There’s a classic Louis C.K. bit where he talks about how he can’t smoke weed anymore. He describes one particular night when he agreed to share a joint with some fans after a show, but quickly realized it wasn’t a good idea.
“I’m taking huge hits because I had no idea. I didn’t know they’d been working on this shit like it’s the cure for cancer,” he says. “When I was a kid, you could just smoke a joint for awhile. Now you take two hits and you go insane. It’s not doable anymore.”
It’s a well-documented fact that weed has gotten increasingly more potent over the last few decades. Research done for the federal government has shown that the average level of tetrahydrocannabinol—pot’s main psychoactive component that gets you high—more than tripled from 1993 to 2012. In 1993, weed averaged at 3.4 percent THC. These days, in Colorado, the average THC level is 18.7 percent. Unless you have a very high tolerance, there’s no way to smoke weed all day anymore and not be fried.
No wonder Louis couldn’t remember how he got to a drive-thru window.
But as more states and countries relax their cannabis laws, the novelty of getting blitzed out of your mind is starting to wear off. A new market is emerging for a gentler, less potent weed, with lower THC levels. Something Louis, or your parents, would be more familiar with: “Dad weed.”
“People who consumed cannabis back in the 60s or 70s come into a dispensary now and they go ‘whoa, I’ve never smelled or seen anything like this before,'” said John Manlove, the director of sales at Tradiv, an online wholesale cannabis retailer. “If you introduced a 20 percent strain to someone who hasn’t smoked in 30 years, it’s going to knock them down.”
Manlove told me that while retailers, particularly recreational retailers, still seem to be chasing very high potency strains, the manufacturers are starting to notice a new market for lighter weed and are creating new options. So far it’s mostly focused on edibles, which are a lot easier to control dosage-wise, but Manlove said he thinks the bud market will also expand in the next few years to include some less potent fare.
Kiva Confections, which made a name for itself making cannabis-infused candy bars, has jumped on this trend. In 2015, Kiva launched Terra Bites: a bite-sized, chocolate-coated coffee bean that was spiked with just 5 mg of THC (edible beginners typically start with 5mg of THC, but regular users consume 30 mg or more at a time). It quickly became the company’s best-selling product, according to Christie Strong, Kiva’s marketing communications manager. So Kiva decided to go even lighter, and recently introduced tiny mints with just 2.5 mg of THC.
“It doesn’t have to be an end-of-the-day, really highly psychoactive experience,” Strong told me.
She said that along with older consumers who maybe haven’t smoked pot since the 60s, or new consumers who have never tried it at all, there are people who want very low THC products for other reasons, including microdosing (the practice of consistently taking a very low dose of a psychoactive drug, to boost creativity).
“I’ve heard a lot of rumors that coders in Silicon Valley have been using our low-dose Terra Bites,” Strong said. “I’m a low-dose edibles user. I feel that relaxation. I feel more in my creative flow. It just takes the edge off.”
There’s also a fairly well-established market for low-THC cannabis in the medical world. People who want to treat pain, or anxiety, or want to treat their child without getting high, prefer strains that are high in CBD (the other cannabinoid in marijuana that has anti-inflammatory and pain relief benefits, but doesn’t make you stoned) and low in THC. Charlotte’s Web, for example, was developed specifically to treat a young child experiencing seizures while, understandably, avoiding getting a kid stoned. But there’s no reason these strains can’t be repurposed for recreational use.
The technology and breeding advancements mean that the cannabis market will only continue to grow, and offer more variety, including Dad weed. Weed breeding company Alphakronik Genes has multiple strains that range from high-CBD, low-THC, to more balanced blends, to strains with 25 percent THC or higher. Clancy Adams, the president of Alphakronik Genes, told me there’s a market for all of these, it just depends on what the customer wants out of their weed.
“Not everyone wants to go to the moon,” Adams said. “Some are happy just floating through their day.”
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