Would that actually occur if cannabis became legal? As prohibition creates a market for previously unheard-of medicines that may be marketed as marijuana-like, the drug market expands. Synthetic cannabinoids are commonly referred in the media as “fake pot,” but there are key scientific distinctions that are left out of these discussions. This is the crux of what I refer to as the “potency problem.”


We all know that marijuana has never been “more potent” Because it is frequently discussed. Occasionally, we are reminded of how much more strong the synthetic “spice” medications that induce zombieism are. Potent is used to characterize what is actually a complex set of distinctions between cannabis and its extracts, on the one hand, and molecular imitators of cannabis that are mixed up in underground drug labs and sprayed onto dried potpourri, on the other.

The main issue, from a pharmacological standpoint, is not the greater potency of these drugs, but their greater efficacy. This is pharmaceutical jargon, but it makes all the difference in the world. Misunderstanding or confusing these notions contributes to confusion and guilt by association towards cannabis.

Potency refers to the medication concentration necessary to activate a particular receptor. The greatest activation of the receptor in response to the medication is referred to as its efficacy. Similar to potency, this is a feature of the specific molecule and receptor: the extent to which the medicine can activate the receptor’s cell signaling functions. Although it is not entirely intuitive, these two features of a medicine are independent of one another. The complicated cellular biology of medicines and receptors is only one example.

The New York Times said that this Synthetic cannabinoids substance is 85 times more strong than THC. If absorption and bioavailability are identical, 10 mg of THC would have the same impact as 850 mg of THC. If potency is the main concern, then a greater dose compensates directly for a decreased potency.

This is obviously sufficient to transform a person into a zombie-like state. The New England Journal of Medicine reports that the product was evaluated at around 16 mg/g. At least one image of the source product (“AK-47 24 Karat Gold”) reveals that it is marketed in a 15 g container of unknown dried plant material. At 16 mg/g, this would equate to around 240 mg of synthetic cannabis each box, which is roughly equivalent to 20 grams of pure THC in terms of raw potency. Insane. However, this is unlikely to account for the highly disruptive effects of spice-synthetics on consumers.


The increasing potency of these synthetic medicines likely makes them more harmful than even daily cannabis resin dabbing. The term “intrinsic activity” is also used by pharmacologists to characterize this attribute of a medicine. Based on the drug’s intrinsic activity, its capacity to drive the targeted receptor is characterized as either “full” or “partial.”

Now, scientists understand that receptors are not simple on/off switches. Much more accurately, receptors are comparable to light bulbs on a dimmer switch. A complete agonist will increase the receptor’s “brightness” to its maximum level as it communicates with the cell to alter its activity. Partial agonists have limitations.

If the prevailing, mainstream scientific paradigms of pharmacology are accurate, dabbing 850 mg of THC will not make up for the fact that THC is still only a partial agonist (as is anandamide, the brain’s endogenous marijuana-like molecule), whereas the Synthetic cannabinoids on the black market are full agonists. The full agonist increases the intracellular signaling activity of the receptor beyond what is conceivable with THC. There is evidence that this causes medical issues, such as cardiovascular complications and stroke (I base this on numerous personal conversations with neurologists in recent years as well as the references below). As new, untested synthetic substances develop, the potential dangers are unknown and severe.


To maintain clarity on the reappearance of cannabis-based treatments, we must ensure that news stories and political alarm regarding these ultra-potent, full-agonist synthetics are not applied irresponsibly to cannabis. The media refers to cannabis extracts as being more “potent” than cannabis, or that marijuana is more potent than it ever was. Does this not amount to a more strong cannabinoid, such to those found in the completely unexpected Spice products? It makes sense, yet that is flatly incorrect.

Greater potency in the context of cannabis refers to the fact that you are giving a higher dose as a result of the product’s higher overall THC concentration. More powerful cannabis does not equal a more efficacious medicine. A partial agonist is not converted into a full agonist. The inherent activity of THC at human cannabinoid receptors has not changed regardless of whether cannabis has been grown to boost THC yields or extracted and concentrated using current distillation techniques. This is difficult to defend without considerable dissection because it involves molecular pharmacology, and there are, of course, always crucial limitations.


But there are even more reasons to slow down when comparing natural cannabis to street-level synthetic cannabinoids. It is quite probable that some of these full agonist synthetics not only stimulate the traditional receptor-activated pathways more potently than THC or anandamide, but also activate completely distinct cellular signal transduction pathways.

Returning to the analogy of the dimmer switch, imagine that as you turn up the signaling activity (representing a switch from a partial agonist such as THC or anandamide to a full agonist such as the synthetics), instead of just making the lights brighter, it also begins to change color or activates the room’s heating system! Recent studies of the crystal structure of the CB1 receptor have yielded significant insights by demonstrating how various ligands [receptor activators or blockers] dock to the receptor and influence its shape in distinct ways, which is directly related to how the receptor functions when activated by that ligand.

Importantly, none of the cannabis plant’s hundreds of cannabinoids evolved to be complete agonists of cannabinoid receptors! THC is the most potent phytocannabinoid we are aware of, and it acts much more like anandamide, indicating that it is still a partial agonist, as mild on our systems as the endogenous cannabinoid. No of the dosage or dose, THC can only stimulate the receptor to a certain extent.

The synthetic spice crap is harmful. I haven’t even mentioned the possibility that these molecules can be converted into carcinogenic substances. We just do not know, and they are constantly being created and tested on the streets without oversight or regard for public health consequences. There are numerous reasons to completely shun them. This should emphasize that cannabis is significantly less risky than synthetic spice goods, or even better, that it is NOT dangerous.


There are always exceptions to discussions of how medications function and their potential long-term effects. I wish to accept that, while reserving the right to share my well-informed ideas on this matter of vital importance. Specifically, I do not wish to be irresponsible regarding the long-term safety profile of a high THC dab habit, especially when beginning at a young age. There are numerous unsolved concerns regarding how brain receptors change over time, with or without persistent stimulation, and how this may relate to normal aging or the onset of psychiatric illness.

All studies that raise legitimate concerns about chronic cannabis usage indicate that beginning heavy, daily, and early (under 16) with a high THC dose may be grounds for concern. To my knowledge, there is no historical precedent for the ease with which high-THC resins can be swiftly absorbed with modern dab rigs. Cannabis is a well-known item with a long history of human use. Even THC-tolerant consumers frequently tell me that high-THC dabs are too much for them because to the early onset of extremely potent THC effects. Such a potent medication requires respect and caution.

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