Understanding THC and CBD Content in Cannabis Products

When it comes to cannabis products, the key numbers to look out for are those that appear after “TOTAL THC” and “TOTAL CBD”. These numbers refer to the amount of each compound that will be available after heating, that is, when you smoke or vaporize your flower. The percentages of THC and CBD are expressed as a percentage of the dry weight of the flower and are a mandatory part of the labeling of cannabis products. The percentage of THC refers to the amount of THC contained in your dry weight.

The percentages are directly correlated with milligrams per gram. One gram of cannabis with 25% THC contains 250 milligrams of cannabis per gram. On the packaging labels, the first numbers, listed as “THC” and “CBD”, represent the active levels of cannabinoids in cannabis as purchased. Dry cannabis will have a lower level of active cannabinoids because it hasn't been heated yet.

To activate the rest, cannabis must be decarboxylated (smoked, vaped or cooked). This is why on packages with a specific amount, you'll see “total THC per activation” and “total CBD” per activation, that is, how much each dose contains. Any product containing 10 micrograms (µg) or more of THC must be labeled with the standard cannabis symbol. Each crop is batch-tested and its CBD and THC content is recorded, then associated with a unique batch number to make it trackable.

The experience of how “high” you are or how you feel is the result of other factors related to the variety of cannabis you consume. People with limited experience tend to think that they should choose a cannabis strain with a low percentage of THC, while experienced users tend to lean towards higher percentages. With this data, we've established some common-sense limits for THC and CBD levels, so that products on Leafly dispensary menus can be represented with up to five filled circles that indicate a scale of the amount of THC and CBD they contain. Unlike THC, CBD may still have an effect on the brain (but it may not be the common “high” a consumer is used to experiencing). To learn more about how the THC and CBD content is represented in packaging, see How to understand the cannabinoid content on product labels.

Tasha Falsetti
Tasha Falsetti

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