THC Percentage is Not the Main Indicator of Cannabis Quality

By Dante Jordan

A lot of people think the THC percentage on a product is the end-all-be-all of quality, and that’s wrong. There are so many more components of the cannabis plant and experience. And when it comes to the nuanced effects that people seek from the plant, THC percentage is never going to be the sole determiner  that leads you to high quality products. But most people don't understand that, and even if they did, it might already be too late for them to care.

Why more than THC potency matters when buying cannabis

There’s a reason people call good weed “loud.” It’s not because they read a number on a package, it’s because whatever they bought filled up their rooms, cars, and lungs with pungent odors that let them know that plant was grown the exact way mother nature intended. Yet, somehow along the lines of legalization, and more specifically, commercialization, these other indicators of quality disappeared in favor of “Yeah, this OG’s over 31%, it’s crazy fire.”

Cannabis qualities that are more important than THC potency:

  • How the cannabis was grown
  • How the cannabis smells
  • How the cannabis tastes
  • How the cannabis smokes
  • How the cannabis makes you feel

That’s it.

A 2020 article published by Forbes highlighted a University of Colorado study on varying THC percentages among  121 different smokers, and the results came back clear: smoking concentrates with 70 - 90% THC percentages versus smoking weed with 16 - 24% THC percentages didn’t result in anyone getting subjectively “higher”; everyone was just as stoned. 

Why the quality of cannabis is all about your senses

Strains, cultivars, varietals, whatever you want to call the thousands of different cannabis plants that are grown across the world, the point is that they all provide their own experience, just like different beers, wines, and liquors.

When you go to buy alcohol, what do you consider first? Is it the alcohol by volume? Or is the company, what type of beer/wine/spirit it is, how it tastes, and when it might be most appropriate to consume it? The same decision making process applies to buying cannabis solely based on THC.

If you eat a New York strip steak and it doesn’t taste good, do you really care about how many grams of protein it has? You’re still not going to eat that piece of meat again. More specifically, if someone asks you if that piece of meat was good, are you going to say yes? Exactly. The same decision making process applies to buying cannabis solely based on THC.

Too bad you can’t smell the weed in dispensaries. And cannabis companies can’t do taste test demos in the middle of their stores like beer, liquor, wine, food, and other consumables.

How to go beyond THC potency when shopping for herb

The true indicators of cannabis quality come down to how the product smells, tastes, and feels. If you walked into a store and bought a pre-roll of Company A’s OG Kush that said 28% THC, but it tastes like crabgrass from the front yard, is it higher in quality than a pre-roll of Company B’s Pineapple Express, that tastes like a spicy fruit cocktail, but only measured in at 17%? Especially if you KNOW you aren’t getting any “higher”?

Flavorful cannabis strains with a lower THC percentage can be just as enjoyable as a flavorful cannabis with a higher percentage. And MORE enjoyable than higher THC percent weed that tastes like old, grassy, dirt.

How to properly shop for high quality cannabis:

  • Find high quality growers. Good weed isn’t about the THC numbers on the packaging, it’s about being clean, fresh, and consistent in effects. When it comes to high quality cannabis, instead of looking at numbers, find the brands that you can trust to put out delicious and effective flower every time you go to the market .
  • Focus on aroma, flavor, and terpene profiles. If an enjoyable experience was all about THC potency, then THC isolates and The Clear would be the talk of the town. But they aren’t; “exotic” weed strains are. That’s because people associate super flavorful weed with the best highs. So if you’re looking for high quality cannabis, follow your nose. It knows.
  • Champion the complete experience. When someone tells you about some good weed they’ve smoked, the conversation is always about how it smoked and felt. That’s because always more important than THC percentage is the complete smoking experience. If the smoke was smooth and flavorful, and the high smacked you in the face/body so desirably that you took note of the strain and grower for future reference, then you have found some high quality cannabis. Period.