Why the Best Way to Shop for Cannabis is not by the Highest THC Number

“I Want the Weed with the Highest THC. “

So many times I have customers come in and ask me for the bag with the highest THC level. It seems like a simple concept, yeah? Whatever bag has the highest THC percentage is going to get me the most stoned, right? Well, I’ve got some news for you– there are a couple of reasons why the highest THC number isn’t always the best indicator for great bud. For one, the inconsistencies of the lab results taken from various lab’s on the same nug is appalling. Check out these lab results I pulled from an excerpt in Portland Newspaper, Willamette Week.

Side by side lab inconsisitencies with cannabis testingInfographic courtesy of Willamette Week.

Here you can see they sent the same batch of their Trainwreck to five different cannabis labs and got 4 different results! What is the cause of this? Well for one, there is NO standardized lab testing requirements. Labs can employ people with hardly any skill in the field or subject if they so wanted to. There also is no standard equipment protocol to use for testing so different labs are approaching in totally different ways. Another reason to be skeptical about lab results on your cannabis is that lab tests are very expensive, and only a few parts of the plant get to be tested. Different parts of the cannabis plant will produce varying levels of potency, unfortunately, so most producers are obviously going to send in their most potent parts of the plant and of course the labs will produce an average number based on those inflated results.

Going Beyond the Highest THC Number.

Everyone knows THC is the psychoactive compound in cannabis that gets you high. This is why it’s easy to pick up a jar or bag and use that as the deciding factor for potency. In a perfect, black-and-white world you might be correct. I urge customers to consider a few other things, though, before subscribing to that notion. There are over a hundred different cannabinoids found in cannabis, all in varying ratios and associated with varying effects; you can’t just single out one and make a sound judgement off of it.

The Entourage Effect vs. Highest THC.

Another common analogy about the synergistic way cannabis operates, often referred to as “The Entourage Effect”, is that if cannabis were a car, THC would be the gas pedal. You may not get very far if you just have a gas pedal; but when the plant comes together other cannabinoids and terpenes (what gives cannabis it’s smell, taste, and guides effects) create the steering wheel and the tires. Terpenes are becoming more common knowledge among the cannabis community now more than they have ever been. Also note, they’re not just in cannabis, terpenes give any plant it’s smell and flavor. Linalool is what gives lavender it’s smell and association with calm and relaxation, myrcene is a prominent terpene found in mangos as well as a large amount of sedative cannabis strains, and hops are high in humelene which is a terpene found in cannabis too.

Furthermore there is always the factor that everybody’s brain can respond differently to the same strain. Timothy Foia, CEO of Artizen Cannabis, explains this very well by comparing it to music. If we’re both listening to Bob Marley we can pretty much universally agree that what we’re hearing is reggae, however the way the the music, the lyrics, the vibe make us feel could be completely different. All of these factors play into what kind of high a specific strain might give you. Long story short, there’s no way to make promises or guarantees; only recommendations based on personal experience and educated guesses.

But Dillon, How can you Tell What’s Fire then?

What is my best recommendation for you, the consumer, when trying to decide if a bud is potent?

Ask your budtender! They are there to help you with this kind of stuff! Ask them if they have smoked it before! Another good rule of thumb, is to just stick with the old school method! If it is shiny and glistening like a diamond with a nice aroma, the nuggets are so sticky they are sticking to the side of the jar, you’ve probably just found yourself some dank pot, my friend! Stick to the old school cues until uniform standardized testing becomes the standard. Stay lifted, my friends!

Written by: Dillon Buckingham, Educator at North Renton

Edited by: Nikki Marangon

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