Research: Cannabis

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Cannabis potency

Potency Monitoring Program, a project led by the US National Institute on Drug Abuse, reports1 that the average amount of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC: the plant’s main psychoactive component) in cannabis almost quadrupled over the last 25 years, mainly due to US growers selecting more potent strains. In the same period, CBD concentrations haven’t changed in a meaningful manner.

This observation is in line with a 2020 study2 that examined the cannabis potency trends in the USA, UK, Netherlands, France, Denmark, Italy and New Zealand – finding that THC concentrations have increased by 0.29% p.a. in herbal cannabis and by 0.57% p.a. in cannabis resin between 1970 and 2017. Meanwhile, there was no evidence of change in CBD concentrations in herbal cannabis or cannabis resin.

Legalization of cannabis in Canada: Mixed Results

In October 2018, recreational use of cannabis was legalized in Canada with the primary objectives of improving cannabis-related public health and safety, reducing youth access to cannabis, and reducing cannabis-related crime and illegal markets. A recent commentary article3 published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal claims that available evidence (after five years of policy implementation) suggests that outcomes related to health – such as the prevalence of cannabis use, cannabis-related emergency department visits, admissions to hospital and cannabis-impaired driving – have mostly increased or remained steady. However, substantial reductions in criminal arrests, cannabis use related charges, stigma and other personal burdens could be noted as positive social justice outcomes.

Cannabis use in Germany

Based on the Epidemiological Survey on Substance Abuse findings, the prevalence of past 12-month cannabis users has increased from 4.4% in 1995 to 10.0% in 2021 in Germany4. Extrapolating the historical trends, the prevalence in 2024 is expected to range between 10.4 and 15.0%.


  1. ↩︎
  2. Changes in delta‐9‐tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) concentrations in cannabis over time: systematic review and meta‐analysis – Freeman – 2021 – Addiction – Wiley Online Library ↩︎
  3. cmaj-195-E1351.pdf ↩︎
  4. Trends and projection in the proportion of (heavy) cannabis use in Germany from 1995 to 2021 – Olderbak – Addiction – Wiley Online Library ↩︎

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