Remember that scene in Half Baked when Thurgood, played by Dave Chappelle, discovers that the government lab he works at has a serious stash of marijuana?
Well, it turns out that cannabis used in government research isn’t all that great. Unlike commercial marijuana, the government product is stringy, light in color, and full of stems. If you’re used to the cannabis sold at dispensaries, chances are you wouldn’t even recognize the government product as weed.
Jake Browne, a marijuana critic for the Cannabist, called government cannabis unusable. “In two decades of smoking weed, I’ve never seen anything that looks like that,” Browne said. “People typically smoke the flower of the plant, but here you can clearly see stems and leaves in there as well, parts that should be discarded. Inhaling that would be like eating an apple, including the seeds inside it and the branch it grew on.”
Dr. Sue Sisley, a researcher studying medical marijuana for treating PTSD, told PBS NewsHour, “It doesn’t resemble cannabis. It doesn’t smell like cannabis.”
That’s a problem for researchers studying the effects and medical efficacy of cannabis. Since the marijuana researchers are using is so unlike commercially-available cannabis, it’s difficult to reach conclusions that are applicable to real-world use.
Since the late 1960s, all marijuana used in clinical research is required to come from a single government-run marijuana farm at the University of Mississippi.
Researchers have complained that government-grown marijuana isn’t subject to any federal testing standards and discrepancies in potency have created problems in some cannabis studies. Some samples even contained mold and lead.