Preference for high- versus low-potency marijuana

Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 1994 Nov;49(3):643-7. doi: 10.1016/0091-3057(94)90082-5.


With many drugs of abuse, humans and other species display a preference for higher doses (or more potent dosage forms) over lower doses (or less potent dosage forms). The present study was designed to determine whether this generalization would hold for marijuana smoking by humans. Twelve regular marijuana smokers participated in two independent and identical choice trials in which, on separate sessions, they first sampled marijuana of two different potencies (0.63% and 1.95% delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol; THC) and then, on the next session, chose which of the two, as well as how much, to smoke. During sampling sessions, the high-potency marijuana produced a greater heart rate increase and greater subjective effects than the low-potency marijuana. Subjects chose the high-potency marijuana significantly more often than the low-potency marijuana (21 out of 24 choice occasions). These results support the hypothesis that the reinforcing effects of marijuana, and possibly its abuse liability, are positively related to THC content.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affect / drug effects
  • Cannabis / chemistry*
  • Carbon Monoxide / metabolism
  • Dronabinol / analysis*
  • Dronabinol / pharmacology*
  • Female
  • Heart Rate / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Marijuana Smoking / physiopathology
  • Marijuana Smoking / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


  • Dronabinol
  • Carbon Monoxide