How to Read and Evaluate Cannabis Quality and Potency

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If you want to use cannabis effectively and safely, you must know what is in the product. If you are still buying baggies from a local black-market dealer, you are at the mercy of his “personal guarantee.”

That promise really means “buyer beware!!!” It claims there is quality in the product, and you are not likely to buy if you have not purchased quality in the past. However, this is no assurance of purity; it is no protection against additives, toxins, or synthetics. Millions of people still buy and use this way, but many have bad, even fatal reactions.

On the other hand, quality control and labeling are major advantages of legalization. This is a work in progress and states have not standardized the form or content of labeling, but accurate labeling will ensure some confidence in evaluating the cannabis quality and potency of cannabis you are considering buying and using.

What to look for

Even with legalization, all dispensaries are not created equal. Despite the purported mandatory checks and balances, some states lack the enforcement infrastructure to make things work as planned.

Moreover, while dispensaries have given users new and more convenient access to cannabis product, some users shop and buy by price without showing real concern for comparison shopping. However, if cannabis quality and potency are important to you, there are some things you should consider:

1. Quality of the dispensary. You should choose your preferred dispensary carefully. With many located just off freeway exits in distressed parts of town, you must still try to locate the store that maintains good security, physical cleanliness, and knowledgeable personnel

For example, retail marketing usually puts the product they want to move on the middle display shelves. Alternatively, they may use those shelves for moderately priced products. It follows, then, they typically put the best quality and higher prices on the top shelf and poorer quality lower priced product on the bottom. You should spend some time studying how your dispensary displays its quality cannabis.

2. Know what it looks like. If your cannabis experience is limited to local baggies, you expect crushed brown material. However, the good stuff is green highlighted with brilliant colors, woven with various tones and hues, and rich with color complexity. The brighter more vivid colors usually ensure a heightened experience.

The almost invisible trichomes contribute to the colorful display. These sparkling sacks sparkle like milky white crystals. Multiple plump trichomes contain the terpenes that maximize the flavor and aroma. But if they have an amber color, the product was harvested too late. It may be usable, but it will not have the potency you are after. A good dispensary will not object if you carry a magnifying glass to check on the trichome color and count.

3. Take a whiff. A good dispensary will also let you smell the cannabis. Most display the cannabis in glass jars and will assist you in removing the lid and smelling the product. Because different strains have different aromas, it takes some effort and experience to detect fresh cannabis.

Trichomes hold the terpenes producing aroma. To keep that fragrance, producers and retailers must protect the trichomes and that means less handling. Some trichomes are lost during cultivation, harvesting, curing, and packaging. Such loss cannot be avoided, but you can keep your eye on how product is handled by the staff at your dispensary. Since trichomes can rub off on fingers and tools, minimum handling is some assurance that the product will deliver a rich aroma.

Otherwise, you should know what your nose is “looking” for. If you expect citrus, spice, pine, earth, or other scent, you want a nose full of freshness; otherwise, the product in dated and stale.

4. Ask questions. Depending on when and where you shop, the budtenders may not have a lot of time to help. But most will help you tell sativa from Indica. They will explain where it was grown, how it was harvested, and how it was packaged. They will even read you the label if they have time.

Read the label

The states that have legalized cannabis have different labeling requirements, and labels will differ from one product line to another. However, the states generally require labels to contain cannabinoid ration and percentage, dosing, ingredients, and testing outcomes.

♦ Flower labels should identify the strain and the originating grower. They should identify the presence of Indica and/or sativa and their proportion. The label should have lab testing source, date, and results. And, some states require a bar code for tracking seed to sale.

If you want the psychoactive trip on THC, you look for potency over 15%. THC in the mid-to-high 20% to 30% range may present risk to users, especially first-time consumers. CBD percentages over 1% can offset some of the THC impact, and higher percentages of CBD should deliver more health benefits.

♦ Edibles should have similar information. However, it will likely be more detailed on products from commercial producers or endorsed products. You should look for a lot number and the source. Any conscientious producer will list its contact information, perhaps, with a customer service phone number.

Edible labels should have an expiration date or “best used by” date. More important is the list of ingredients and dosage. If your new to edibles, you should start at 2.5 milligrams and build up to 10 milligrams.

♦ THC and CBD Ratios are important if customers are to know what they are getting. To simplify it, high THC content increases the psychoactive experience while high CBD offers a more soothing clear-headed response.

The presence of other cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids, if listed, provides information on taste and aroma.

♦ Lab Testing is the final important label element. Smart producers and marketers are quick to list independent lab testing results (where the label size permits). Testing should confirm the claims to THC and CBD content and potency, but they should also acknowledge the presence of contaminants, mold, pesticides, solvents, and other risks. Ideally, you also want to know how and when the testing was conducted.

The problem is –

There is no consistency in labeling standards from state to state and from one cannabis form to another. So, you would be smart to do your shopping at trusted dispensaries.

To make shopping easier and quicker, you should research products and dispensaries online. It will be easier to read the labels there, compare pricing, and prepare yourself for your dispensary buy.