Why we need to stop shopping for weed based on the percentage alone.

Maybe you’re an avid consumer with years of experience smoking, or maybe you’re freshly 21 and you are smoking for the first time. For most people, I’d guess your probably somewhere in between. As a Budtender, I’ve spoken with people from all walks of life and every imaginable level of experience with cannabis, ranging from people who have grown weed for more years than I’ve walked the earth to people that have never held a joint before in their life. There is one thing that seems to be a common occurrence regardless of experience: you see 30% THC listed on a tag, and it catches your eye over the 15% THC listed on the strain next to it.

Now, before we get into it, I want to take just a moment and break down some common terms to help provide a bit of context as to why shopping by numbers doesn’t actually do you any favors.

THC is Not the End All Be All 

The first thing you’re going to want to know is that THC isn’t the only thing that’s giving you a buzz. It is one of the more well known contributors to the psychoactive effect we call “getting high”, but it’s not the only player in the game. THC is a “cannabinoid”, and it’s only one of several. You may also have heard of CBD, CBG, CBN, or others, which are also cannabinoids, and each of these have been alleged to have their own unique contributions to your experience. They also include some potential medicinal properties although current laws make it difficult to study, so I’ll let you do your own research there and draw your own conclusions.

The next thing to keep in mind is a compound called “terpenes.” To put it simply, terpenes are compounds that are naturally occurring essential oils found in a variety of plants (such as cannabis, but also citrus and coniferous trees, as an example). Different types of terpenes are responsible for different types of smells, like black pepper or lemon, and are also largely responsible for the unique bouquets brought on by different strains. The use of terpenes and their effects on the human body can also be observed in things such as aromatherapy.

Cannabinoids and Terpenes Working Together 

Now to tie it all together, I want to take a moment to discuss what’s called “The Entourage Effect.” There is a growing number of people that seem to notice what I have personally experienced. I enjoy a joint of some quality such as Durban Poison in the morning then I’m ready to lace up my kicks and go for a jog. Whereas if I decided to light up some Bubba Kush that morning instead, I’d be way more likely to fall asleep while wrestling with my shoelaces than I would be to make it out the door for a run. To take the discussion one step farther, I’d even argue that smoking “pure” crystallized THC (usually an isolate testing at 99 percent or more THC) that doesn’t have any terpenes in it brings with it a high that is, well, boring. It lacks in comparison to the types of highs and the experiences brought on by either a well grown bud or a quality concentrate. These subtle changes to the effects brought on by cannabis are said to be driven by the combination of the cannabinoids and the terpenes working together, just like the old saying goes: that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Ultimately, however, there is simply not enough scientific data to say anything conclusive, and each experience is going to be subjective to the consumer. So if your the kind of person that would prefer to take a shot of Everclear rather than enjoy a fine scotch on the rocks, then do you! Personally, I’m going to keep trusting my nose and grab the gram that smells delicious, even if it tests out lower than the next. I hope the next time you’re at the shop you consider doing the same.

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, employer or company.