Despite weed’s illegal status in the UK, it remains an actively used drug throughout the nation. Indeed, data from the UK Parliament suggests roughly 1 in 5 UK residents have tried cannabis at some point. Survey data from YouGov also suggests more UK citizens are interested in legalising cannabis, especially for medical use.
However, since cannabis is still banned in the British Isles, locals often resort to the black market to obtain weed. Although surveys in nearby Ireland show that over 87 percent of cannabis users find it “easy” to purchase cannabis, the quality of this weed can be dodgy and dangerous.
One recent concern in Northern Ireland is a chemically-enhanced form of cannabis known as PGR weed. Short for “plant-growth regulators,” PGRs are a class of substances that are often used to increase plant production. While some PGRs are all-natural, the cannabis community is most concerned about the use of controversial chemicals like paclobutrazol, chlormequat chloride, and daminozide.
Since the Northern Ireland Assembly doesn’t regulate the cannabis market, residents should know the consequences and warning signs of PGR weed. While PGR buds may look similar to natural weed, there are a few ways to distinguish them.
How Is PGR Weed Different From Normal Weed?
PGR weed refers to cannabis plants grown with additional chemicals to enhance their size, appearance, and yield. At first glance, PGR weed will probably look larger than naturally-grown cannabis. PGR cannabis also tends to weigh more than regular cannabis buds.
Although PGR weed looks impressive, customers often notice these flowers don’t have as many trichomes as a standard, well-cured cannabis strain. PGR cannabis also tends to have minimal aromatics due to low concentrations of terpenes.
As mentioned above, plant-growth hormones aren’t inherently bad. Indeed, many organic & sustainable cannabis farmers use all-natural PGRs like kelp to make huge cannabis nugs. However, when people refer to “PGR weed,” they’re generally talking about inferior cannabis products with traces of chemicals like chlormequat chloride, daminozide, and paclobutrazol.
Why Is Northern Ireland Worried About PGR Weed?
Cannabis activists are most concerned about PGR weed due to the high traces of potentially carcinogenic compounds. Multiple studies suggest daminozide and paclobutrazol can turn into carcinogens, especially when smoked. There are also significant concerns chlormequat chloride could have adverse effects on many vital organs, including the heart and brain.
Although chemicals like paclobutrazol have been outlawed in many European nations, the UK has yet to take a strict stance against this compound. Also, since there are no quality controls on the weed entering Northern Ireland’s market, it’s impossible to tell what fungicides, herbicides, or pesticides growers have been using.
Understandably, the lack of regulation and many potential health risks of PGR have caused great concern in the UK’s cannabis community.
How Could People Tell PGR Weed From Normal Weed?
The only way to know whether weed has high traces of PGR is to send it to a lab for thorough analysis. However, since these facilities aren’t available to average consumers in Northern Ireland, it’s easy to mistake PGR weed flowers for natural weed.
Thankfully, there are a few telltale signs that should set off alarm bells for anyone handling cannabis nugs. Arguably, the best way to scan PGR weed is to use the “sniff test.” When you break a PGR nug, it won’t have a “dank” scent. In fact, PGR weed typically doesn’t have any noticeable aroma. That’s because the chemicals used to make PGR weed dampen the production of aromatic weed terpenes. So, if you can’t smell anything from your weed, chances are likely it has some PGRs in it.
Besides the smell, PGR weed often looks different than naturally-grown cannabis strains. PGR cannabis can look exaggeratedly large and often weigh more than traditional weed. You’ll also notice that PGR weed has fewer sticky trichomes versus a well-cured marijuana hybrid. Some people also report that PGR weed feels “wetter” in their hands versus natural cannabis flowers.
Hopefully, you can tell whether your cannabis has PGR before putting it in a joint. However, those who smoke PGR weed often notice they don’t feel the same “high” as a standard weed strain. While PGR weed may have cannabinoids like delta-9 THC, they won’t be near the concentrations found in most marijuana flowers. Many people report feeling a short “burst” after their first toke of PGR weed that’s followed by intense lethargy.
How Can Weed Users Avoid PGR Cannabis?
Unfortunately, since cannabis remains illegal in Northern Ireland, it’s difficult to “avoid” this cannabis on the black market. The best strategy to steer clear of PGR weed is to stay away from all weed for the time being. Most PGR weed “packs” sold in Northern Ireland have American brand names and often refered to as “Cali,” so it’s best to be extra cautious if you see these names.
It would be best to grow cannabis at home, but Northern Ireland strictly prohibits at-home cannabis cultivation. Therefore, the only option available to Northern Irish cannabis cultivators is to push for cannabis legality for use, cultivation, manufacture, and sale.
If residents in Northern Ireland have weed in their possession, then they must inspect it for signs of PGRs. The primary warning signs of PGR weed include a lack of smell, unnaturally heavy nugs, and few trichomes.
How Can Northern Ireland Combat PGR Weed?
The only way Northern Ireland could get a handle on PGR cannabis is if the UK revises its stance on the legality of recreational or medical marijuana. Since cannabis is an illegal substance, institutions like the Food Standard Agency, the Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs, or the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency can’t start regulating the cannabis industry. If more UK politicians and voters push for cannabis reforms, it could pave the way for quality control standards that may reduce the prevalence of PGR weed.