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Abstract

The total concentration of THC has been monitored in cannabis preparations sold in Dutch coffee shops since 1999. This annual monitoring was issued by the Ministry of Health after reports of increased potency. The level of the main psychoactive compound, Δ 9 -tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), is measured in marijuana and hashish. A comparison is made between imported and Dutch preparations, and between seasons. Samples of cannabis preparations from randomly selected coffee shops were analyzed using gas chromatography (GC-FID) for THC, CBD and CBN. In 2004, the average THC level of Dutch home-grown marijuana (Nederwiet) (20.4% THC) was significantly higher than that of imported marijuana (7.0% THC). Hashish derived from Dutch marijuana (Nederhasj) contained 39.3% THC in 2004, compared with 18.2% THC in imported hashish. The average THC percentage of Dutch marijuana, Dutch hashish and imported hashish was significantly higher than in previous years. It nearly doubled over 5 years. During this period, the THC percentage in imported marijuana remained unchanged. A higher price had to be paid for cannabis with higher levels of THC. Whether the increase in THC levels causes increased health risks for users can only be concluded when more data are available on adjusted patterns of use, abuse liability, bioavailability and levels of THC in the brain.