A cannabis compound has been found to be potentially 30 times more powerful than THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the plant’s main psychoactive constituent.
A study, published in academic journal Scientific Reports, involved giving a fairly low dose of the newly unearthed compound, known as THCP (tetrahydrocannabiphorol), to lab mice.
These mice responded less strongly to painful stimuli and also behaved like they had consumed THC, moving around leisurely.
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Italian scientists have not tested THCP on humans, so it is yet to be established if the new cannabinoid will get users high.
But the researchers said THCP could be the reason why certain especially potent strains of the drug have a more powerful impact than can be explained simpy by the THC content.
Dr Cinzia Citti, the report’s lead author, of the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia in Italy, said: “In cannabis varieties where THC is present in very low concentrations, then we can think that the presence of another, more active cannabinoid can explain those effects.”
At the end of last year, Italy’s Supreme Court ruled growing small quantities of cannabis at home for private usage to be legal in a landmark verdict.
The farming and selling of cannabis was barred under legislation which dates back to the 1990s, but contradictory court decisions since then have generated uncertainty around the law. Shops that sell low-strength “legal weed” – with only minute quantities of THC – are widespread in Italy.
Cannabis resin typically contains CBD (cannabidiol) as well as THC. CBD may offset some of the damaging effects of THC, such as paranoia and memory impairment.
New resin production techniques in Morocco and Europe have boosted levels of THC but not CBD.
In Britain alone, THC levels in herbal cannabis remained roughly similar between 2006 and 2016, but police seizures indicate they have increased steeply in cannabis resin.