For so long, the THC percentage has been the only metric for judging high-quality cannabis. However, there are many other qualities that matter more than potency. For both cultivators and shoppers, we’ll discuss why using THC percentage is the incorrect way of judging cannabis and eight indicators of high-quality cannabis that you should be looking for.
Quality is one of the biggest buzzwords in cannabis. Whether cultivating plants or purchasing cannabis products, it’s the guideline that tells us which cannabis we should buy.
At this point, there has never been any accurate scale for judging cannabis quality. Much of the shopping experience throughout recreational cannabis dispensaries in the USA, coffeeshops in the Netherlands, and cannabis seedbanks revolve around THC content.
Without terpene analysis and cannabis expertise, the average person is looking for the simplest way to select the highest quality strain, and the THC percentage is just that.
What is THC?
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is a psychotropic chemical compound found within the cannabis plant.
THC and CBD are the primary cannabinoids that people are most familiar with. However, many other cannabinoids contribute to the feelings that cannabis provide, and this is referred to as the entourage effect.
The THC percentages on cannabis packaging come from analytical laboratories that test cannabis products for cannabinoids, terpenes, and contaminants. The THC content indicates how hard a specific cannabis genetic might affect your endocannabinoid system. For example, a strain with a 28% THC content will undeniably have a more intense feeling than a strain with 10% THC.
Unfortunately, the thought of how hard a strain hits you is often the measure of quality, and many people pay the most attention to THC content when buying cannabis.
This also influences growers as they want to be working with the products with the highest THC percentage, so when purchasing seeds online, they’ll often skip over lower testing strains like Ruderalis Indica, Black Harlequin, and Big Bud. It’s a travesty because everyone knows that Black Harlequin and Big Bud are incredible strains!
Which factors determine THC levels?
When cultivating cannabis plants, several factors can determine higher THC levels:
- Genetics: The range of THC a flower can produce depends mainly on genetics. Some strains are more inclined to produce higher levels of cannabinoids and terpenes than others.
- Harvest time: When a plant is allowed to mature longer, the THC percentages will be higher.
- Light cycles: Generally speaking, more light means more potency. The used light cycles (indoors) or the hours of daylight (outdoors) will affect the THC levels in the end product.
- Attention to detail: Attention to detail comes up a lot when discussing “craft cannabis.” Craft cannabis is grown in small batches, allowing growers to pay attention to each and every plant as they progress throughout the growing cycle. With attention to detail, craft growers can make sure their plants are healthy, and more importantly, correct any issues (like overwatering, pests, stress, etc.) that happen as early as possible.
8 Cannabis qualities that are more important than THC
When it comes to each different cannabis cultivar, you should be focusing on more than potency to decide what to purchase. Whether you’re buying cannabis at a dispensary, coffeeshop, or seeds from a seed bank, here are some indicators of quality that are much more important than how high the product tests for THC.
1. How it was grown
One of the most essential things in deciding the quality of cannabis is how it was cultivated?
It doesn’t matter if your dried flower has a 28% THC content if it’s covered with pesticides, heavy metals, or anything else that could make you sick.
Whether you’re purchasing indoor or sun-grown cannabis, it is always best to know how well you know the company you’re buying cannabis from:
- What are the company’s standards, and what are their cultivation practices?
- Where do they grow their plants – indoors or outdoors?
- Are they commercial growers or craft cannabis farmers?
- Are they experts that know how to grow and pay attention to the plant’s needs?
To truly trust the quality of your cannabis, you should only purchase it from reputable stores, brands, and seedbanks.
The way a cannabis flower looks is an excellent indicator of quality. More specifically, it’s a great indicator of health.
The plant’s colouring; the texture of its buds; the bud structure; whether the flowers should be fluffy and light or tight and dense; the colour of the pistils and trichomes stuck to them; are all details to pay attention to when judging cannabis. When cannabis is grown correctly, you will see vibrant colours with a sticky structure covered with trichomes.
3. Trichome density
Trichomes are the glandular resin glands of the cannabis plant. They are the milky white crystals that are stuck to cannabis buds. Trichomes are essential because they house the cannabinoids and terpenes that create the complete experience we feel after vaporising some cannabis. When you see a plant that lacks trichomes, you can assume that it is immature and is not as potent.
4. Terpene profile
Right after the plants’ aesthetics, you’ll see aromas and flavours, which make up the strains terpene profile. The five primary terpenes found in cannabis are myrcene, caryophyllene, humulene, linalool and limonene. Cannabis can have a wide range of aromas and flavours such as:
- Skunk, and many more.
These scents are guiding lights towards the effects we may feel from cannabis. Strains high in limonene are expected to be uplifting, gassy terpenes found in humulene are expected to be potent, and floral linalool terpenes are relaxing.
Terpene profiles must be loud and clearly defined. If you cultivate a strain that doesn’t have an exciting terpene profile, chances are it’s not going to be wanted by anyone. Even if it gets you super high, people care more about the aroma and taste in the entire experience.
5. Drying and curing
If you’re buying or growing cannabis, you should know that the plant didn’t go straight from the ground into your jar. While growing, cannabis plants are full of water and nutrients they’ve taken up from the soil. So once they are done flowering and ready to be harvested, they still have to be flushed of all of these materials. This happens during the dry and cure stage of growing cannabis.
This is why people who smoke joints are so concerned with burning white ash. White ash is believed to signify that a plant was grown correctly, dried, and cured. Many companies take shortcuts to hurry up and get their products on the shelves during these stages. Often, those plants will feel moist to the touch, produce a harsh smoke, taste like grass cuttings, and have an incredibly poor burnability.
Burnability is crucial when it comes to discussing the quality of cannabis. Sometimes you roll a joint, and then you have to keep lighting it because the cannabis inside won’t burn right. That is a massive indicator of the quality of the cannabis used. Even if your plant tests at 30% THC, it’s not worth the money or time if you can’t even get the joint to stay lit. Again, this comes down to a proper dry and cure.
7. The Entourage Effect
Cannabis plants have over 400 different cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids. The Entourage Effect is the idea that cannabis is more effective when these compounds are used together rather than in isolation. Instead of focusing on a product with the highest THC possible, like a THC isolate, you’ll find much better quality in one that contains an adequate amount of THC, along with CBD, CBN, CBG, and the rest of the cannabis compounds. Again, the terpene profile is essential.
In addition to contributing to the smell and taste of cannabis strains, terpenes are believed to indicate the type of high we will get from those strains. To get the most out of your cannabis, you don’t need to maximise THC; you need to maximise all of those cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids.
8. The overall experience
Lastly, when it comes to the quality indicators of cannabis, the overall experience is what matters most. It is way more important than how potent cannabis is. When people consume cannabis, they aren’t just focused on how high they are an hour after vaporising it.
Instead, they ask themselves: Did it taste good? Did it burn well? Did it make you feel the way you wanted to feel? Is it worth telling other people about? Would you repurchase it? All of these questions decide the true quality of a cannabis product, and all of their answers are more important than the overall THC content. The potency of a product is invaluable if it didn’t make you:
- Feel happy when you need a morale boost
- Feel uplifted and energetic when you were tired
- Relax the mind and body when you were feeling stressed
- Calm you down when you were feeling anxious
- Or if it didn’t provide relief when you were in pain.
Maybe, it’s time for the cannabis industry to acknowledge that and update its metrics for judging cannabis quality.
What do you think?
While we believe that things like bud structure, trichome density, and the Entourage Effect are some of the best indicators for judging high-quality cannabis, we’d love to hear what you think.
Did we miss anything about high-quality cannabis? Are there more critical aspects to judging the quality of cannabis than a high THC potency? Or Is THC always and forever an essential part of the cannabis experience? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
- Disclaimer:Laws and regulations regarding cannabis cultivation differ from country to country. Sensi Seeds therefore strongly advises you to check your local laws and regulations. Do not act in conflict with the law.