Understanding the Potency of Pot

One of the most exciting parts of legalizing recreational marijuana is knowing exactly how strong your stuff is. Instead of receiving a mystery baggie of whatever you can get your hands on, vendors are required by state law to test the potency of their products before they can be sold. Any product containing marijuana is tested at a state approved lab and the results are conveniently listed on the package’s label.

When you look at a label, you’ll see info like facts about the company, the harvest date and a short description of the product or strain, but all packaging is required to list the total percentage of cannabanoids found in that specific batch. Keep an eye on your favorite strain from week to week and you’ll notice that the THC total often changes, even if it’s only a fraction of a percent difference. 

Higher percentage doesn’t mean everything. Low and mid range strains with multiple cannabinoids deliver different “highs” that depend more on genetics than potency. While you may recognize THC and even CBD on the label, there are many different cannabinoids found in marijuana that will effect a strain’s total percentage. The final percentage you see on Higher Leaf’s menu is a combination of all the cannabinoids present during testing.

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the most well known cannabinoid found in marijuana and its also the most prominent. This psychoactive cannabinoid has a reputation for head and body highs, but different strains will deliver different reactions depending on the plant’s specific genetics.

Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) is the cannabinoid found in live marijuana that converts into THC once the plant material is dried and heated for smoking or vaping. The THCA content indicates the potential THC. The THC total is calculated using the mass of the cannabinoids instead of just adding the two totals like you would assume. You can determine the THC total, by using the following formula, which takes the difference in mass into account. 

THCtotal = (%THCA x 0.877) + (%THC)

Cannabidiol (CBD) is the second most common cannabinoid and it’s a favorite with Higher Leaf customers who use marijuana for medicinal purposes. As a non-psychoactive cannabinoid, it’s known to relax muscles and sooth body aches without giving you a traditional head high. Some users report that CBD has positive benefits and helps with a wide variety of ailments. You can read more about why you should try CBD in a past blog post here.

Cannabidiolic Acid (CBDA) is a precursor to CBD, just like THCA is to THC. When smoked, CBDA becomes CBD through the process of decarboxylation or heating the cannabinoid. The same formula works to find the CBD total when you replace THCA with CBDA.

CBDtotal = (%CBDA x 0.877) + (%CBD)

Cannabinol (CBN) is a lesser known cannabinoid created through the process of oxidation, when THC is exposed to air. On its own, CBN delivers a mild psychoactive high, but users report drowsiness and deep sleep when it’s combined with THC.

Cannabigerol (CBG) is a another non-psychoactive cannabinoid you may see calculated in the THC total. CBG is known to influence the body more than the mind, but glaucoma patients also report a reduction in intraocular pressure.

With info about cannabinoids and their percentages in your arsenal, look at your next marijuana purchase at Higher Leaf in Kirkland in a different light. Ask our Budtenders if you have any other questions about potency or information found on the labels.