Many newcomers to cannabis have questions about THC, and for good reason. THC percentages are displayed prominently on all of the products you will find in our menu and on our shelves. But just what does THC mean and why is it so important?
THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is a cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant. It is responsible for the intoxicating and mind-altering effects that cannabis produces, and is also believed to have a wide range of therapeutic benefits. THC creates the pleasurable feelings that we typically associate with cannabis by stimulating the brain to release dopamine, which in turn causes euphoria. It’s not just the most abundant cannabinoid in cannabis, but is also widely considered to be the most important. Cannabis without THC is a little bit like non-alcoholic beer.
Because of THC’s desireable intoxicating and therapeutic benefits, many strains have been specially-bred to feature higher levels of it. Nowadays it’s not uncommon to see cannabis strains with THC levels that reach over 25%, and sometimes even over 30%. However, a strain’s THC percentage doesn’t quite tell the whole story.
There are many other cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, and other compounds in the cannabis plant whose effects and benefits can’t be ignored. In fact, well over 100 individual cannabinoids and over 100 individual terpenes have been identified in cannabis. It’s believed that the many cannabis compounds found in a strain or a product come together to produce more complete effects than THC can on its own. This phenomenon, called ‘the entourage effect’, states that these many compounds work together in synergy to produce the buzz commonly associated with specific strains or products.
A good example of the entourage effect in action is distillate vape oils. Distillate oils are made through a complex distillation process that separates each compound found in the source material, leaving behind only pure THC. After, some terpenes are usually added in order to give the oil flavor.
However, some people have noticed that the buzz produced by distillates is shorter and feels less full when compared to smoking flower buds or vaping other kinds of concentrates. That’s because the entourage effect is lacking since very few natural cannabis compounds besides THC exist in these oils. Nevertheless, many people prefer the high-THC buzz that distillate produces as they feel it allows them to focus better, and since they prefer a shorter high.
One recent study from the University of Colorado found that users of concentrates containing massive THC levels did not necessarily report feeling more intoxicated than those who smoked flower with less THC. This has led researchers to believe that less THC is necessary to feel ‘high’ than most people think.
THC percentage isn’t the only thing that matters when it comes to enjoying cannabis. Many people looking for the strongest high possible choose strains and products based on their THC content, but this isn’t actually a very good strategy. Shopping for the highest THC cannabis on the shelves is like shopping for the strongest alcohol you can find. But as we all know, there’s much more than alcohol content that goes into making a drink enjoyable.
Is higher THC necessarily better? Probably not. And if you’re new to cannabis or still experimenting, it’s probably a good idea to start on the lower end of the THC spectrum.