If you want to actually know what you are talking about when it comes to cannabis, it’s essential to learn the correct terms and to know what they mean.
And with that in mind, and as medical cannabis becomes legal to be prescribed by doctors in the UK, we thought we would explain the difference between medical cannabis and so-called ‘skunk’.
What is ‘skunk’?
When journalists use the word ‘skunk’, they are referring to THC-rich cannabis. THC is the chemical compound in cannabis (known as a cannabinoid) which gets you ‘high’.
The term ‘skunk’, however, is a misnomer. Skunk (or Skunk #1) is actually the name given to a certain cultivar of cannabis – no different to hundreds of other strains that have been developed around the world. It was given its name due to its pungent smell, which resembles that produced by a skunk, just as Lemon Haze, another strain with high levels of THC, was named due to its citrusy stench.
How the term ‘skunk’ came to mean all high-THC cannabis is largely down to the fear-mongering British mainstream media, and it sure does cause a lot of confusion. While over here in the UK, THC-rich cannabis is being labelled as “super-strength skunk” that is “highly addictive” and “psychosis-causing”, in other places like America it’s being called medical cannabis and is prescribed by doctors for all manner of medical conditions.
What is medical cannabis?
Medical cannabis is simply cannabis that is utilised with the intention to treat a medical condition. There is not anything particularly different or unique about medical cannabis, and some would argue that all cannabis is medical due to its preventative health benefits.
Again, the name ‘medical cannabis’ can cause some confusion as it implies that it is somehow different from regular cannabis. Many patients in the U.S., in states where cannabis is legalised medicinally, use high-THC varieties – including the notorious ‘Skunk #1’ strain – to treat a whole host of complaints, from pain and PTSD to depression and diabetes.
Having said that, some conditions require lower levels of THC and higher levels of CBD – the non-intoxicating cannabinoid brother of THC. While CBD doesn’t get you high, it has been shown through numerous scientific studies to be useful in treating a number of conditions such as anxiety, chemotherapy-induced nausea, and epilepsy.
Some studies have even shown CBD and THC to complement each other to provide a greater effect than when used on their own.
Why we should stop using the word skunk
In the words of ancient Chinese teacher and philosopher Confucius, “The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their proper name.”
If we are to have a rational and sensible conversation around the use cannabis, the first logical step would be to make sure we are precise in our language and call things by their correct name. That means words like ‘skunk’ should be dropped altogether unless we are talking about the actual Skunk #1 strain.
A rational approach
Perhaps the reason for rising mental health problems associated with cannabis use isn’t quite so simplistic as to be put at the feet of “super-strength skunk”. Perhaps it is due to far more complicated societal problems such as increasing inequality, the disintegration of communal and familial structures, and the deterioration of health in general?
If the lawmakers of the UK would read scientific papers rather than tabloid headlines then we could have a rational and productive conversation about properly reforming our outdated cannabis laws.