Debunking the THC Myth: Why a Higher THC Percentage Isn’t Necessarily Better

THC isn’t everything. Our friends at Phyre do a wonderful job of explaining why in their recent blog post. 

Introduction

Imagine walking into a liquor store in search of the perfect bottle of alcohol. “Which one’s the highest proof?” you ask the clerk, scouring each label for the alcohol content of each.

After carefully reading each label, you walk out with several bottles of 190 proof, 95% alcohol, “might-as-well-be-drinking-battery-acid” Everclear.

Seems unlikely, right? Even ludicrous?

Unfortunately, this scenario is not unlike what’s happening at cannabis retail shops and dispensaries across the (legal) nation: Many consumers are walking in and demanding the highest THC content available, often without realizing that the THC percentage of any particular flower is only one indicator of the resulting high.

You don’t choose your wine or liquor based on alcohol content — so why would you choose your cannabis based on THC percentage?

No cannabis connoisseur I know chooses her weed based primarily on THC content, and here’s why: First, this method overlooks a multitude of factors that contribute to the ultimate effect of any given flower. (Think about the wide array of factors that contribute to the effects of a glass of wine, for example.) Second, it turns out that THC isn’t necessarily a reliable indicator of potency in the first place.
Yes, you heard me right: Perhaps the biggest myth about THC is that it has ever been a reliable indicator of potency in the first place.

“The most potent strain I’ve smoked,” said Dr. Donald Land during a Green Flower Media talk, “was in Jamaica and it was 12% THC.”

Phyre co-founder Stefani Malott has had a similar experience:

“This OG Kush is one of my favorite strains,” she explains. “It gives me the giggles, melts away my pain, and it just makes me feel so happy. And at 14%, it hits me a lot harder than most strains testing in the mid to high twenties.”

Maybe you’ve noticed this before, too: lower-testing flower might have hit you harder than expected, or perhaps higher-testing flower has sometimes turned out to be — ahem, slightly underwhelming in effect. Whatever the case, you can almost certainly relate to holding a preference for the effects of a particular strain over those of another.

What causes these kinds of differences among cannabis varieties? If THC content alone cannot reliably explain variations in effect and potency among strains, what can? And if not based primarily on THC content, how should we choose our weed?

We’re glad you asked.

Cracking the THC Code

David Mapes, founder and researcher at Epsilon Research in Sacramento, California, has been researching the therapeutic use of whole plant cannabis for years.

“You must remember that cannabis is not just about cannabinoids [such as THC],” Mapes states. “It also contains numerous types of constituents that are responsible for the various ways that those cannabinoids will act and how the body will react.”

In other words, like your Facebook relationship status, it’s complicated. With over 430 unique compounds identified in the cannabis plant, the way in which the various components interact to create a range of effects and potency levels is complex.

As a simplified analogy, you might think of THC as just one of many colors in an artist’s watercolor palette:

Blue plus yellow = green.
Blue plus red = purple.
Even when both combinations contain the exact same amount of blue, the end result is entirely different.

Likewise, in the context of cannabis, two plants with the exact same THC percentage can produce very different effects and potency levels depending upon the specific combination of additional compounds present in the plant.

It’s not the THC content that matters most, but how the THC combines with other compounds in the plant to create unique synergistic effects of varying magnitude and effect.

For example, you may already know that CBD has been found to soften the effect of THC — so much so that for most people a 1:1 ratio of THC:CBD results in a very mild psychoactive effect, if any at all. In comparison, a flower with the same THC content but, say, one-twentieth the amount of CBD would undoubtedly result in a much stronger high for the user.

That’s just one illustration of how the properties of different compounds can interact to create a unique synergistic profile. But in addition to cannabinoids like THC and CBD, what other types of compounds play a central role in determining the effect of any given flower?

If you guessed “terpenes,” you guessed right.

Terpenes are a class of organic hydrocarbons responsible for giving cannabis its glorious range of aromas, from fruity to skunky to earthy and beyond. It turns out that terpenes do much more than provide a pleasing aroma, however: In large part, they are responsible for a vast range of effects that cannot be explained by THC or other cannabinoids alone.

What’s the difference between an Indica and a Sativa? Why is it that two strains with the same THC content can affect an individual so differently? Terpenes, it turns out, have a lot to do with this.

What Combination of Terpenes is Right for You?

Just like a fine whiskey or wine, cannabis comes with many flavors and subtleties, many of which are deeply influenced by the plant’s terpene content. So when selecting your cannabis, it’s important to consider the effects you’re seeking.

Are you using cannabis to relax and unwind? To energize? To aid your sleep, ease your pain, or calm your anxiety? Do you like a heady high or a body high? A lighter or a heavier effect? Do you have any medical concerns you’d like to address using cannabis?

As a starting point for helping you determine your personalized terpene profile, consider the effects of five of the most common terpenes listed below.

Table 1.1: 5 Common Terpenes and Their Respective Effects

terpene chart

How to Determine the Terpene Profile of Your Flower

There are a couple of ways to determine the terpene content of your flower.

The most accurate method is to obtain terpene test results that have been performed by an accredited laboratory. A few forward-thinking dispensaries, including Zion Cannabis in SW Portland, make this easy for you by listing the terpene profiles of each type of flower right on their menu.

Ringo's Gift terpene results

Other dispensaries have terpene test results available for some (but not all) of their flower if you inquire, so it never hurts to ask your budtender to dig into a particular flower’s test results and verify whether terpene testing was performed. Here at Phyre, we test all our flower for terpene content. The terpene analyses we receive from our lab look something like this:

terpene test results

Pretty cool, right?

In the absence of terpene laboratory tests, you can also utilize your sense of smell to get an idea of the prominent terpenes present in a particular strain. As noted in the chart above, Pinene smells strongly of pine, Limonene smells of citrus, and so on.

Take the THC/Terpene Challenge

Go ahead, we dare you: During your next visit to a dispensary, purchase a variety of different strains ranging in THC, CBD, and terpene content — and try each one out for yourself. Pay careful attention to the smell of each flower, the terpene concentrations as indicated by laboratory testing, and your budtender’s recommendations.

As you consume your cannabis, take note of the subtle (or not so subtle) differences in how each variety affects you. How does your body feel? Do you feel couch-locked or energized, sleepy or creative, anxious or euphoric? How strong of a buzz do you get from each strain in relation to your comfort level?

When a 14% strain knocks you off your ass or you finally find a variety that calms rather than agitates your anxious mind, you’ll know firsthand: There is so much more to cannabis than just THC.

Tom Marino Back in Running to Be Trump’s ‘Drug Czar’

Federal Policy Update

Tom Marino: Our Best Hope?

Our friends over at Leafly have done a wonderful job explaining how Tom Marino’s expected appointment could shield the cannabis industry form federal meddling. Marino has a long history of focusing on the opioid epidemic while in Congress. Marino’s opioid focus will, hopefully, take some wind (smoke?) out of Attorney General Sessions’ sails when it comes to prosecuting the cannabis industry.

From Leafly

The White House has announced that President Donald Trump intends to nominate US Rep. Tom Marino to lead the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP).

Marino, an early supporter of then-candidate Trump, has been a candidate for the role—commonly known as White House “drug czar”—since at least April, when the president first said he intended to appoint the Pennsylvania Republican to the post. But Marino withdrew himself from consideration in May citing a critical illness in his family.

In the position, Marino would steer the administration’s policies on drug control. And as Leafly Deputy Editor Bruce Barcott reported in April, his record indicates he’s far more concerned with the country’s ongoing opioid epidemic than with regulated cannabis markets.

During his time in Congress, Marino has worked to expand access to treatment for individuals struggling with opioid addiction. He also led a successful legislative effort to address cross-border drug trafficking.  If those past examples are any indication, Marino would likely direct most of his attention as drug czar to America’s opioid crisis. A White House panel in July urged the president to declare a national emergency around opioid overdoses, which are estimated to have killed roughly 60,000 people in 2016.

Marino’s position on opioids, however, could raise concerns within the cannabis industry. He seems to favor tougher criminal enforcement on the ground and more leniency for drug manufacturers, an approach that echoes that of US Attorney General Jeff Sessions. In May 2016, for example, Marino suggested that authorities lock up nonviolent drug offenders in a “hospital-slash-prison,” with release dependent upon the treatment program’s approval. If, like Sessions, Marino sees cannabis as a contributor to America’s overdose epidemic—just last week, Sessions said the idea of legalizing cannabis “makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck”—he may be resistant to the growing body of evidence that medical cannabis can help combat the opioid crisis.

If confirmed by the Senate (which reconvened today), Marino would replace Richard Baum, the ONDCP’s acting head. His Congressional seat would need to be filled via a special election.

See more here.

Distillate: The cannabis concentrate of the future

distillation | dis·til·la·tion | noun

a: the purification or concentration of a substance, the obtaining of the essence or volatile properties contained in it, or the separation of one substance from another, by such a process.

You may only remember this word from high school chemistry class, but distillation is quickly changing the cannabis industry. Concentrate producers are using innovative distillation techniques to create potent, pure, and clean cannabis distillates that can be dabbed, vaped, eaten, dropped under your tongue… the list goes on.

Where Does A Cannabis Oil Distillate Come From?

Pure, potent cannabis oil distillate does not just appear in the wild. There is a specific scientific process that takes place before users are presented with what may very well be the future of cannabis concentrates. In order to extract THC, terpenes, and other cannabinoids from the cannabis plant a solvent-based (butane, propane, CO2) extraction must be performed first.

The solvent-based extraction removes valuable compounds from the plant itself, however many other compounds remain in the extract. In order to distill down to a more pure form, further refinement is done through the processes of winterization and decarboxylation. Finally, the oil is run through a distillation chamber multiple times to refine the desirable compound (THC or CBD) to its most pure form.

Consuming Cannabis Oil Distillate

As we mentioned above, cannabis distillates have a wide variety of applications that can appeal to just about any type of user. Pure cannabis distillates contain virtually no flavors or aromas, which makes them perfect for practical applications where the cannabis “flavor” is not needed or wanted (think edibles and drinks!). Additionally, these powerful distillates have great medicinal potential because of the small amounts needed to produce strong effects.

With a potential potency of nearly 99%, cannabis oil distillate should not be taken lightly. Check out this simple graph below to get an idea of how potent distillate is compared to flower.

distillate-potency

Final Word

While cannabis distillate may be somewhat new to the concentrate market, this well-developed, scientific extraction technique looks to be the next gold standard for cannabis extraction and refinement. While we still love our BHO, CO2, and PHO dabs… cannabis oil distillate is certainly worth trying if you’re looking for the most pure, clean, and potent concentrate.

Cannabis Oil Cartridges: Are they for me?

The Good Kind Of Oil

As cannabis consumption continues to enter mainstream society, personal vaporizers are becoming more popular by the day. Vaporization is, essentially, the point at which solids turn to gas. In the cannabis world this means heating a product, but not to the point at which it burns.

There are many different types of vaporizers that allow users to vape dry herb, hash or wax, and oil via a pre-filled cartridge. Today, we will be discussing the increasingly popular oil cartridges.

Oil cartridges are pre-filled, ready to use, and are made with just about any strain you could want. The cartridge is connected to a battery and voila, you’re ready to vape! You might be asking yourself, “how did a leafy green flower turn into this golden oil, and how did it get into this cartridge?”

How Does A Flower Become An Oil?

Other than strain, the main consideration when choosing an oil cartridge is the method of extraction. Currently, there are two widely used solvents for extraction: carbon dioxide and butane. Each of these steps could be expanded on for pages, but the basic process is as follows:

  1. Flower is loaded into an extraction chamber.
  2. The chosen solvent (CO2 or butane) is used to perform the initial extraction which produces a “crude” oil.
  3. That “crude” oil is refined multiple times to filter out any unwanted materials and extract THC.
  4. Cartridges are filled either by hand or by a machine.

Carbon dioxide and butane both have their advantages and disadvantages when it comes to creating oil cartridges. At this early stage in the oil cartridge industry, comparing the two is like comparing iOS to Android – both camps have strong feelings and good points to make, and both are great options.

runny-honey

Benefits of Cannabis Oil Cartridges

Vaporizing cannabis via an oil cartridge has become a popular method of consumption for many users due to its ease of use, quick onset, discreteness, and medicinal benefits. Rather than fumbling with hash or wax and trying to reapply a dab of oil, a cartridge is always ready to go. Rather than eating an edible, which could take up to an hour to feel the effects, oil cartridges produce a vapor that is inhaled through your lungs and absorbed quickly for an onset time of less than 10 minutes. If being discrete is what you’re after, oil cartridges produce a light, nearly odorless vapor. Perhaps most importantly are the medicinal benefits for users who need to carefully control their dosages and cannot physically handle smoke or sugary edibles entering their bodies.

How To Use Cannabis Oil Cartridges

To use an oil cartridge you need three things: a battery, a battery charger, and a cartridge. 510 thread batteries have become the most popular form of battery, but be sure to ask your budtender about compatibility between a battery and cartridge. Once you’re home and ready to try out your new cartridge read the instructions on the battery. Battery functionality such as temperature control varies across brands, so be sure you’ve read the instructions and understand how to use your battery.

Come see us at either our Empire or Division locations to speak with a staff member about which cartridge is right for you!

Pro-tip: Don’t over do it. Short, repeated rips will offer better flavor, a reduced risk of burning the oil, and an overall better experience.

Happy Vaping!

cannabis oil cartridges

Dab Review: Gorilla Glue #4 by OM Extracts

OM-Extracts-Gorilla-Glue-#4

Hello again everyone!

As always I’m very excited to bring you this review, and if you’ve been reading along you know I’m a bit of a fan of @OMExtracts but I try not to play favorites.

If you like to dab like I do, you’re going to be really happy with what you see coming from OM these days. This golden sugar wax looks so good you’ll want to eat it, and consistency of candy. I do have to say this extract is so terpy, it did bleed through the parchment paper but put it in a @BudderBlock and you’re all good!

I do have to stay honest here and say that the smell and flavor were both a little difficult to pick up, but the smell and taste that I did receive were very good.

Were the crew @OMExtracts does always shine is in the sensation and experience categories. This Gorilla Glue #4 does not disappoint in the slightest. Nice smooth rips on the lower temp nail and Super comfortable head blast with a hot nail. Along with a ride that lasted a decent amount of time with good strength for myself. As a heavier dab smoker I appreciate an Extract that keeps my mind right for an extended period of time.

You won’t feel as strong as one, but this stuff will make you feel like a Gorilla is holding you down to the couch for sure!

Happy and Safe Dabbing Everyone!

Steve

Dab Review: Pure White BHO by Jollybees

Steve is back at it with another review. See what he has to say about Jollybee’s, Pure White BHO!

Jollybee's-Pure-White-BHO-Review

Seems like everyday, Science is taking the guess work out of the Cannabis Industry, and me personally I couldn’t be more excited to see what Scientist like team at Jollybee has for us in the future!

Their Pure White BHO is on a whole other level, and if you’re like me and have been seeing those 99% floating around the web, you’ll be very excited to see what’s on the shelves today!

The name says it all, this stuff is beautiful Pure White Crystals that really have the look of table salt almost. It is also very dry and crunchy, so you’ll want to be careful with it. I would recommend a spoon-like dab tool if you have one for this stuff.

There were some minor down sides, but if we’re going to have down sides, for me these are the ones to have, and really as you would expect there wasn’t much of a smell or a taste to this Pure White BHO. I can’t say there was absolutely no smell or taste, but it was very hard to pick up any fragrance or change on the pallet.

If you’re like me and you enjoy a really nice solid cerebral punch, the stuff delivers with a little extra. Like a rocket ship to the brain, you’ll feel this stuff immediately, but you won’t feel it in your chest if your smoking it alone. 

First dab, I felt like I just took a deep breathe of air. No cough, no tickle, just smooth air. But surely I felt that first dab in the head right away. Second dab I went in for the kill and boy oh boy was I up there. Although I do have to say the experience was very short lived, and I almost fell from the sky as fast as I shot up there.

As I continued through my Pure White powdery gram, I found it most enjoyable and a better longevity if I used this Pure White BHO as a “Dab Frosting” if you will? I really liked taking a normal size dab of concentrate and then dipping/coating that dab in the Pure White BHO creating a Dab Fun Dip for mind pleasure for myself!

 

Great work again Steve!  Substance is super excited about limited recreational sales of extracts available now.  Recreational marijuana users are allowed to purchase 1g of CO2 or BHO extract per day.  Check out our Menu Now! 

New Products Available for Oregon Recreational Marijuana Market

As of June 2, adult cannabis users in Oregon have legal access to a whole new range of items. Adults over the age of 21 will now be able to purchase edibles and extracts, in addition to flower. More specifically, adult users can now buy:

  • One low-dose edible a day (15 mg of THC or less)
  • Topicals (therapeutic, non-psychoactive cannabis products applied to the skin) with a THC content under 6 percent
  • One extract with less than 1,000 mg of THC

weed_edibles

As for flower, you will still be able to purchase up to a quarter ounce of bud per day. Adult users can purchase up to 4 clones through December 31, 2016.

Shifting Regulations

Oregon’s recreational marijuana market opened last year, allowing dispensaries to sell limited cannabis products to adult users. Since October 1, 2015, dispensaries licensed by the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) have been able to sell up to a quarter ounce of bud a day and four clones to all 21+ consumers.

OM-Extract-BBC-Fire-Live-Resin-2

The new regulations allow these same adults to have access to the full range of cannabis products, albeit in limited quantities and dosage levels. All adult use cannabis products sold at medical dispensaries are subject to a 25% sales tax.

Shifting Regulators

Oregon’s recreational marijuana market as a whole, however, is still in its experimental stages. Adult cannabis sales at medical marijuana dispensaries are part of a trial period in which the OHA remains the primary regulator. After December 31, 2016, however, purely recreational stores are expected to open, licensed and regulated by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC).

Sales taxes on cannabis products at OLCC stores will range between 17 and 20 percent. While these recreational stores will have all the same products as medical dispensaries, dosage levels are likely to be limited, and are being determined in coordination with the OHA. The OHA and OLCC will likely be looking closely at the June 2 changes when making their final decision.

Dab Review: Headband Gold Label by Om Extracts

Here’s what Steve has to say about his recent experience with Headband Gold Label from Om Extracts —

5-12-16-OM-Extracts-Headband-Review

I really have to give it up to the guys over @OMExtracts for their quality lately, and this Headband Gold Label was another brain stopper.

Visually speaking this stuff looks like bright fish eggs, and when you easily pull away exactly how much you’re looking for, you’ll enjoy the sticky crunch consistency.

As usual I went for a low temp flavor dab first, and the flavor was a little on the light side, but definitely got that Headband lemon flavor.

Second dab I went in for the kill, and it was executed. I do have to say it was a little on the harsh side, but I immediately got the “Headband” feeling around the top of my head, and had a decently long lasting experience for me.

So if you’re looking for some stylish new headwear, I think the OM Extracts Headband Gold Label will look nicely on you.

-Steve Hubbard

Thanks, Steve!  Substance is super excited about limited recreational sales of extracts starting on June 2nd.  Recreational marijuana users will be allowed to purchase 1g of CO2 or BHO extract per day.  Start making your wish list today! 

Your Endocannabinoid System

My what?  Endocannabinoid System.

It’s OK to talk about it.  We all have one.  We just didn’t know that it existed until the 1980’s. Your endocannabinoid system is a complicated body-wide system that helps promote homeostasis.  Homeostasis is when your body is at rest, not stressed, just chilled out and kicked back and doing what it does. Your endocannabinoid system has complex actions in all of your body’s organs and even in the intersection between cell types, like blood vessels and neurons, so it literally acts as a bridge between your body and mind.

Image from cannabisolis.ca

Cannabinoid receptors are like little locks on the surface of cell membranes. They are present throughout the body and are believed to be more numerous than any other receptor system. Cannabinoids are the substances like keys that unlock or activate these receptors.  Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is the most psychoactive and certainly the most famous of these substances. Others, such as cannabidiol (CBD) and cannabinol (CBN) have valuable healing properties.

Researchers have, thus far, identified at least two cannabinoid receptors. CB1 receptors are mostly present in nerves, connective tissues, gonads, glands, and organs. CB2 receptors are generally found in the immune system and its associated structures. Many tissues contain both CB1 and CB2 receptors, each linked to a different action.  

 

Whoa, that sounded a lot like science.  In a nutshell, scientific research has proven that our state of consciousness definitely affects our physical state of being and that cannabinoids facilitate the communication between our body systems.  

Maybe the secret to world peace is that everyone really does need to sit down and smoke a fat bowl and chill?  

Legal Recreational Pot

The goal was to ensure legal marijuana businesses, like growers and sellers of legal recreational pot could operate in the City of Bend, Oregon for years to come. Substance founder — or “Person Responsible for the Facility” if you want to get technical — Jeremy Kwit has spent months in meetings as part of the City of Bend Marijuana Technical Advisory Committee

The nine-member panel included a diverse representation of Bend’s cannabis industry, community activists and concerned citizens. The City of Bend Marijuana Committee crafted a set of very balanced planning code changes, municipal regulations, and an operating license program for the entire marijuana industry — producers (growers), processors (hash and edible makers), wholesalers, retail pot stores, analytical labs —  with the city limits.

Commercial marijuana cultivation will be licensed in Industrial Zones. The processing of marijuana concentrates into butane hash oil or CO2 vape pen cartridges can be dangerous because of flammable solvents or high pressure extraction machines involved. Such potentially dangerous processors will also have to locate in an Industrial Zone. Recreational pot shops and edible makers can operate in Commercial Zones, but not in Residential or Industrial Zones. The Planning Department approved the Marijuana Committee’s zoning suggestions and so did the City Council.

For cannabis retail establishments (which sounds way fancier than recreational pot shop, doesn’t it?) the Technical Advisory Committee proposed a 150 ft buffer from daycare facilities. The Marijuana Committee researched and considered park buffers, but ultimately did not feel a buffer was necessary from parks since Bend law enforcement hasn’t seen any increase in marijuana activity in parks, and our parks already have police coverage.

Drake Park
Drake Park

The Committee did not propose any buffers between retail facilities, falling in line with Measure 91 and 3400. Personally, Jeremy Kwit, along with many others, thinks buffers are unnecessary, and feels (based on empirical research and data) that open, honest dialogue with our youth about alcohol and drugs is the best mechanism to keep them safe and sober. It seemed rather hypocritical to keep an legal marijuana stores many blocks away from a park when alcohol is sold INSIDE our parks in Bend. In fact, the Bend Parks and Recreational District applied for and attained an OLCC license to sell alcohol at the Simpson Ice Pavilion — get drunk, place metal blades on your feet, zoom around ice, then drive kids home.  

Every issue was discussed thoroughly and debated aggressively by the Bend Marijuana Committee. There was no unanimity, and Marijuana Committee’s internal votes about every detail were frequently 5:4 or 4:5, in nearly every instance. All members of the Marijuana Committee were concerned about youth access to alcohol, tobacco and other harmful drugs; they disagreed on the best method to educate and create a culture of trust and communication about alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. 

The City Council reviewed and discussed the City of Bend Marijuana Technical Advisory Committee’s findings in a work session until 11pm one night, and then during a City Council meeting that lasted until 1am another night. The two members of the technical committee who claimed that retail density leads to increased youth access and drug abuse presented spurious alcohol and tobacco research to the Council, striking fear into the hearts of our elected officials.

When all was said and done, the City Council added a 150 ft park buffer and a 1000 ft buffer between individual cannabis retailers. It’s a pretty good set of regulations overall, although nobody was really pleased. Opt-outs and egregious over-regulation are just prohibition in disguise. Amendments to our Planning Code and a marijuana business Operations License ensures that the entire cannabis industry will legally operate in Bend for the long term.