THC levels vary considerably between marijuana strains and products made from marijuana. Customers can’t predict how much THC they will ingest, even if they use edibles.
Besides, even if you know how much THC you are consuming, it can be challenging to see the THC level of a given product. Another challenge is how THC percentages affect the body and mind (the brain) and what to look for in THC content, even for experienced cannabis consumers.
When it comes to experiencing the “best cannabis” out there, you might go to a dispensary offering weed products with the highest THC content; the higher the THC levels, the better the cannabis– right?
However, that is not enough, and you should consider more. You might be attracted to THC-rich products; accordingly, there are scientific indications that higher THC levels don’t lead to a difference in impairment.
It’s claimed that marijuana potency has increased in recent decades, i.e., from 4% in the early 1980s to 15% today. The present article will help you better understand what a THC label means and evaluate a weed product.
What Is THC
Tetrahydrocannabinol, abbreviated THC, is one of the many cannabinoids found in the resin secreted by the glands of marijuana. These glands are located primarily around the plant’s reproductive organs rather than on any other area of the cannabis.
THC is the molecular compound found only in marijuana, primarily responsible for marijuana’s psychological effects. This compound is the primary psychoactive or mood-altering ingredient in the plant.
This cannabinoid can interact with cannabinoid receptors located in some brain regions associated with pleasure, thinking, memory, concentration, sensory and time perception, and coordination. THC is believed to act similarly to cannabinoid compounds that the body naturally produces.
There are also several other cannabinoids found in this resin. One of the most well-known of these is CBD, short for cannabidiol. It is the non-psychoactive, non-euphoriant compound in marijuana and can modify the high associated with THC.
Depending on the cannabis strain, the concentrations of cannabinoids in the weed vary and determine their different effects on the body and brain.
THC & Other Ingredients of Cannabis
Consuming high-THC cannabis does not necessarily lead to a more potent intoxication. While THC, more specifically (delta-9)-tetrahydrocannabinol, is primarily responsible for the “high” associated with marijuana, many people would be quick to conclude that “the more THC, the higher I’ll get.” However, cannabis is not that simple.
As the cannabis industry expands and evolves, we need to develop an intuitive and concise language that allows consumers to easily and quickly search weed strains and products for their key ingredients.
In addition, the visual language should be designed so that consumers understand adequately what the percentages of ingredients mean.
Another critical factor that can play a role similar to THC content in determining the potency is the full spectrum of cannabis species present in a marijuana product, particularly other cannabis compounds and terpenes.
Other phytocannabinoids contained in full-spectrum products include (to name a few):
- Cannabidiol (CBD)
- Cannabinol (CBN)
- Cannabigerol (CBG)
Studies have identified between 80 and 100 cannabinoids and approximately 300 non-cannabinoid chemicals produced by cannabis.
Notable terpenes– which can influence the overall experience of consuming a particular cannabis product– include myrcene, beta-caryophyllene, the essential oil of cannabis, and limonene.
How Marijuana Works
The THC content of weed determines the potency, usually between 0.3 and 4 percent. However, certain specially bred plants contain THC levels as high as 25 percent, attracting some users and producers. Several factors play an essential role in determining the potency of marijuana, including:
- Climate and growing conditions
- Harvesting and processing
The timing at which the weed is harvested can affect the cannabis constituent content. In addition, female strains tend to have higher THC content than male varieties.
As the marijuana plant matures, its chemical composition changes. In the early stages of development, cannabidiolic acid (CBDA) is the predominant cannabinoid. Later, CBDA is transformed to cannabidiol (CBD), subsequently converted to THC when the plant reaches flower maturity.
The Potency of Marijuana Over Time
Many people worry about whether weeds are more potent today than 30 or 40 years ago. The U.S. legislators have claimed that potency has increased 10 to 25 times since the 1960s. Are they right, as usual?
It is difficult to make accurate, detailed comparisons between the THC levels of today’s marijuana and that of the past. One reason is that researchers need to examine a cross-section of cannabis plants to determine the average potency levels of marijuana. And most likely, we couldn’t perform this analysis in the 1960s and 1970s.
As far as we know, the U.S. is the only country that has continuously compiled data on the THC levels of marijuana plants over the past several decades.
The data compilation states that the marijuana’ THC level increased between three to seven-fold; this increase occurred over 15 years, from the early 1970s to the mid-1980s.
However, these claims are challenged by data from independent laboratories because they are based on speculative, questionable assumptions. Other recent data have not confirmed a 10-30 fold increase in the THC level of marijuana between 1984 and 1998.
Nonetheless, it may be possible to speculate on a slight rise in THC level from 3.3% in 1980 to 4.4% in 1998 (at most). When selecting a marijuana product, it may be tempting to consider THC level as an indicator of the potency of a cannabis experience. But that’s not enough; read on to learn why.
What Is A Safe THC Content in Marijuana Flowers
As we already know, tolerance to different amounts of THC depends on potency, the user, and the type of consumption. If too much marijuana is ingested or if the marijuana has a very high potency, young users may experience more severe short- and long-term effects.
These effects can range from increased potency to the less euphoric impacts of weed, such as anxiety, fear, paranoia, and panic. The way marijuana is consumed, individual tolerance, and product type play an essential role in marijuana potency.
Personal tolerance can affect potency in that frequent cannabis use can result in resistance to THC. Newcomers to the marijuana world are strongly recommended to start with lower potency products or smoke less weed. Raw cannabis contains traces of THC to “get you high.”
THC Levels and Their Effects
Marijuana products with a higher THC level usually have more potent effects. Cannabis flowers typically contain about 15-25% THC. The biological limit of high potency cannabis appears to be around 35% THC (D9).
Therefore, you may find flowers with a THC content of 25%, although this is relatively uncommon. Any cannabis flower with more than 25% THC can be considered high potency marijuana. The following table gives you a rule of thumb for categorizing different THC levels and their associated effects:
< 3 %
Mostly medical purposes
Medical and recreational purposes
Mild psychoactive effects– mild high
Moderate psychoactive effects
Strong intoxicating effects (still controllable)
> 25 %
Very (too) powerful intoxicating effects
How Much THC Is Too Much
As mentioned earlier, while the THC content of cannabis is often reported as 25-30%, THC levels above 25% are rare. As a general rule, the highest quality marijuana should have a THC content of 25%-30%.
Any marijuana strain with more than 20% THC is robust. Generally, it is advisable to expect extravagant marijuana products that promise very high-THC cannabis to be backed up by third-party lab data.
THC & Medical Marijuana
A systematic and thorough study has found that most medical marijuana dispensed in the U.S. contains up to 15 percent THC. The primary objective was to evaluate the advertised cannabidiol (CBD) and THC contents in legal cannabis products to assess their suitability for medicinal use.
The second goal was to compare the potency of products dispensed in recreational and medical programs. The scientists recorded THC and CBD concentrations in all cannabis products offered by legal dispensary websites.
They also compared them between or within states of interest: California, Colorado, Maine, etc. They sampled a total of 8,505 marijuana products from 653 dispensaries.
The researchers concluded that more than 90 percent of legal cannabis products sold in medical dispensaries in the U.S. are much more potent than recommended in clinical trials for relieving chronic pain.
They found that most products had more than 10% THC, and many contained as much as 15% or more, exactly THC content used for recreational purposes. The high concentration is an issue because between 60 percent and 80 percent of patients consuming medical marijuana use it for pain relief.
When the concentration of cannabinoids is high, the associated risk increases significantly. This increase will favour the development of dependence in many people and lead to the corresponding tolerance much more quickly.
The flexible response to any drug, whether therapeutic or recreational, is called tolerance, which means that you may need higher and higher concentrations to get the same level of pain relief.
The Consumption Experience; Consider the Important Factors
Combining other phytocannabinoids with aromatic compounds called terpenes determines how a marijuana product makes you feel. While each cannabis compound (CBD, CBN, etc.) and terpene can induce their effects, they can complement or enhance each other when taken together.
This collaboration is sometimes referred to as the “entourage effect.” Therefore, we assume that phytocannabinoids and terpenes work synergistically to influence how you feel after consuming full- or broad-spectrum products. Scientists are still working to understand the entourage effect adequately.
In addition, the experience of consumption goes beyond chemistry; your environmental situation (condition) can also influence how you’ll feel. If you consume a flower alone and in peace at home, you will likely feel differently than if you do it at a party.
You may consume high-THC cannabis via smoking, edibles, Pre-Rolls, or whatever other method you desire. Irrespective of the consumption method, we strongly recommend that you become adequately informed about what you expect (or need) when consuming marijuana and what parameters may play a significant role in your consumption experience.
Get in Touch
If you still feel overwhelmed by the strains with the highest THC content, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. We can help you find the optimal THC level for you.