Sinsemilla comes from the Spanish words ‘sin’ (without) and ‘semilla’ (seed). It literally translates to ‘without seed’ and refers to cannabis plants that do not produce seeds. Although this is the literal translation of the name, some people believe that sinsemilla refers to specific high-maintenance, extremely potent cannabis strains.
The simple reality is that sinsemilla has been around for a long time, but its increased availability is a consequence of market trends beginning in the 1960s and continuing today demanding elevated concentrations of THC.
Cannabis Flower With and Without Seeds
Cannabis plants can be male or female. Male cannabis plants are not entirely useless, but they aren’t nearly as potent as females. Female cannabis plants produce buds that are full of cannabinoids, chemical compounds that cause medicinal effects when consumed. However, if a female cannabis plant is near a male cannabis plant, she will likely become pollinated by the male and produce seeds along with her buds. Unless you are breeding or harvesting edible cannabis seeds, this is a problem. Seed-bearing females divert the energy they would use to producing potent buds to producing seeds—it’s the circle of life.
Before the 1960’s, most growers didn’t realize that allowing their females to produce seeds was a problem. The buds produced by their female plants were both seedy (leading to a much harsher high) and far less potent. Once growers began separating their male from their female cannabis plants, buds became more potent and the growing practice spread throughout the cannabis-producing community.
How Potent is Sinsemilla?
It is not unusual to find cannabis strains in a dispensary containing 20 percent THC. Some strains can even contain over 30 percent THC. While this is commonplace today, cannabis strains 24 years ago contained an average of 4 percent THC.
This gradual shift toward high-potency cannabis is evident in the availability of sinsemilla and the rising popularity of cannabis concentrates. Consumers are interested in experiencing extremely potent highs, but the impact of long-term consumption of high-potency cannabis is under-researched. In fact, most cannabis research in the United States has been conducted using cannabis provided by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). NIDA’s cannabis contains an average of 5.15 percent cannabis, which leaves it about two decades behind the high-potency cannabis strains hitting dispensary shelves today.
How Sinsemilla Has Impacted Consumers: The Good and the Bad
The obvious benefits of high-potency cannabis are more intense high and more effective medicine. THC is associated with pleasurable effects including euphoria, relaxation, carefreeness, appreciation for the arts, increased libido, altered state of consciousness, and heightened sensations. Increased THC content delivers highs that are characterized by more profound instances of these experiences.
However, more is not necessarily better. A 2009 British Journal of Psychiatry: The Journal of Mental Science study investigated the connection between high-potency cannabis and a person’s first episode of psychosis. The study gathered data from 280 cases presenting with first-episode psychosis and 174 healthy controls from London. The researchers concluded that smoking higher-potency cannabis more often and for a longer duration of time is associated with the first episode of psychosis. The authors noted that their “most striking finding is that patients with the first episode of psychosis preferentially used high-potency cannabis preparations of the sinsemilla variety,” or cannabis that contained between 12 and 18 percent THC and less than 1.5 percent CBD.
A 2014 International Journal on Drug Policy study examined the evidence collected from 157 marijuana samples seized by the United States law enforcement officials between 1990 and 2010 in jurisdictions where medical marijuana laws were implemented. The aim of the study was to analyze the relationship between the legalization of medical marijuana and the increased prevalence of sinsemilla. The study concluded that THC potency increased by about 1 percent after medical marijuana became legalized, and that increase was most heavily impacted by the availability of high-potency sinsemilla in regulated dispensaries.
A 2016 Biological Psychiatry study confirmed these findings, concluding that “there is a shift in the production of illicit cannabis plant material from regular marijuana to sinsemilla.” The study used data collected between 1995 and 2014 from 38,681 samples of marijuana seized by the Drug Enforcement Administration. According to the study, THC content has increased from an average of 4 percent in 1995 to approximately 12 percent in 2014. Meanwhile, CBD content has decreased from .28 percent in 2001 to .15 percent in 2014. The authors of the study warn that this increased potency elevates the likelihood of adolescent cannabis use.
Together, this research tells us where cannabis has been, where it is going, and how that may impact consumers:
- When states legalize cannabis, sinsemilla becomes more available to consumers because producers and distributors are able to grow and sell high-potency marijuana under state laws.
- The increased availability of sinsemilla in legal markets correlates with the increased availability of sinsemilla in the black market. Together, this has led to an overall higher concentration of THC and a lower concentration of CBD in both legal and illegal cannabis markets.
- High-potency cannabis may be associated with the onset of psychosis and other public health concerns, but the veracity and mechanism of this connection are unclear.
Research investigating the long-term effects of consuming high-potency cannabis is urgent as the cannabis market continues to demand sinsemilla. While consuming large amounts of THC may sound like fun, starting with a low dose of THC and taking it a slow rate (waiting at least 2 hours in between doses) is a safer alternative that is likely to produce the most enjoyable results, particularly if you are new to cannabis.