Issue In Focus
The new Monitoring the Future Survey results for 2013 were released recently.
In discussing the new data in a video released on YouTube, Dr. Nora Volkow, the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, said this: “If we compare the numbers that were, for example, in 2000 regular users, and now in 2013, we have seen increases in those numbers. But in 2000, at the 2000 level of 9 THC was at least half of the levels that we observe now, at least half. So that means that not just were there less kids taking the drug regularly, but even those that were taking it regularly were taking a much less potent drug.”
It almost sounded like she was asserting that THC levels have doubled but that's not what she said. She did definitely assert that in 2000, cannabis was much less potent.
The short version of this report is, she was wrong. This isn't just some political hack, or an uninformed blogger. She's the director of the government's National Institute on Drug Abuse, she's supposed to be the government's science person on drugs. That's not acceptable.
Let's look at what's known. These data are available through drugwarfacts.org, in the marijuana section, where you can find a table of average THC levels of seized samples of cannabis as reported by the University of Mississippi's Potency Monitoring Project.
These are the only data on this, they're the same data Nora Volkow has. The Project stopped testing domestic samples a few years ago, the last domestic cannabis data are from 2010. Samples of non-domestic cannabis – imports from Mexico, Jamaica, Canada, and so many other countries – continue to be tested, but only preliminary data for 2012 are currently available.
Average THC potencies are given for two grades of cannabis: low-end commercial grade – what they call simply “marijuana” - and high-end sinsemilla-type cannabis. The overall combined average they report includes a few samples of ditchweed, so we'll stick with specific data for “marijuana” and “sinsemilla”, and since 2010 is the last year with domestic data, we'll use it for comparison.
In 2000, non-domestic commercial grade marijuana averaged 5.10% THC. The non-domestic sinsemilla type averaged 12.87%. Domestic commercial grade marijuana averaged 3.96% THC, and domestic sinsemilla type averaged 12.72%.
In 2010, non-domestic commercial grade marijuana averaged 6.69% THC. Non-domestic sinsemilla type averaged 12.81% THC. Domestic commercial grade marijuana averaged 2.79% THC, and domestic sinsemilla type averaged 11.84%.
So only one category shows an increase in average potency from 2000 to 2010 is for non-domestic commercial grade cannabis – an increase of 31%, going from 5.1 to 6.69% THC. The others all show decreases, in fact the average THC of domestic commercial grade dropped by 29.5%.
There are fluctuations: In 2011, the average THC in non-domestic commercial marijuana was down to 5.6%, the average for non-domestic sinsemilla type was 13.47%. They stopped testing domestic samples in 2010, remember, and for what it's worth those numbers were much lower in 2009, when domestic commercial averaged 2.43% THC and domestic sinsemilla type averaged only 7.37%.
So, Nora Volkow's statement? Maybe not a flatout lie, but inaccurate and misleading at best. The point is, don't just trust authority. Always question, always check, and the fact-checker's best friend is Drug War Facts. Eventually, hopefully, we'll get complete potency data for 2012, and when that's available, you'll find it at drugwarfacts.org.
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Notable New Facts
(Drug Offenders in US Prisons 2012)
Federal: On Dec. 31, 2012, there were 196,574 sentenced prisoners under federal jurisdiction. Of these, 99,426 were serving time for drug offenses, 11,688 for violent offenses, 11,568 for property offenses, and 72,519 for "public order" offenses (of which 23,700 were sentenced for immigration offenses, 30,046 for weapons offenses, and 17,633 for "other").
State: On Dec. 31, 2011, there were 1,341,797 sentenced prisoners under state jurisdiction. Of these, 222,738 were serving time for drug offenses, of whom 55,013 were merely convicted for possession. There were also 717,861 serving time for violent offenses, 249,574 for property offenses, 142,230 for "public order" offenses (which include weapons, drunk driving, court offenses, commercialized vice, morals and decency offenses, liquor law violations, and other public-order offenses), and 9,392 for "other/unspecified".
Source: E. Ann Carson and Daniela Golinelli, "Prisoners in 2012: Trends in Admissions and Releases, 1991-2012" (Washington, DC: US Dept. of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics, Dec. 2013), NCJ243920, Table 5, p. 3, and Appendix Table 10, p. 43.
(US Population Under Community Supervision Declining) "During 2012, the number of adults under community supervision declined for the fourth consecutive year. At yearend 2012, an estimated 4,781,300 adults were under community supervision, down 40,500 offenders from the beginning of the year (figure 1). About 1 in 50 adults in the United States was under community supervision at yearend 2012. The community supervision population includes adults on probation, parole, or any other post-prison supervision. (See BJS definition of probation and parole.)
"The decline in the total number of adults under community supervision is attributed to the drop in the probation population as probationers accounted for the majority (82%) of adults under community supervision. The decline of 38,300 offenders in the probation population (from an estimated 3,981,000 to 3,942,800) accounted for about 95% of the decline in the overall community supervision population. The parole population declined by about 500 offenders during 2012, falling from an estimated 851,700 to 851,200."
Source: Laura M. Maruschak and Thomas P. Bonczar, "Probation and Parole in the United States, 2012" (Washington, DC: US Dept. of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics, December 2012), NCJ243826, p. 1.
"Any Illicit Drug. The index of any illicit drug use tends to be driven by marijuana, which is by far the most prevalent of the many illicitly used drugs. In 2013, the proportions of students indicating any use of an illicit drug in the prior 12 months are 15 percent, 32 percent, and 40 percent in grades 8, 10 and 12, respectively—higher than a year ago by 1.5, 1.6 and 0.6 percentage points for the same grades (only the change at 8th grade is statistically significant). For the three grades combined, the rate is up by 1.3 percentage points, also a statistically significant increase. The percentages indicating any use in their lifetime are 20 percent, 39 percent and 50 percent. In other words, half of America's high school seniors have tried an illicit drug by the time they graduate and four in 10 have used it in just the past year.
"But it should also be noted that fully half of today's seniors have not tried an illicit drug by the end of high school," said Lloyd Johnston, the principal investigator of the study.
Source: Johnston, L. D., O'Malley, P. M., Bachman, J. G., & Schulenberg, J. E. (December 18, 2013). "American teens more cautious about using synthetic drugs." University of Michigan News Service: Ann Arbor, MI, p. 2.
"Originally approved for use in the treatment of opioid dependence by the United States Food and Drug administration (FDA) in 1984, naltrexone is a competitive μ-opioid receptor antagonist with negligible agonist effects, blocking euphoric and physiological effects of opioid agonists.11,12 Naltrexone does not cause the development of dependence or tolerance over time, and dosing cessation does not result in withdrawal.13
"Orally dosed naltrexone is subject to first pass metabolism, where it is converted to active (6-β naltrexol) and inactive metabolites.14 First-pass metabolism of orally dosed naltrexone is high, evidenced by the peak dose of naltrexone and its metabolites 1 hour after oral dosing.15 Serum half-life for chronic oral administration is approximately 10 hours.15 The half-life, when compared to naloxone, another μ-opioid antagonist, is longer, and naltrexone is able to block the agonist effects of other opioids for 48 hours.16 Oral dosing is accomplished by either 50 mg daily dosing or three times weekly dosing with two 100 mg doses and one 150 mg dose."
Source: Kjome, Kimberly L. and Moeller, F. Gerard, "Long-Acting Injectable Naltrexone for the Management of Patients with Opioid Dependence," Substance Abuse: Research and Treatment 2011:5 1–9, doi: 10.4137/SART.S5452.
Notable New Sources
E. Ann Carson and Daniela Golinelli, "Prisoners in 2012: Trends in Admissions and Releases, 1991-2012" (Washington, DC: US Dept. of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics, Dec. 2013), NCJ243920, Table 5, p. 3, and Appendix Table 10, p. 43.
Laura M. Maruschak and Thomas P. Bonczar, "Probation and Parole in the United States, 2012" (Washington, DC: US Dept. of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics, December 2012), NCJ243826, p. 1.
Johnston, L. D., O'Malley, P. M., Bachman, J. G., & Schulenberg, J. E. (December 18, 2013). "American teens more cautious about using synthetic drugs." University of Michigan News Service: Ann Arbor, MI, p. 2.
Kjome, Kimberly L. and Moeller, F. Gerard, "Long-Acting Injectable Naltrexone for the Management of Patients with Opioid Dependence," Substance Abuse: Research and Treatment 2011:5 1–9, doi: 10.4137/SART.S5452.
Walmsley, Roy, "World Prison Population List (Tenth Edition)" (Kings College, London, England: International Centre for Prison Studies, 2013), p. 1.
Check out the new Drug Policy Facts podcast! You can download and subscribe from
Drug Truth Network Radio segments:
Full half-hour news programs:
Century Of Lies, 12/15/13, White House drug policy conference http://www.drugtruth.net/cms/node/4647
3-minute news segments:
420 News, 12/1/13, Interviews with Ethan Nadelmann and Neill Franklin: http://www.drugtruth.net/cms/node/4627
420 News, 12/7/13, MDMA, Emergency Room Visits, and Young People: http://www.drugtruth.net/cms/node/4640
420 News, 12/27/13, New Monitoring the Future survey http://www.drugtruth.net/cms/node/4662
420 News, 12/30/13, Correcting NIDA Director Nora Volkow http://www.drugtruth.net/cms/node/4667
Doug McVay is also a regular blogger at CelebStoner dot com.