Want to know an industry secret? One of the biggest misconceptions about weed is that higher THC content means higher quality bud that leads to a better, stronger high. The truth is, THC percentage has nothing to do with the quality of your weed, and is also a poor indicator of potency.
Let’s look at the reasoning behind this widespread misconception. We all know that THC is the specific compound in cannabis that gets you high. It’s easy to assume that this logically would mean more THC equals more psychoactive effects, especially as that’s the case with alcohol, where a higher percentage of alcohol by volume leads to a higher level of inebriation. But with cannabis, there are quite a few additional factors at play. The industry itself often perpetuates this myth, as the misconception of higher THC equaling higher highs is pervasive enough to affect pricing throughout the supply chain. You’ll find strains with THC over 20% priced higher than those with lower percentages just about everywhere, but this is based on supply and demand, not science.
So if higher THC doesn’t guarantee a better high, why not? What does? First of all, it’s important to note that there is no regulation of the labs that test for THC potency. Research shows results can actually vary widely depending on which lab does the testing. It’s a relatively new industry, which leaves room for error and can make it difficult to pinpoint the precise percentage of THC in any particular flower.
Secondly, a recent study by the University of Colorado found that THC potency does not actually track with intoxication levels. While there can be striking differences in THC levels in the blood of people who consume concentrate versus flower for example, the level of actual impairment is extremely similar. Researchers hypothesize that once cannabinoids fill up the receptors in the brain that create intoxication, additional cannabinoids have less of an impact because the receptors are already full. There is also no research that indicates that a higher dose of THC is more beneficial for any medical condition, meaning this research impacts both medicinal and recreational cannabis users.
While this may go against the majority of public perception of THC, it’s an open secret within the industry. This is especially evident in cannabis competitions. In the prestigious Emerald Cup, the highest THC flower rarely wins. Connoisseurs will tell you that the quality of cannabis is dependent on the entourage effect, the idea that weed is greater than the sum of its parts and that all of its components work together to create a unique and full experience. There are over 100 cannabinoids in cannabis, far beyond the well known THC and CBD. Each one has the potential to impact your high. Terpenes, the aromatic compounds found in cannabis that affect flavor, scent, and overall vibe, are also crucial to the determining the quality of flower and the way the body responds to it. To focus solely on THC content not only does not guarantee a better high, but it robs the consumer of the full, well-rounded experience that different types of cannabis can offer.
So how do you determine what cannabis is best for you? Start by trusting your senses. Look for brighter hues, fewer seeds and stems, and sugary, sticky, terpene-rich trichomes. If you have the opportunity to smell before buying, look for a pungent and complex aroma that matches your preferred flavor profile. Plus, make sure to look at any available reviews or descriptions of the strain you’re interested in for insight into its flavor, intensity, and effects. Finally, you can always ask your local Timber budtender for a custom recommendation based on your individual taste, needs, and preferences.