The two most abundant and most important cannabinoids are THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol). They are also the best known to most people. As the cannabis industry grows rapidly these days, it is critical to help consumers know the amounts of these two chemical compounds in their cannabis. That way the pot consumers will pick out their strains with more confidence.
Every cannabis-based product is required to be labeled and tested for the exact amount of tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol it contains. Even though the vast majority of cannabis products contain a label that shows the amount of each ingredient, including THC and CBD, it’s recommended to check or test every marijuana product packaging to be sure that it is labeled properly. That’s because some products come with the labels that do not indicate the right amount of THC and CBD.
Besides, these numbers are difficult to interpret or read for some people, especially those who are new to cannabis. The beginner pot consumers also need to be educated on how these cannabinoids work when consumed.
What’s the Difference Between CBD and THC?
Table of Contents
- 1 What’s the Difference Between CBD and THC?
- 2 Reading the Labels of Cannabis Products
- 3 Decarboxylation
- 4 Chemotypes
- 5 Lab Testing
- 6 Conclusion
The endocannabinoid system in the human body consists of a large number of cannabinoid receptors, and it’s involved in different physiological processes like appetite, pain, mood, sleep, immune response, and memory. While both THC and CBD interact with these receptors, the effects they bring about are very different. That’s why CBD is more frequently used than THC in medical treatments.
Tetrahydrocannabinol is the chief component of cannabis that creates the so-called “high feeling” in people using marijuana. This cannabinoid gives rise to the effects typical for anandamide — a naturally occurring neurotransmitter present in the human brain which modulates eating and sleeping habits and plays an important role in fertility, depression, pain, and memory.
Some of the most common effects of THC are as follows:
- Altered senses of hearing, sight, and smell
- Reduced aggression
As for the medical applications, THC effectively works as an antioxidant and appetite stimulant. In addition, this cannabinoid can also help treat:
- Side effects of chemotherapy (like vomiting and nausea)
- Spinal injury
- Sleep apnea
- Multiple sclerosis
While the chemical formula of CBD is same as THC, the atoms of this cannabinoid are differently arranged. That little variance makes a big difference between these two compounds, causing tetrahydrocannabinol to produce certain psychoactive effects (such as a “high” effect) on the contrary to cannabidiol. That makes CBD suitable for different medical applications.
CBD can produce a lot of beneficial effects on the human body like decreased inflammation, decreased anxiety, reduction of diabetic symptoms, stimulation of bone growth, as well as relief from nausea and convulsions. Thanks to these healing properties, CBD is used in treating the following medical conditions and symptoms:
- Side effects of cancer treatment
- Social anxiety disorder
Reading the Labels of Cannabis Products
In order to be sold legally, every cannabis product must be labeled for CBD and THC content. The problem is that many packagings may have different tags and numbers like THCA, CBD, CBDA, as well as things like THC percentages, total cannabinoids, and total THC. All of this can be very confusing for consumers and get them to avoid using a cannabis product.
What Can You See On a Typical Label?
On a typical label, you can see the percentage of cannabinoid in the particular product. The total levels of CBD and THC on the label will give you a better idea of what is the dry weight of the marijuana flowers. It is a required part of labeling.
You’ll also see other values, such as the numbers for total THC, THC, THCA, and so on. Whether you are an experienced cannabis user or a newbie, it’s important to understand what these numbers mean. Yet, it could be a daunting challenge to interpret these values, especially the total tetrahydrocannabinol levels, without an additional context. For that reason, be sure to familiarize yourself with the full spectrum of THC levels.
With regard to the THC level, keep in mind that it will be a low number in most cases. That’s because the plants contain mostly THCA, a tetrahydrocannabinolic acid that should be “activated,” actually decarboxylated by heat. The total THC refers to the dry weight of THC once the THCA gets transformed into THC.
Why the Sum of THCA and THC Doesn’t Match the Total THC?
These values are expressed as a % on most labels. Let’s say that your product came with a label on which THCA percentage is 21.0% while the THC percentage is 1.2%. Note that the sum of these two numbers shouldn’t match the percentage of the total THC in that product. It would be logical that you just need to sum the THCA and THC percentage levels, right? There are some things which make this calculation a bit tricky, though.
- First, take into account that THCA is significantly heavier than THC due to the slightly different chemical structure. In fact, the THC is 87.7 percent of the THCA molecular weight. This is why the total THC on the product labels doesn’t match the sum of THCA and THC percentage.
- Secondly, bear in mind that the process of converting THCA into THC isn’t 100% efficient. During this chemical process, some THCA molecules don’t get turned into THC molecules. Some of the THC molecules degrade into cannabinol (CBN) at extremely high temperatures.
In practice, it could be difficult to accurately estimate the final THC levels because it is not easy at all to assess the conversion efficiency. That depends on a variety of factors, including the device you were using, the heating temperature, as well as how long the flowers were exposed to heat.
Some consumers like to find out more about the potency of cannabis products before purchasing. Aside from understanding the main difference between THC and THCA, a curious consumer may also like to know how these chemicals get converted into each other. This is where decarboxylation comes in.
What Is The Decarboxylation?
Keep in mind that cannabis creates THCA, not THC. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THCA) is a non-intoxicating, crystalline compound that’s one of the major active ingredients of cannabis. Decarboxylation is a chemical reaction whereby CO2 (carbon dioxide) gets released while the carboxyl group gets removed at the same time; as a result, THCA ends up as THC. However, as stated earlier, not all THCA molecules turn into consumable THC.
How Does It Occur?
This chemical reaction is typically triggered by a heat energy when you heat up a cannabis product with a vaporizer, lighter, or oven. The heat actually gets most of the THCA to convert into an activated compound called THC. If you have ever heard someone to talk about “inactive” and “activated” THC, that’s what it means.
Whether you use cannabis flowers or extracts, decarboxylation efficiency (also referred to as decarboxylation rate) mostly depends on heating duration and temperature. The technology and vaporizer design also come into play. To get the most out of decarboxylation, you need to heat up the extracts of cannabis at about 390°F for 5 minutes. That will make nearly 100 percent of THCA turn into THC.
Note that decarboxylation will begin occurring at about 350°F. As you raise the temperature further, other compounds of cannabis (like terpenes) will start vaporizing. Make sure not to overdo, as the higher temperatures will give rise to combustion. That will have a negative influence not only on the THC levels but also terpenes. At worst, combustion can create byproducts that are very hazardous to health.
Production of cannabinoids in marijuana flowers is limited by strain genetics. Despite the fact that there are a number of different cannabinoids created by cannabis, generally speaking, there are 3 main chemotypes. They are determined by THC-CBD ratios as follows:
- CBD dominant strains have a lot of cannabidiol and little tetrahydrocannabinol. They do not have any significant psychoactive effect. Remedy and Charlotte’s Web are some of the most popular strains in this category.
- THC dominant strains have little CBD and a lot of THC. They have very strong psychoactive effects. Examples include Granddaddy Purple, Blue Dream, and OG Kush.
- Balanced strains have tetrahydrocannabinol as well as some cannabidiol; they fall somewhere between THC and CBD dominant strains. Although they can get you “high,” the effects are not as strong as those caused by THC dominant strains. Harlequin and Cannatonic are popular examples of balanced strains.
No matter what cannabis product you use, the strains will fall into one of these 3 major categories, depending on CBD and THC levels. This will set you thinking of strains in a much broader context.
It’s much better to do laboratory testing instead of simply judging the amount of CBD and THC levels. That allows you to properly determine the measurements of these two cannabinoids. Lab testing can give you a clear sense of whether the CBD and THC levels are low, high, or medium.
In order to map out the full spectrum of CBD and THC in a cannabis product, it’s often necessary to carry out a large number of testing measurements. That could be a hard, time-consuming task but it’s worth the effort.
Create Easy-To-Use Listings and Scales
As a dispensary offering cannabis products, you should aim to make things as simple as possible for your consumers. With that being said, make sure to create simple, straightforward listings that involve more intuitive systems for the menu items. That will give your users an idea of how much CBD and THC a particular cannabis product has. Moreover, that will help your consumers easily assess whether a cannabis product has low, high, or medium THC/CBD levels, and which chief chemotype category it falls into — CBD-Dominant, THC-Dominant, or Balanced.
It’s a good idea to create both CBD and THC scale for cannabis flower which would clearly explain the range of these two compounds in a package. Please note that we are talking about dried buds. Such a visual display is much better than raw percentages.
Divide It Into Categories
Make sure to create THC and CBD scales for all the cannabis products by categories, allowing your users to sort the items by type, such as Edibles, Concentrates, Pre-Rolls, Flower, etc. Aside from that, it’s advisable to also make additional categories like Sativa/Indica/Hybrid, Strain Collection, Strain, Quantity, Price, Brand, and so on. Such an expanded system will help the customers narrow down all the options within a dispensary and easily find a product or strain they are looking for.
With such an extensive system at your online dispensary, the customers will be able to navigate your website and get the preferred findings at the click of a button. In fact, the click on a certain category is supposed to dropdown options like sliders or checkboxes for every single product.
Despite being the most important cannabinoids, CBD and THC are not the only things that matter when it comes to cannabis products. Besides, there is a broad spectrum of other cannabinoids and terpenes which play a vital role in determining the flavor, aroma, and effects of a specific product. That’s why you may also develop listings and systems for some of these “additional” cannabis components.
We live in a digital age where people prefer using visual languages which let them get the wanted information on the fly. Nobody wants to bother reading unclear or vague instructions and labels. Simple and clear info is always appreciated.
The rapidly growing cannabis industry is evolving swiftly, which is why we must start establishing intuitive yet simple visual languages for pot users. That will allow buyers to easily search for cannabis products and strains based on THC, CBD, as well as other key ingredients. Let’s make the things clear and easy!