With marijuana increasingly legal across the United States for both recreational and medicinal purposes, many Americans are considering trying cannabis for the first time. When they head to the dispensary, however, it can be quite overwhelming to choose from the endless list of strains available.
In general, most consumers are only familiar with the fact that the THC percentage is related to the psychoactive effects that you feel when you smoke or ingest cannabis. For this reason, people frequently assume that the highest THC strain is the best strain.
Is that really true though? Is higher THC better?
Let’s take a look at everything you need to know.
What Is THC?
THC stands for tetrahydrocannabinol, which is a cannabinoid that occurs naturally in the cannabis plant. Cannabinoids are chemical compounds.
THC is by far the most well-known cannabinoid and marijuana, with CBD definitely gaining popularity in the last several years as a close second. The primary psychoactive compound in the plant, pretty much everyone knows that THC is responsible for the “high” that you feel when you smoke weed.
Since THC is often the only cannabinoid that consumers know about, they often ask for high THC strains when they head to a dispensary. They are purchasing cannabis in order to feel desired effects, so it makes sense that they would think that the higher the THC content the better the experience they will have.
However, this is not necessarily true. There are more than 100 cannabinoids in cannabis and it’s likely that we have not even identified all of them. What makes certain strains produce certain effects is quite complicated, and many people might actually be happier with a lower THC strain.
What Does the THC Percentage Mean?
When you buy a cannabis product from a dispensary, it comes with a label that indicates the cannabinoid levels. These are expressed as a percentage of the product’s dry weight. Indicating the total THC and CBD levels in this form is a required part of marijuana labeling.
If you are new to cannabis, these numbers might be a bit confusing. It can be hard to know what is considered a high percentage and what is a low percentage.
While THC and CBD might be the most well-known cannabinoids in cannabis, there are actually more than 100 cannabinoids that naturally occur in the plant. Most of these are only present at very low levels, particularly in commercial marijuana.
It isn’t necessary to fully understand the biology of cannabinoid production to decipher these labels. What you will want to know is that there are three major “chemotypes” that are defined by the ratios of THC to CBD.
THC-dominant strains are strains of cannabis that contain little CBD and mostly THC. These strains will have strong psychoactive effects. Most of the most popular strains like OG Kush, Blue Dream, and Granddaddy Purple are THC-dominant strains.
CBD-dominant strains contain very little THC and mostly CBD. They will have little or no apparent psychoactive effects. Popular CBD dominant strains Include Remedy and Charlotte’s Web.
Balanced strains are strains of cannabis that fall somewhere in the middle. They will have some CBD and some THC, however, they typically will not have as much of either in their dominant strain form. The effects of these strains will lead you to feel high, but it will be a noticeably different high than you get from THC dominant strains.
Examples of balanced strains include Harlequin and Cannatonic.
On top of this, it’s important to understand that THC and CBD aren’t the only cannabinoids that impact the effects of the product. There are a variety of other cannabinoids as well as terpenesthat help to shape the effects, flavor, and aroma of cannabis. However, at this point, only connoisseurs are particularly concerned at this level.
What Is Considered High THC?
The potency of cannabis has increased drastically over the last several decades. Even 20 or 30 years ago, the THC percentage and marijuana were typically much lower. Since then, the potency of cannabis is estimated to have increased by a factor of at least three.
The average potency is available right now are around 20% THC. You can find the strains that have a THC percentage of 30% or more at this point. By contrast, it is believed that cannabis strains in the 1960s rarely exceeded 5% THC content.
These days, some of the mildest strains that you can find have twice as much as the strongest strains in the 1960s. If you had to a dispensary for eight THC dominant strain, the lowest percentages you will likely find will be between 10 and 12%.
As you can see, all of the THC dominant cannabis on the market these days would be considered high THC by the standards of the 1960s, when THC was typically less than 2%. However, at this point, it’s fair to call cannabis that is 20% or higher high-THC.
It’s important to understand, though, that even the mildest THC dominant cannabis is quite potent these days.
Is a Higher Percent of THC Better?
Whether you are new to using cannabis or have been doing so for many years, many people assume that higher THC is better. Actually, though, this is not necessarily the case.
One reason for this is what is called the “biphasic effect.” You can think of this in terms of alcohol. If you have a drink or two, it can help you to feel more social, more relaxed, and experience pleasurable effects.
However, if you drink too much, it can make you aggressive, emotional, or even ill.
This is an example of the biphasic effect. Low to moderate doses result in effects that are desirable while high doses have the opposite effect.
When it comes to cannabis, the biphasic effects are more subtle. However, there still consequential. Lower doses of THC can make you feel happy and relaxed, while too much can create anxiety, panic, and impaired cognitive function.
It has been found that too much THC can also provide diminishing returns when used therapeutically. In fact, too much can actually exacerbate symptoms.
Everyone is different, though different strengths and types of cannabis might work better for some people than others. For example, if an individual prefers the ritual of smoking and likes to share quite a bit of weed with their friends, a lower THC marijuana strain might actually be better. For someone with a high tolerance or who does not particularly like to take the time to take many tokes, perhaps they would prefer a high THC strain.
Speaking of tolerance, it can be a good idea to reset your tolerance with a T-break every once in a while. Or perhaps you have been enjoying delta-8-THC recently and are thinking of taking a tolerance break from that interesting cannabinoid. If you’re thinking of taking a tolerance break from delta-8, follow this link to learn how long of a break you should take.
What Are the Strongest Cannabis Strains?
Some people simply just want to get the strongest cannabis strain there is.
If you’re looking for the most potent strains, you’ll have a lot to choose from. However, let’s take a look at some of the most popular high THC strains.
GSC is a strain that has 19% average THC. The primary terpenes found in this strain are limonene, humulene, and caryophyllene. This strain will fill both your body and mind with several hours worth of warm relaxation.
Kosher Kush has 20% THC and first appeared in 2010. No one is entirely sure the genetic background of the strain, but it is well loved. Not for the faint of heart, this indica packs a powerful punch.
Ghost OG has an average THC content of 20%. Brad for high-octane euphoria, this strain delivers.
GMO Cookies is an indica cannabis strain with an average of 26% THC content. A cross between GSC and Chemdog, You will feel relaxing effects through your whole body and a focus sensation in your mind. People like this strain because it can relieve stress without totally sedating you.
Why Does High-THC Flower Dominate the Market?
These days, high THC marijuana totally dominates the cannabis market. However, there isn’t any research to suggest that a higher dose of THC makes for a better recreational experience or a more beneficial medicinal tool.
Even though people in the cannabis industry are well aware that THC potency isn’t the most important factor when it comes to the quality of cannabis, the market sees things differently. Higher THC strains is what sells, so that is where the focus is.
There also is a vicious cycle, where the breeding world is so focused on high THC that there are not many options in terms of seeds for breeders who might want to breed low THC strains.
Because THC is by far the most well-known ingredient in cannabis, consumers tend to prioritize THC.
High THC Vs Low THC: What Do Consumers Actually Prefer?
Even though consumers prioritize THC because it’s what they know about, research has found that people actually prefer products that have a lower THC percentage per serving. Increasingly, also, people have begun choosing products based on the CBD percentages well.
Anecdotally, it is clear that when people don’t know what it is that there smoking, they tend to prefer low THC strains. This means, if you are shopping for cannabis strains, you actually might prefer to go with something with a lower THC percentage.
Research has actually validated the fact that consumers actually prefer mild effects rather than getting as high as humanly possible.
People who work at dispensaries say that the most common question is “what is your highest THC strain?” People asked this question because they don’t know about the other cannabinoids and terpenes that impact the effects of cannabis.
What’s a Good THC Percentage to Begin With?
If you are new to consuming cannabis products, it can be a good idea to start with a lower THC strain. There is no reason to go all out when you’re first starting and when you have no tolerance. In fact, smoking too much weed or too strong of a strain when you are new to cannabis is honestly a recipe for disaster.
Considering that even the weakest weed today is several times stronger than the famed marijuana of the 60s, it’s likely a good idea to start with the lowest THC presented you can find. At the dispensary, this will typically be somewhere around 10 to 13% THC content. You also might be able to find balance strains that have percentages like 10% CBD and 3% THC.
If you find that the cannabis that you are using is not strong enough for you, you can always try a more potent strain. However, it can be a good idea to start low, because it will help to keep your tolerance level and help you avoid negative experiences.
Is Higher THC Better?: Less Can Actually Be More When It Comes to THC
Even some seasoned smokers might be surprised to find out that more THC is not necessarily better. Not only can it make the effects so strong that they are unpleasant, but it can also build up a person’s tolerance so that they need to smoke more to feel the same effects. Considering that buying cannabis at the dispensary is not the cheapest thing you can do, it can make sense to smoke a lower THC strain simply for financial reasons.
Everyone preferences will be different when it comes to THC amounts in their cannabis. However, it is worth knowing that the amount of THC is not the only factor that impacts the effects that you will feel.
Did you find this article answering the question “is higher THC better?” interesting? If so, be sure to check out the rest of our blog for more fascinating and informative content!