The cannabis industry is evolving steadily after a rapid growth spurt of legalization. Gone are the days of purchasing whatever strain a supplier has on hand. Instead, consumers today have countless strains, concentrates, and edibles to choose from, allowing them to be incredibly selective and specific about what kind of high they experience.
Anyone who enjoys the legal cannabis industry is probably used to noting two main things when making a purchase at their local dispensary: the THC content and the sativa/indica ratio of the product.
Casual cannabis users typically believe that the higher the THC content is, the stronger and more intense the high will be. Likewise, they also figure that sativas will all perk them up while all indicas will mellow them out.
While these beliefs are incredibly common, the truth is that they oversimplify how and why a specific weed strain produces a unique feeling.
You’ve most likely smoked a strain of sativa that left you a tad anxious, while other sativas leave you happy, energized, and ready to tackle the day. The same goes for indica. Some strains are great for relaxing and watching a flick, while others will put you right to bed. Similarly, you’ve probably heard a friend rave about a strain that just didn’t do much for you.
In order to understand these varied experiences, it’s important to remember that cannabis is a wonderfully complex plant.
It’s Not Just About THC
Budtenders at Smokey’s 420 are continuously trained with the most recent information available based on real studies and science regarding product’s THC content. It’s how many cannabis consumers decide which product to buy. Why wouldn’t you choose the strain with the highest amount of THC? Isn’t that more bang for your buck?
If this is the logic you’ve been using, keep in mind that THC content is only one indicator of how a strain or product will make you feel. Choosing your weed based solely on this factor is often compared to going to a liquor store with the mission of selecting the booze with the highest alcohol content.
There’s a reason no one does this; there’s far more to enjoy a good drink than how much alcohol it contains. Just as a sommelier will pick their wine based on a myriad of factors, true cannabis connoisseurs will pay attention to the entire makeup of the product, not just a single element.
A major influence on how strong and how unique a high will feel is based on the presence and concentration of certain terpenes.
What Are Terpenes?
If you’re tuned into any cannabis industry dialogue, you may have heard of terpenes before. If not, the simple explanation is that terpenes are organic compounds found in the essential oils of plants.
Specifically relating to marijuana, terpenes are responsible for giving cannabis its distinctive flavors and aromatic scents. There have been over 100 different types of terpenes found in cannabis plants, and each strain, specifically each harvest, comes with completely unique concentrations of them. This explains the light, citrusy notes of Lemon Haze and the robust, Earthy flavor of Afghan Kush.
That being said, terpenes aren’t just about aromas and flavors. Research has shown that terpenes also affect the type of experience a specific strain offers.
How Do Terpenes Affect the Cannabis Experience?
While THC is responsible for the psychoactive nature of cannabis, industry leaders are concluding that terpenes help to direct, define, and in some cases, enhance the whole experience. The distinctive types of terpenes and cannabinoids (e.g., THC or CBD) present in a particular strain, along with the concentration levels of each, work together to produce what is commonly referred to in the industry as the “entourage effect.”
In other words, the different compounds work in a synergistic manner to create an experience that’s unique to that strain. The whole is much greater than the sum of its parts.
Different types of terpenes have various therapeutic properties and will also affect a high in various ways. (Here is a good resource for better understanding some of the commonly found terpenes.) Some terpenes produce effects that help enhance mood and energy, while others, such as myrcene, create a sedative calm. Likewise, some enhance the feeling of THC, and others can mellow it out.
This is why you may fall in love with a strain with a lower THC content and favor it over one that has a high concentration. It all depends on what you personally consider a good experience. If you’re looking for a strain that will give you a quick energy boost and appease your anxiety, research suggests that those effects will be determined by the terpene composition, not the amount of THC.
Ways to layer your medication:
There is a way to layer your cannabis intake and to customize the experience to fit your recreational or medical needs. The cannabis plant has roughly 111 different cannabinoids and each one does something different. It’s all about which cannabinoids are present in your bloodstream and how they interact with your body's chemistry.
THCa and CBDa are found in the raw plant matter and turn into the commonly known cannabinoids THC and CBD. These cannabinoids are activated by the process of decarboxylation (having it reach a certain heat level).
If you intake just one cannabinoid, such as THC, there are specific results. However, when you layer cannabinoids you unlock different “achievements” so to speak. This allows you the fun and freedom to tailor your consumption for what you need or want to experience. For example THCa in its Base form before the process of decarboxylation, has anti-inflammatory properties, and can provide relief from depression and anxiety as well as being a neuro protective.
THC:tetrahydrocannabinol is known for its psychoactivity. Effects include: psychoactive, euphoria, sensory enhancement, anti-cancer, anti-nausea, pain relief, improves appetite, helps glaucoma, muscle relaxant, helps for autoimmune disorders, and anti-inflammatory properties.
CBD: cannabidiol is Non-psychoactive, yet it modifies the effects of THC. CBD has great medical potential, and effects include: anti-depressant, anti-cancer, anti-nausea, anxiolytic, pain relief, mitigates spasms, improves blood circulation, help for autoimmune disorders, and bone growth stimulant.
CBG: Cannabigerol is Non-psychoactive and is known for its anti-tumor qualities. Effects include: anti-cancer agent, lowers blood pressure, anti-inflammatory, and bone growth stimulant.
CBC:cannabichromene is Non-psychoactive. Effects include: anti-cancer, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and bone growth stimulant
There are a variety of products to target different intake areas of your body. And there are many ways to get cannabinoids into your bloodstream.
First-pass Metabolism is a term used to describe how much medicine is actually absorbed.
For example: Smoking cannabis provides you with about 30% of the cannabinoids that you are consuming. If you eat an edible it is about 60% absorption rate, depending on your liver and gut wall lining.
Utilizing a variety of cannabis products can help with layering cannabinoids into your system. There are less explored cannabis products such as Transdermals that penetrate through many layers of skin, where the cannabinoids can directly enter your bloodstream. Transdermals include patches, salves, and transdermal gels.
Another, more common way, to intake cannabinoids is to inhale smoke or vapor. Colorado regulations due to legalization, allows the consumer to know specific testing of each product sold in a dispensary. Testing will show what cannabinoids are present, in addition to THC levels.
I have had the chance to try a variety of concentrates and flower that are CBD dominant. There are different ratios that promote different layering effects- such as 2:1, 4:1 and even 20:1.
For My first CBD smoking flower experience I tried our Pandora’s Box strain which tests about 3.6%THC and 8% CBD levels.
I have severe inflammation in my fore arms as well as other whiplash injuries. Smoking Pandora’s Box made me feel like someone was constantly giving me a great shoulder rub. I tend to get very anxious and depressed when I get to those inflammation levels. For that reason, I see my own cannabis use as preventative care. I try to keep a constant dosing of CBD and THC and when I notice that they start to leave my system and my symptoms start to return it’s obvious my body needs replenished of those cannabinoids. Also when self-medicating it seems that getting the cannabinoids as close to contact with the symptom area is optimal for maximum relief. It always seems to help pumping that blood stream full of the “entourage effect” of BOTH CBD and THC is the best way to go, for me.
One of my favorite brands is Mary’s Medicinals www.marysmedicinals.com . Mary’s Medicinals products target certain cannabinoids while honoring a whole plant medicine mentality. Every product will have just enough of the other cannabinoids to enhance the main cannabinoid you’re targeting without overpowering the cannabinoid you need. For example, their THC Sativa patch has 20mg of THC and under 1mg of THCa, CBD, CBDa, and CBN.
The patches can deliver a steady dosing into your system for over 12 hrs. What is great about shopping on the recreational side is that every edible, concentrate, or flower is required to be tested for the major cannabinoids. Since testing results can change from batch to batch, it’s important to check each products testing information before purchasing if you are seeking specific ratios/layers/dosing. For example: A multipack of the CBD Cheeba Chews is one of my favorites to supplement a whole plant medicine regiment. A box will contain 8 servings or doses of infused chocolate taffy.
The whole box has 4.72mg THC, 83mg CBD, 2.64mg CBG, and 4.8mg CBC.
Not everyone wants to smoke, vape, eat, or dab their cannabinoids. Some people are seeking pain relief and have no desire to feel high.
For someone looking for localized pain relief, another great product with a nice spectrum of cannabinoids is the Mary’s Way Salve made by The Growing Kitchen .
The current batch is testing at 8.6mg THC, 8.8 mg CBG, 3.2mg CBN, and 3.5mg THCa.
Used topically, these molecules power out anti-inflammatory properties and provide pain relief. I am continuously fascinated by this plant and I think it enjoys surprising us. I encourage everyone to experiment with layering your cannabis and see how the plant provides a higher quality of life.
Peace and love,