A new analysis has found that Britain’s illegal cannabis market is almost entirely dominated by the super-strength skunk variety, which may cause mental health problems and psychotic disorders.
Researchers from King’s College London and from GW Pharmaceuticals analyzed samples from cannabis seized by the police in in UK’s five key regions – London, Derbyshire, Kent, Merseyside, and Sussex – in 2016. They found that 94 per cent of these cannabis samples were of a variety known for its dangerously high potency.
The recent findings suggest that this cannabis variety with highly psychoactive content – known as skunk – now dominates the illicit market, representing an all-time high. It can be recalled that in 2005, only 51 per cent of the weed sold on the streets was skunk, while in 2008, it was 85 per cent.
Researchers also warned about the health implications of this super-strength skunk. A series of cases have shown a link between this very potent variety of cannabis and mental health issues.
According to Dr. Marta Di Forti, clinician scientist at King’s College London, previous research has shown that those who regularly consume high-potency cannabis have the highest risk of spiraling into mental illness. And this rise in skunk supply on the streets indicates that more users are in significant danger when it comes to their mental health. This also represents a decrease in the ability of cannabis consumers to choose less potent types of the drug.
A cannabis variety with highly psychoactive content – known as skunk – now dominates the illicit market, representing 94 per cent of cannabis samples from police seizures in 2016. Skunk is believed to trigger psychotic disorders.
The latest study, which was published in Drug Testing and Analysis journal, shows that the rise in the popularity of skunk reflects a fall in the availability of lower-strength cannabis resin. This means that skunk has successfully forced out weaker cannabis from the market.
Skunk contains 14 per cent THC, the psychoactive chemical component of the drug that creates a high for the user. Weaker cannabis resin, meanwhile, contains a THC content of 6 per cent, which is up from the 4 per cent THC level in 2008.
One reason why skunk is harmful and is believed to trigger psychotic disorders is because it contains very low CBD levels. CBD or cannabidiol is the non-psychoactive chemical component of cannabis that also counters the effects of THC and prevents psychosis. To be more specific, skunk contains only 0.29 per cent of CBD. Resin, on the other hand, has a CBD level of 6 per cent.
What is skunk?
In the UK, skunk means all the high-THC marijuana varieties, regardless of the plant’s genetic heritage. Skunk is widely used as generic term for seedless, non-pollinated, and potent cannabis flowers that are grown for smoking.
Sensimilla is also another term for skunk. It became widespread in the country in the early 90s after a revolution of growing methods, typically incorporating the use of high-intensity discharge lamps and high-pressure sodium lighting, and often with the use of hydroponics.
Skunk cannabis strains are known to have a very pungent scent. And while traditional cannabis contains only two to four per cent of THC, skunk is claimed to be seven times more potent.
Cannabis in the UK
Cannabis is classified as a Class B narcotic in the UK. This means it is illegal to grow, possess, use, sell, or give away the drug, even if it is for medical purposes.
However, despite its illegal status, cannabis has been found to be the most commonly used drug in the country, with 6.6 per cent (or 2.2 million) of adults 16-59 years old admitting to using it in the previous year. That is according to Home Office statistics for 2016/2017.