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.

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

Your Cannabis-Eclipse Connection

On Monday, August 21, the United States will experience its first total solar eclipse since 1979. This rare cosmological phenomenon occurs when the moon blocks the sun’s light from reaching the Earth, casting a shadow on the Earth’s surface. There are three types of solar eclipses: partial, annular, and total. A partial eclipse occurs when the moon only partially covers the disk of the sun. An annular eclipse when the moon appears smaller than the sun as it passes through the sun’s disk, leaving a bright ring of sunlight, or annulus, around the moon’s shadow. Only in a total lunar eclipse does the moon entirely block the sun’s light from reaching the earth.

By Tomruen - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=36147996
By Tomruen – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=36147996

While a total solar eclipse last touched the United States in 1979, it has been nearly a century since a solar eclipse has crossed the entire country. Oregonians are lucky to be the first to fall directly in the path of this solar eclipse, with the moon’s shadow, or penumbra, moving in a southeast arc across the state. The penumbra will pass through Salem, Madras, John Day, and a number of other cities in Oregon.

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Image Source: https://www.greatamericaneclipse.com/oregon/

Oregon’s ideal eclipse-viewing conditions are drawing visitors by the scores. With an estimated one million additional people set to enter the state, the Oregon Liquor and Control Commission is expecting record high demand for both cannabis and alcohol. It’s no surprise that cannabis consumers are particularly excited for this cosmological occurrence. As eclipse-chaser and author Clint Werner notes, cannabis can encourage us to shift our thoughts “from the commonplace to the metaphysical”, encouraging consumers to think on the larger, universal questions raised by witnessing a total eclipse.

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So as you prepare to make the most of this rare moment in our cosmological history, don’t forget to stop by Substance to stock up! With the deepest stock levels and greatest variety of edibles, flower, and concentrates in town, we are ready to serve all your cannabis-related needs. Stop by one of our multiple locations and pick up a pair of specialized sunglasses for safe eclipse-viewing with any purchase. For travelers, our local staff are happy to share their favorite spots to eat, drink, and play during your time in Central Oregon. Whether visiting or here to stay, we hope to help you enjoy this monumental occasion to the fullest.

Jeff Sessions and the CSA

In our last post, we discussed how Attorney General Jeff Sessions has reignited the war on drugs. On May 12, Attorney General Sessions directed his federal prosecutors to pursue the most severe penalties possible for drug-related offenders, including mandatory minimum sentences, a penalty largely seen as responsible for the disproportionately high incarceration rates for ethnic minorities in the United States. This came as a blow to recent bipartisan efforts to enact criminal sentencing reform legislation, and spread uncertainty as to the future of legalization.

The Controlled Substances Act of 1970

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At the center of this uncertainty is the status of cannabis as a Schedule I drug. Schedule I drugs are deemed by the federal government to have no current medical use and a high addictive potential. This classification came into use with the passage of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) of 1970, which consolidated all previously existing federal drug laws into a single statute. The Nixon administration saw the CSA as a way to defeat the antiwar left and dismantle black communities, according to Nixon’s secretly-recorded Oval Office tapes and statements made by former Nixon aides. Despite overwhelming scientific evidence that cannabis has medical use and has lower addictive potential than alcohol, cannabis remains a Schedule I drug, making it illegal on a federal level.

Sessions and the CSA

How cannabis’ Schedule I status lines up with efforts to legalize cannabis on a state level has long been in question, and Sessions’ appointment as the US Attorney General brought this to the fore. In late May, Sessions authored a letter asking Congress not to renew federal protections in place for medical marijuana since 2014, arguing that they inhibited his ability to enforce the CSA. These protections prohibit the Justice Department from using federal funds to restrict individual states from implementing their own laws concerning medical marijuana. They have been included as an amendment to federal budgets for the previous three years. In a victory for legalization proponents, however, the Senate Appropriations Committee recently approved the amendment once again, ignoring Sessions’ request.

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Meanwhile, the CSA’s constitutionality has come under attack. Pro-cannabis advocates filed a federal lawsuit on July 24 arguing that the CSA’s classification of cannabis as Schedule I is so irrational that it violates the constitution. The lawsuit also attacks the roots of the CSA, stating that the Nixon administration rushed the bill through Congress and insisted that cannabis be included “so that African Americans and war protesters could be raided, prosecuted and incarcerated without identifying the actual and unconstitutional basis for the government’s actions”. While Sessions’ efforts to roll back the legalization and decriminalization of cannabis continue, it is clear that lawmakers and civil society are actively resisting.

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Jeff Sessions and the War on Drugs

On May 12, US Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a sweeping new criminal charging policy. Attorney General Sessions directed his federal prosecutors to pursue the most severe penalties possible, including mandatory minimum sentences. Many credit these and similarly harsh policies of the “War on Drugs” in the 1980s and 1990s for the United States’ role as the world’s leading jailer and the disproportionately high incarceration rates for ethnic minorities.

Sessions and Drug-Related Policing

Towards the end of the Obama administration, a bipartisan consensus had emerged around criminal justice reform. A wide range of political voices, including civil rights groups, Democrat and Republican lawmakers, and even the ultra conservative Koch brothers coalesced around sentencing reform legislation. In the executive branch, former attorney general Eric Holder had instructed prosecutors to avoid charging nonviolent defendants with offenses that would result in long mandatory minimum sentences. Attorney General Sessions’ May 12 announcement decisively reversed these policies.

Gage Skidmore [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Gage Skidmore [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Sessions’ severe record on drug-related policing goes back much further, however. In 2016, while serving as a Republican senator for the state of Alabama, Sessions personally blocked national criminal sentencing reform legislation, despite substantial opposition from within his own party. As the U.S. Attorney General for the Southern District of Alabama, drug convictions made up 40 percent of Sessions’ total convictions, double the rate of other Alabama prosecutors. He has also voiced opposition to federal oversight of non-federal police departments, dismissing previous Justice Department findings on state and local police forces’ systemic targeting of ethnic minorities as “anecdotal”.

Sessions and Cannabis

In addition to his affinity for punitive justice and harsh policing for drug-related charges, Attorney General Sessions has long espoused a virulent hatred for cannabis in particular. He infamously claimed that “good people don’t smoke marijuana”, and has long made his opposition to legalization known.

ReeferMadness_12

It is unclear as of yet, however, what he may or may not do to roll back legalization on a state level. While 26 states now have laws legalizing the use of cannabis in some form, it remains a Schedule I drug on the federal level, putting it in the same category as heroin. This gives the attorney general broad authority to crack down on the rising tide of legalization if he so chooses, although he would likely face a significant popular backlash.

Map indicating states that have decriminalized or legalized some form of cannabis use and purchase. Only the grey states have total cannabis prohibition. Image source: Lokal_Profil [CC BY-SA 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons
Map indicating states that have decriminalized or legalized some form of cannabis use and purchase. Only the grey states have total cannabis prohibition.
Image source:
Lokal_Profil [CC BY-SA 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons
As uncertainty looms, lawmakers have reacted quickly, moving either to strengthen or to abandon their efforts to decriminalize, legalize, and research cannabis. In non-legal states, many are bracing for a crackdown, particularly communities of color. For all those fighting to normalize cannabis and create a more equitable justice system, Attorney General Sessions’ words and actions have already had a deeply chilling effect.

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Cannabis Cultures: Bhang

Cannabis use varies between cultures. Some elements of cannabis consumption certainly seem to be ubiquitous. Smoking cannabis in the ‘marijuana cigarettes’ known colloquially as joints, spliffs, and blunts, for example, seems to pervade almost all geographic boundaries. However, certain practices are unique to a specific culture or location. Today, we will be exploring one such practice: a cannabis concoction known as ‘bhang’.

Origins

Bhang is a cannabis-infused dairy drink originating from South Asia, and is generally associated with India today. Cannabis has a long history in the region, in part due to its role in certain Hindu religious traditions. Hinduism is a diverse religion originating from the Indian subcontinent. One Hindu religious text identifies cannabis as one of the five most sacred plants, and others mention its medicinal use. In several cities and regions, deities are offered cannabis as part of Hindu religious ceremonies. Cannabis, and bhang in particular, is largely associated with the Hindu god Shiva, who is sometimes called the “Lord of Bhang”.

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The Hindu god Shiva prepares bhang. Image source: https://www.scoopwhoop.com/Significance-of-bhang-why-do-we-have-bhang-on-Holi/#.2spiyys1e

Other South Asian religious traditions have also used cannabis at times. In addition to its Hindu inhabitants, South Asia is also home to large Muslim and Sikh populations, among others. Muslims in medieval South Asia practiced a medicinal system known as Unani Tibbi that used cannabis medicinally, and Sikh warriors would drink bhang before going into battle. One Sikh order still ritually consumes bhang today.

Contemporary Use

Many urban Indians are increasingly turning towards alcohol and tobacco in place of cannabis. Stigma around cannabis use is growing among some upper class Indians, particularly among those that came of age during the prohibition of cannabis use in the 1980s. However, there is one day where cannabis and bhang still enjoy widespread acceptance in India: Holi, the festival of colors.

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Image source: https://www.scoopwhoop.com/Significance-of-bhang-why-do-we-have-bhang-on-Holi/#.376uz6hz3

Holi is a nationwide holiday in India. Participants celebrate by throwing powdered colors on one another. Bhang also plays an important role in the festival, and is consumed by a wide segment of Indian society with little to no stigma. While norms surrounding cannabis and bhang are shifting in India today, this longstanding tradition does not appear to be going anywhere anytime soon.

Cannabis Reactions

People often react very differently to cannabis consumption. For many, it’s a relaxing, even meditative experience, while others often feel anxious and paranoid. Some find a small, light dosage effective. Others need high quantities of extremely strong cannabis to feel any effects at all. So why do our reactions vary so widely? Today, we’ll explore a few fundamental components of our reactions to cannabis consumption.

The Endocannabinoid System

Our bodies process the cannabis plant through the endocannabinoid system. This system helps us maintain homeostasis. It works by producing endocannabinoids, natural chemicals that help our bodies with bioregulation. Endocannabinoids and the endocannabinoid system play a crucial role in regulating a variety of biological functions, including our reaction to chronic stress, nervous system functions, and even our body’s response to cancer.

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Image Source: http://www.cell.com/trends/endocrinology-metabolism/fulltext/S1043-2760(15)00140-X

Cannabinoids are chemicals naturally secreted by the cannabis plant. They mirror the endocannabinoids produced by our body, and interact with the endocannabinoid system in a similar manner. These interactions help cause the plant’s psychoactive effects and therapeutic effects.

THC vs CBD

One of the most well known cannabinoids is tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. This cannabinoid is primarily responsible for the high we associate with the cannabis plant. It also stimulates appetite, can reduce muscle spasms and vomiting, and relieves pain.  For some, THC can cause anxiety. Understanding your sensitivity to THC can help you better regulate the psychological effects you experience, and help you deal with any feelings of anxiety or paranoia.

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Image Source: http://www.weedist.com/2014/07/kick-paranoia-enjoy-cannabis-high/

You may also be familiar with cannabidiol, or CBD. Unlike THC, cannabidiol does not cause any psychoactive effects. It does, however, produce a wide variety of therapeutic benefits. Early research shows that it may be effective in treating several particularly difficult diseases, including multiple sclerosis, post traumatic stress disorder, and Crohn’s disease. It can also reduce anxiety, and may strengthen the painkilling effects of THC.

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Image Source: http://theleafonline.com/c/science/2014/08/cannabinoid-profiles-crash-course-cbga/

While THC and CBD are naturally found in the highest relative quantities of all the cannabinoids, it’s important to remember that there are over 100 different cannabinoids, and they all have different effects. Cannabinol, or CBN, for example, can induce sleep and help relieve pain. Additionally, because everyone has a different endocannabinoid system, different consumers experience some effects more strongly than others.

Other Factors

Cannabinoids are not the only factor at work in our reactions to cannabis. The essential oils of the cannabis plant, called terpenes, can alter the kind of psychoactive effects experienced, as well as what therapeutic benefits result.

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Image Source: https://www.leafly.com/news/cannabis-101/infographic-what-are-cannabis-terpenes-and-how-do-they-affect-you

Psychological factors are also important. How comfortable you feel with your environment, your mood while consuming cannabis, and what you expect to feel can alter the intensity of psychological effects and whether or not you experience anxiety. Gender may also be a factor — recent research indicates that women may be more sensitive to THC than men. As we explored today, we all experience cannabis differently. So take your time, and find out what works for you.

 

 

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Know Your Type: Cannabis Classifications

If you’re familiar with cannabis basics, you may have heard of two common terms used to describe different types of weed: indicas and sativas. These terms refer to two different species of marijuana, cannabis indica and cannabis sativa. Indicas and sativas look, smell, and taste different. Indicas tend to grow shorter and stockier, while sativas grow taller and thinner. Indica bud may have a purplish appearance.

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More fundamentally, these differences refer to the plant’s easily observable traits, or its phenotype. While they do correlate with certain effects — indicas are known for their stoney body highs, sativas for their more cerebral high — we’ll have to dig deeper to get a better understanding of what lies behind the many psychoactive effects and therapeutic benefits of the cannabis plant.

Phenotypes, Genotypes, and Chemotypes

We mentioned that a cannabis plant’s phenotype — its easily observable traits — tends to correlate with certain effects. But correlation doesn’t imply causation, so what causes those pleasing, therapeutic benefits that we associate with marijuana? To get a better understanding of what some of those causes may be, we’ll have to explore two additional terms: genotype and chemotype.

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A genotype is a living being’s genetic makeup. While phenotype refers to external, observable traits, genotype refers to the genetic, internal blueprint that a being inherits from its parents and ancestors. A genotype outlines the set of possible characteristics that a being could have or pass on to its offspring.

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Image Source: http://www.honest-essential-oils.com/eobbd-essential-oils/botanical-definition/

While a plant’s genotype refers to its genetic makeup, its chemotype refers to its chemical makeup. That is, what chemical compounds are most prevalent and in what combinations.

Cannabis Types

As noted above, indica and sativa refer to different phenotypes of the cannabis plant. More accurately, they refer to different phenotypic expressions. The plant’s genotype is what outlines the possibilities of what it can taste, smell, look, and feel like, and its phenotype is what actually shows up. That means that even if a plant has a strongly indica-like appearance and smell, it may still be storing some sativa genetics, or vice versa. This can lead to unexpected effects. With the ever-expanding range of hybrid strains out there, mixed genetics are also becoming more and more common, and mixed effects along with them.

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Image source: http://www.bestfriendsamsterdam.com/wp-content/uploads/indica_vs_sativa.png

Chemotypes in cannabis refer specifically to its THC versus its CBD content. These are two of the better-known cannabinoids, one of the main “active ingredients” in cannabis. Cannabis comes in three different chemical variations, or chemotypes. Type I refers to the so-called “drug type”, meaning that its high THC to low CBD ratio induces psychoactive effects, as well as other therapeutic benefits. Type III refers to the “fiber” or “non-drug type”, also often called hemp, because its high CBD to low THC ratio means that it induces little-to-no psychoactive effects, although it can still offer many therapeutic benefits. Type II is a sort of intermediate.

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A hemp field. Photo credit: Barbetorte – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7558724

While these basic chemotypes are helpful for understanding some of the effects a particular strain may have, it is important to remember that there are at least 85 different cannabinoids in the cannabis plant, and that they produce different therapeutic benefits. Cannabinoids are not the only factor at work, either. Terpenes, the essential oils of the cannabis plant that give it particular smells, also play an important role in cannabis’ psychoactive effects and therapeutic benefits.

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Image source: https://s3.amazonaws.com/leafly/content/cannabinoids-101-what-makes-cannabis-medicine/PLUe6NdETsirqg7Y9Hkf_Cannabinoid-Wheel-(Final)—English.jpg

We hope this breakdown has helped you understand what you’re getting with any one strain, and will help you find what works for you.

Cannabis Ingestion Methods: Dabbing

In our previous two posts, we covered two of the more common methods of consuming cannabis: smoking and vaping. Today, we’ll be moving in a newer and more powerful direction: dabbing.

What is it?

If you have heard of dabbing, you probably know something about its potency. For cannabis, the word ‘dabbing’ comes from ‘dab’, as in, “A dab’ll do ya”. Dabbing has much stronger effects than either smoking or vaping. Dabs hit considerably harder, and they tend to last much longer, too.

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Image source: https://www.leafly.com/news/cannabis-101/how-to-dab-cannabis-concentrates

Part of the reason dabs are so potent is because of what they are made of. Dabbing refers to a particular way to consume extracts, also called concentrates. These products are so strong because they have high concentrations of cannabinoids — what might be considered the main ‘active ingredient’ in weed. They are produced when solvents strip away much of the cannabis plant itself, but leave large amounts of the cannabinoids behind (and hopefully some terpenes, too).

How do you consume them?

Dabs are consumed using a dab rig. This contraption usually looks something like a bong (though not always). To smoke from a dab rig, a ‘dab’ of extract is lowered onto a super-heated nail — this is where one would find the ‘bowl’ when smoking flower from a bong.

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Image source: https://www.smokecartel.com/pages/infographic-anatomy-of-a-concentrate-rig

The extreme heat of the nail causes the concentrate to vaporize, rather than combust. The consumer then breathes the vapor in from the pipe. Combined with the already highly concentrated cannabinoid content, this method tends to hit harder than just about any other.

Dabbing vs other methods

The main difference between dabbing and smoking or vaping is that dabbing is simply stronger. That does not mean, however, that your tolerance or how high you want to be are the only factors at work. For those with severe medical needs, such as chronic pain or severe nausea, dabbing may be the only method capable of delivering effective relief.

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Additionally, a high cannabinoid content does not exclusively mean a high THC content. Many concentrates focus on high CBD content instead, and some shoot for a more balanced cannabinoid profile, creating different therapeutic effects and serving different medical needs. Of course, whatever your preference, it’s important to be sure that you know what works for you.