by Dan Ketchum
Whether you’re at the dispensary or ordering from your desk, it’s easy to get lost in cannabis labels. While the requirements vary per state, you’ll find everything from volume to usage instructions to allergen warnings to manufacture date and way beyond on that package, and that’s not even getting into flashy marketing tricks. If you’re like many, though, your eyes go right for one bit of info: the THC percentage.
But what does that percentage actually mean? What is considered high THC? And ultimately, does THC percentage matter? Those are all good questions — and you know we’ve got those good answers on deck.
What Is THC Percentage?
Cannaseurs care about THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) because it’s the naturally occurring cannabinoid responsible for most of the psychoactive effects you experience when you smoke weed — and that’s exactly why so much to-do is made over THC percentages. The idea, of course, is that the higher the THC percentage, the stronger the high.
While products like edibles or pre-rolls might simply list the amount of THC per unit, package, or serving (for instance, 5 mg per unit or 10 mg per package on a two-pack of gummies, or 2.5 mg per unit on a pre-roll) flower and vape carts typically list the percentage of THC contained. More specifically, this number is the amount of THC contained by dry weight, measured in milligrams per gram. So if a gram of cannabis is labeled as containing “25% THC,” that means it has 250 milligrams of THC per gram of cannabis.
Mistifi’s THC Percentage Chart
Just for context, what is considered high THC? Typically, THC percentages for cannabis flower range from about 15% to 25%, with anything approaching the 20%-ish or above range generally falling into the “high THC” category. As an FYI, 35% is the natural biological limit for THC percentage, so you’ll rarely find flower above 25%. We say “generally” because there’s no hard rule for this; a product with 10% THC could have a huge effect on a cannabis novice, while a strain with 20% THC might be nice and mild for a canna-sseur like most of our readers.
It’s a contextual experience, which, as we’ll find, is true for a lot of things regarding THC percentages. That said, here’s the percentage of THC you’ll find in some popular strains, and in some of our personal favorites.
|Girl Scout Cookies
|Class indica-leaning hybrid that’s giggly and munchies-inducing
|Super Silver Haze
|Three-time High Times cannabis cup winning sativa found in Over the Rainbow
|A euphoric but relaxing indica strain
|Jimmy Hendrix made this sativa popular — an indicator that older strains tended milder
|A mild, sleepy indica classic
|Citrusy hybrid beloved by stoners for its creative strength
|A super punchy, very tangy award-winning hybrid
|Sticky and colorful, this hybrid is a sleepy, pleasant starter strain
|This sativa is popular in Amsterdam for its laid-back sense of euphoria
|Houdini’s potent, woodsy and spicy indica bud
Does THC Percentage Matter?
THC percentage might be a straightforward issue if you’re taking flower from a single strain and rolling it into a joint. But, it honestly gets a little murkier when you walk into the dispensary, where you’re faced with a wide variety of products and even wider variety of marketing tactics.
For instance, if 25% THC is considered high-THC cannabis, why do you see concentrates advertised at 50% to 90% THC? Remember, percentage is based on milligrams per gram of dry-weight cannabis; because concentrates contain only extracted cannabinoids and no plant material, a single gram of concentrate has far more THC than a single gram of flower.
That’s just one example of how THC percentages aren’t the end-all, be-all, though. California’s new vape flavoring law, which regulates wildly flavored vaping products, hints at another issue on dispensary shelves, as brands often jack up THC percentage and then use loud flavors and additives to make their products more palatable.
But are those big THC percentages guaranteed to get you to Shangri-La anyway? Not necessarily — a recent study from JAMA Psychiatry finds that the potency on the label doesn’t always track with the users’ experience, and users of strains with varying potencies can even exhibit similar neurobehavioral patterns.
It’s All About You
The bottom line is, THC percentage doesn’t always result in high-quality products. While the percentage can help you get a general gauge on how much a particular cannabis product might affect you, factors such as the strain, the presence or lack of additives and the extraction process also have hugely significant effects on your experience, as does your personal taste, physiology and tolerance.
More than that, the focus on THC percentage often takes focus away from what isn’t in your cannabis products. Various extraction processes, for example, can sap flower of its aromatic terpenes as well as strip it of other key cannabinoids and volatile organic compounds (or VSCs, which can lose potency through drying and curing processes) that affect everything from the weed’s flavor to its physiological effects. Not only are these factors difficult to measure with a percentage and each significant on their own, each one can contribute to the overall experience of your smoke by way of the synergistic entourage effect. This makes preserving the natural makeup of cannabis more than worth the effort.
Of course, if you’re looking for craft cannabis that’s 100 percent uncut, additive-free, and uniquely extracted to maintain an exact golden ratio of cannabinoids and all the key components as they occur naturally in the plant, we know where you can find it.
Dan Ketchum splits his time between Dallas and LA as a freelance lifestyle, fashion, health, and food writer with more than a decade of experience. In cannabis, been fortunate enough to collaborate with Cannabis & Tech Today, FOCL, Vitagenne, Reign Together, Tough Mama, and more.