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.