. In the golden age of pot, hippies would roll dry herb in cigarette papers, which didn’t function as well as today’s slow burning rolling papers. Hippies from the 60s and 70s mainly smoked joints or tobacco with sprinkles of marijuana, but also used basic glass bongs, hand pipes, and chillums, also called a one hitter. There was no such thing as a percolator bong (imagine those harsh, stem-filled rips). Instead those who wanted an upgrade smoked out of a power hitter or a toke stone.
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