Why THC Percentage Doesn’t Measure Potency

Why THC Percentage Doesn’t Measure Potency


One of the most common misconceptions about marijuana is the claim that high percentages of THC are directly correlated with more potent effects. It makes sense right? Well not exactly. Not only does THC content have little-to-no influence on how “good” weed is, THC content has actually been found to be a poor indicator of potency according to a recent study done by the University Of Colorado.

In this study, 121 regular cannabis users were gathered – half of them being concentrate consumers (cannabis extracts, oils or waxes) and the other half being flower smokers. The group of flower users were given the choice of either 16% or 24% THC dried flowers to consume while the concentrate users were assigned to marijuana concentrates containing either 70% or 90% THC.

Upon checking the participants’ blood an hour after consumption, the subjects which consumed the products with a higher THC content were found to have much higher THC levels in their blood. However, regardless of what type or potency the participants’ used, their measures of balance and cognitive function were astonishingly similar. As were their self-reports of intoxication and impairment.

So What Affects Cannabis Potency?

THC is the psychoactive compound within cannabis that produces the “high” effect but if THC content alone isn’t a great indicator of potency then what is? Turns out, there are multiple factors that can determine how “good” weed is.

The Entourage Effect

There are many more compounds at play than solely THC when it comes to calculating cannabis potency (excluding THC-infused edibles). Take the entourage effect for example. The theory states that the full spectrum of a cannabis plants’ compounds such as THC, CBD, cannabinoids and terpenes synergize together to produce heightened effects.

When we consume cannabis, our bodies take in hundreds of individual botanical compounds, each with their own unique effects and benefits. For example, myrcene – one of the most commonly found terpene in marijuana which alleviates pain and promotes relaxation. When all of these compounds are present within the body their behaviours may change and work together to produce intensified feelings. Here is a chart on what to expect between CBD vs. THC levels:

    • Low THC + High CBD = little-to-no psychoactive effects.
    • High THC + Low CBD = psychoactive, but low amounts of CBD may dampen THC’s effects and increase the amount of time THC imparts its effects.
    • High THC + High CBD = psychoactive and sedative, with CBD increasing the amount of time THC spends in the body.
    • Low THC + Low CBD = perhaps an energizing effect, with the CBD potentially enhancing THC’s psychoactivity.
    • Equal ratio of THC + CBD = psychoactive, but less so than THC on its own. A potent anti-inflammatory.


Proper cannabis storage is commonly overlooked in the world of weed. Did you know storing your cannabis incorrectly can degrade the overall quality and potency over time? Believe it or not, a study done at Orange Photonics found that leaving your precious buds in direct sunlight results in a 0.5% THC loss with each hour of sunlight.

In addition to sunlight, high temperatures are terpenes biggest enemy. Heat causes terpenes to degrade and eventually lose its beautiful aromas and flavours. It’s no wonder so many experts preach to keep your cannabis in a cool, dark environment.

The Bottom Line

Unlike vodka or tequila where alcohol levels define how intoxicated the consumer will get, THC levels in cannabis cannot indicate how high you’re going to get. The next time you step into a dispensary don’t forget about the cheap weed selection!

According to experienced smokers, the best way to separate the good weed from the bad weed would be to judge by its appearance and sniff it out. You should be able to smell all of those aromatic terpenes which influence cannabis’ effects on your mind and body.

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