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National Advisory Committee on Drugs and Alcohol

The NACDA was established in response to the drug problem to assist in our continued need to improve our knowledge and understanding of problem drug use.

The goal of the NACDA is to advise the Government on problem drug use in Ireland in relation to prevalence, prevention consequences and treatment based on our analysis and interpretation of research findings.

NACD study reveals that home grown cannabis has stronger potency than imported variety

News Release, issued by the National Advisory Committee on Drugs
Tuesday November 29th, 2011

Cannabis remains the most commonly used illegal drug in Ireland

Herbal cannabis produced in Ireland has a higher potency than the imported variety, a study by the Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) on behalf of the National Advisory Committee on Drugs (NACD) announced today reveals.

The research entitled The potency of cannabis products and their THC content provides the first national baseline for measuring the potency of the drug

NACD Chairperson Dr. Des Corrigan stated: “The purpose of the study was to analyse cannabis products to establish their THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) content which is the main psychoactive component of cannabis. There is growing concern about rising THC levels particularly in herbal cannabis of the 'Skunk' or 'Weed' variety.

“While the majority of cannabis products seized by An Garda Siochana in Ireland are thought to be imported from countries where it is specifically grown for exportation, there is concern about the surges in cannabis cultivation here in Ireland.”

Dr. Corrigan continued: “Many of the plants being grown here are genetically selected to ensure they produce high levels of THC but they also lack a substance called CBD, which seems to protect the brain from the effects of THC, which can include psychosis.

“Samples from seizures of the cannabis herb in Limerick, Cork, Tipperary, Bandon, Fermoy and Dublin – including Ronanstown, Dundrum, Tallaght and Crumlin – found that cannabis which was of Irish cultivation had very high THC levels and very low CBD levels compared to imported herb and resin (Hash).

“The high quantity of THC in cannabis raises serious health concerns as recent UK studies has shown that there is a higher risk of psychosis in those who smoke high-potency cannabis products compared to those who smoke Hash which contains both THC & CBD. While it is the high THC content and frequency of use of the former products that may cause psychotic episodes, it is also thought to be attributed to the amount or lack thereof of CBD, as CBD appears to decrease the effects of THC when ingested together.”

Although Ireland does not have the climate to grow these plants outdoors, they can be grown indoors using hydroponics and intensive lighting equipment. In many cases, female rather than male plants are used as they cannot then produce seeds, meaning all of the energy within the plant goes into the production of THC content, increasing the plant's potency.

The discovery of multiple large operations of so called 'cannabis factories' have been reported by the Gardaí in previous years with seizures of approximately 20,000 plants to date.

Dr. Corrigan stated: “In the context of the recent findings from the 2010/11 Drug Prevalence Survey that cannabis remains the most commonly used illicit drug in Ireland, monitoring the potency of available cannabis is extremely important." (See http://www.nacd.ie/news/launch_event22112011.html for details of the prevalence survey.)

Further Information
Ronan Cavanagh, Montague Communications: (01) 830 3116 or (086) 317 9731.

Cabnnabis Potency

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