Whether you’re looking for pain relief, a better night’s sleep or just a good old-fashioned laughing fit, chances are there’s a breeder who’s created the perfect cultivar for you. However, while professional cultivators are becoming increasingly familiar with the cannabinoids and terpenes in their plants, research suggests that most consumers have no clue as to how much THC or CBD is in their cannabis.
Numerous studies have indicated that both medical and recreational users lack a proper understanding of the chemical content of their weed, with the most recent appearing in the journal Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research last month[i]. According to the authors, only a tenth of the 6,471 study participants claimed to know the numerical concentration of THC in their cannabis, almost a third of whom reported completely implausible values.
How High Is High?
Everyone knows that large doses of THC generally equate to a strong high, yet many of the respondents in this particular study displayed a low awareness of just how much of this cannabinoid one could reasonably expect to find in a given strain. For instance, 30 percent of those who claimed to know the percentage of THC in their cannabis reported values that were higher than 30 percent, despite this being completely unrealistic.
According to the study authors, less than one percent of cannabis sold on both the legal and illegal markets contains this quantity of THC, making it highly unlikely that those who reported such figures knew what they were talking about. This apparent lack of knowledge mirrors that displayed by participants in a previous study, who believed, on average, that high-THC weed contained 52 percent of the cannabinoid and that low-THC strains contained 28 percent[ii].
These same respondents also said they thought low-CBD cultivars contained 30 percent of this cannabinoid, and that high-CBD varieties carried 53 percent. To set the record straight, an analysis of marijuana being sold both legally and illegally in Canada revealed that the average concentration of CBD in dried herb was just 2 percent.
Ratios vs Percentages
While few study participants were able to state the actual percentage value of either cannabinoid in their favourite cannabis products, considerably more claimed to know the general THC:CBD descriptive ratios of their cultivars. For example, just over half of the respondents said they knew if their edibles had high or low THC to CBD ratios, while almost 80 percent of those who used oils claimed to be aware of this comparative ratio.
This is perhaps unsurprising, as such products often come in labelled packaging that provides at least a basic description of their cannabinoid content. However, other studies have indicated that many people find these labels confusing, particularly when they only state the total amounts of particular cannabinoids in milligrams, without providing a breakdown of ratios or explaining how many milligrams equates to a single dose[iii].
Furthermore, given that herbal cannabis generally comes in unlabelled packaging, those who prefer to smoke their weed are often left with no indication of its chemical make-up. As a consequence, up to a third of respondents were unable to provide an estimate for either the percentage values or the descriptive ratios of the cannabinoids in their bud.
[i] Hammond D, Goodman S. Knowledge of Tetrahydrocannabinol and Cannabidiol Levels Among Cannabis Consumers in the United States and Canada. Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research. 2020 Oct 29. – https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/10.1089/can.2020.0092
[ii] Kruger DJ, Kruger JS, Collins RL. Frequent cannabis users demonstrate low knowledge of cannabinoid content and dosages. Drugs: Education, Prevention and Policy. 2020 Apr 14:1-7. – https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/09687637.2020.1752150
[iii] Hammond D. Communicating THC levels and ‘dose’to consumers: implications for product labelling and packaging of cannabis products in regulated markets. International Journal of Drug Policy. 2019 Jul 25:102509. – https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0955395919301823