4 Reasons Why You Should Stop Caring About THC Percent
If you’re wondering why the lead image of this article resembles a formulaic YouTube thumbnail – that’s because we’re going to make a point about marketing and the association between marketing and THC percentages. People use these thumbnails because they work. They bring in more clicks, sometimes combined with a clickbait title that has very little to do with the topic. This concept is not unfamiliar in the world of cannabis. THC testing is still pushed as an authoritative indicator of flower quality, but times are changing and we ‘the people’ are starting to see through the smoke and mirrors.
Breeders and cultivators love to talk about their high THC strains and what percent they hit in recent tests – but how much of this is stated because it’s a valuable tool to gauge the quality of cannabis, or is it used because ‘it works’ and results in more sales?
We’re going to look at a few reasons why THC percentage should be taken with a grain of salt in cases of both finished flower and seeds.
#1 The Entourage Effect
With the increase in studies around cannabis in recent years, it’s no wonder we’re starting to see our existing understanding of the plant challenged. For years, it was typically accepted by the average smoker that the percent of THC in your flower is going to determine the effects you experience, that’s to say – that more THC equals more high.
However, recently we have begun to see a revolution in the way we think about potency and effects, with the discussion around the entourage effect having some significant weight behind it. The concept of an entourage effect isn’t new in terms of literature and can be found in studies dating back to pre-2010. But these days, there is a more mainstream understanding of it as well as a larger focus.
Suppose you’re not familiar with the basic concept of the entourage effect. In that case, it’s the way that cannabinoids and terpenes work together, in conjunction with one another, to provide effects in a way that isolated cannabinoids or terpenes wouldn’t. While we’ve already seen some hype around THC isolate come and go, there is again, more acceptance that it’s not just about THC.
The long and short of it is that THC is only a single player in what is a collective group effort by terpenes and cannabinoids, and while its presence is important, it’s not everything – even in terms of how high you feel. Many cultivators are hitting high THC percents but with a lack of other cannabinoids and terpenes – which can result in flower not hitting quite as one expects.
This is the most compelling reason not to pay too much attention to a flower’s THC percentage, especially for recreational smoking. You could smoke separate samples, one with a 30% THC result and another with a 15% result, and depending on your own body chemistry, the entourage effect could still cause you to have a stronger high on the 15% sample.
#2 The Lack of Laboratory Integrity
At this point, it’s an open secret that testing labs are prone to fraudulent testing, and it’s no wonder that if the lab increases the test results, both the grower and the lab win in the end. The grower wants to show off his new 30% flower results on social media, and in turn, it markets the lab and gives them positive exposure.
This isn’t to say that every cannabis testing facility is rife with fraud, but it’s also not something one can ignore. This topic has also been covered fairly extensively in existing media. For a slightly deeper dive, Cindy Orser published a rather relevant soap box article on the topic titled “How Fraud is Proliferating in the Cannabis Testing Market.”
What this means for the consumer is that when you see cannabis being offered with a specific THC concentration, there is no way to know how accurate this is. The only way to really know is to learn about the integrity of each lab, and it’s also not exactly as though transgressions, in general, tend to be out in public view.
We’re starting to see numbers advertised that are just not physically possible. There have been a few isolated incidents where cultivators have claimed 40% THC tested with their flower. Overall, just know that lab tests, while sometimes valuable, are only as valuable as their business is ethical.
#3 Seed THC Percentages Are Usually Nonsense
Having worked in the seed industry, it’s remarkable how many questions there are each day asking what strain has the most THC. “What strain has the highest THC?” is a question one sees frequently, yet it’s also a question that holds very little weight due to the way that chemotypes work.
You may be familiar with the term phenotype, used to describe the unique expressions of a plant in a particular environment. The truth is that the term phenotype is often misused to describe terpene and cannabinoid presence but shouls be limited to observable physical expressions. The correct term for the plant’s terpene and cannabinoid makeup is chemotype, this word representing the chemical components of that particular cut.
Understanding this is important because it lets you understand that because of variations in chemotypes, most seeds don’t have a particularly stable percent that they test at. As with many of the phenotype expressions, chemotype composition changes in varying environments as well as differing between each individual seed.
Sure, it is theoretically possible for breeders to test every cultivar from their breeding projects and spend years stabilizing the THC percentage to where they could reliably provide a gauge. But this isn’t how modern breeding works, so even though our breeding practices have changed, in terms of the industry, our ideas of how to look at seeds need to adapt too.
The TL;DR is that most seeds you buy are not going to be homozygous – they’re going to have different expressions and different chemotypes. Breeders claiming their seeds have a specific THC percentage, in many cases, are just marketing something that sells. If you germinate most packs of seeds and get each plant tested, the THC range is going to vary between plants and even vary a lot in more diverse hybrids.
Related Article: 10 Tips For Buying Cannabis Seeds
#4 Cannabis Websites Are Usually Inaccurate
The internet has given us a lot of wonderful things, one of them being the ability to research and learn. But what happens when the first result on Google doesn’t represent an accurate truth? This isn’t limited to the cannabis space, but it is one area where there is more prevalence. This is because a large amount of cannabis websites are created by entrepreneurs whose first thought is to earn money. The fact-checking and legitimacy of articles, well, leaves something to be desired in most cases.
Have you seen those lists online that state “the 10 best strains of 2023” or “the 10 strongest strains in the world”? Well, in most cases, those are written by freelance or employed general content writers who have been tasked with writing about a topic they don’t understand. So what they do is copy-write each piece from existing bits of pieces of inaccurate content they find lying across the internet. How do I know this? Well, at one point, I was one of them. With time I learned that there is no way to fake the funk, and the only way to truly create quality content is to truly understand what you’re writing about.
In doubt? Check out the image above. Blue Dream was notorious for its chilled and mild high, which wasn’t particularly strong but rather a subtle, enjoyable smoke. This isn’t the only case, though, and most strains listed in these types of lists are solely there as content and hold no actual truth to them.
If you’re truly looking to buy the most potent cannabis seeds, you’ll need to look into the genetic lineage of a cross and research the effects of that strain from an actual reliable source. Even then, it’s completely possible that a strain that is mild to your neighbour may hit you harder than anything you’ve smoked. In the end, it all comes down to your chemistry, don’t pay attention to those online lists.
Don’t get us wrong, THC is a vital component of the plant and has plenty of medical benefits, particularly with regards to medicinal use.
In conclusion, while THC has a lot of value, it is often used as a marketing tool and pushed to consumers as the primary concern when it comes to potency, this isn’t the case. THC is an important compound and has many benefits, and can aid in your high – but when buying flower or seeds, consider that your flower is not necessarily going to be more potent or better and that 5 plants from the same batch of seeds are likely to all test differently in the end.
Instead, try different varieties and know which breeder each variety came from. That way, you can get a good idea of the types of crosses that work best for you and your body chemistry. You may find your personal experience is very different from others.