You may have come across a popular form of marijuana known as ‘skunk’, sometimes called ‘stinky weed’, a hybrid of cannabis sativa & indica prized by users for its potency. It possesses an annoying secondary trait: a truly unpleasant odor. People have actually mistaken it for the presence of a skunk in the neighborhood. I’m told the smell can be quite persistent on clothing, on the body and in the hair, as well as on painted surfaces. “Walk down the hallway in my dorm,” one kid advised me. “You get the full skunkish experience.”

Chemists attribute the odor to terpenes, compounds that play a key role in a flower’s scent. With cannabis, they may also help determine potency. Some varieties of cannabis naturally smell better than the others– having a lemony or peppery odor– and the theory is that the ‘skunk’ scent may be coincidental to certain strains that have particularly high THC content. Curiously, the odor has itself become a recognizable brand, attracting customers in search of a stronger high. That happens to be a large chunk of the using population, which explains the popularity of skunk.

It’s important to remember that some research has linked more potent cannabis, including skunk, to THC-related changes in the brain. Not a surprise, as drug effects are usually related to the concentration of psychoactive ingredients. It does however suggest the possibility of increased risk for psychosis. Here’s an article on the subject. That’s led experts to recommend that people who suffer from ‘pre-psychosis’ avoid smoking pot. I don’t know how you would know in advance that you were vulnerable to psychosis, however.

A psychiatrist friend attended a conference on psychopharmacology where a presenter described the race by chemists, growers and distributors to upgrade the THC content of their products. That’s their way of competing for market share. It’s what we saw during the early stages of the cocaine epidemic in the 70’s — as the drug became more widely available, competition for sales applied downward pressure on price. By upping the THC in the product, a seller could justify charging more, and perhaps attract valuable repeat business.

We’re already seeing ordinary pot sold as skunk, after it’s been doctored to mimic the distinctive odor. Some of those have also been doctored with hallucinogens. It’s all about commanding the highest available price.

Entrepreneurship in action, you might say.