Choosing the Right Product and Potency Level For You

two small test tubes of marijuana being held by a glove-covered hand

Webster's dictionary defines potent as "chemically or medicinally effective" which is spot on when it comes to dealing with the cannabis industry. Right now, there seems to be a rush to see who can come out with the most potent strains of cannabis products. Cannabis products that are more potent are higher in THC, which is the chemical compound that gets you high. In the cannabis industry, especially within the adult-use market, cannabis potency is king. This is why we often hear of older people trying cannabis for the first time in decades and talking about how much stronger it is now than it was back in the day. This is not just because they might have a low tolerance, cannabis really is more potent now that it was in the past, and it seems to be getting more potent by the day.

Sativa and Indica Strains

open jar showing smokable flower product

By now, it is pretty universally accepted among cannabis connoisseurs that sativa gives a head high while indica provides more of a body high. Sativa is used for creativity and socializing while indica-dominant strains are used for staying in. The first time I visited a dispensary in Los Angeles, the budtender gave me a lesson that I will never forget: "Indica is in-da-couch." Easy enough for me to remember. Although some are debating if this is true or false, it has been the norm for years.

Some scientists now believe that sativa and indica affect everyone differently. If you do your own research, you will see that a strain might have one effect on you and another on someone else. There are a ton of other factors that affect the potency of a cannabis plant such as breeding and growing techniques, but for the most part, the more potent the plant the higher you feel. However, the high will differ from person to person.

Right now, the most potent strains of cannabis have a THC level of anywhere from 20%-35%. A potent sativa might make you feel energized, and the high THC level will have you feeling like you just had a powerful cup of coffee. If sativas have a more calming effect on you, you’ll be locked in-da-couch ready to binge watch your favorite show or take a nap. But be careful when you’re consuming such high THC levels, because chances are your body isn’t used to it, and that can create an unpleasant effect. If you microdose and use responsibly, you should have an enjoyable experience with your potent cannabis.


close-up photo of cannabis concentrate being broken up

Cannabis concentrates, also known as wax, dabs, or butane honey oil, just to name a few, are extremely potent. I mentioned earlier that some of the most potent cannabis flowers range from 20%-35% THC, which is considered high THC. Concentrates can range from 40%-80% THC, which makes them much more potent than your average cannabis flower. Concentrates are pure THC and they are the preferred method for users who want to get extremely high. Users have had mixed reviews on concentrates, with some getting negative feelings. Others live by the stuff and prefer the clean smoke as opposed to the harsh smoke associated with burning the flower. Either way, the psychoactive effects of taking pure concentrated THC are the definition of a product with high potency.


three chocolate chip cookie edibles with a marijuana leaf placed on top of the cookie in the center

Cannabis edibles measure potency by milligrams instead of percentages. As a rule of thumb for first timers, the recommended dosage is between 1-2.5 mg THC. This is a relatively small dosage and will not be incredibly potent, but it’s a great starting off point. It's always best to start off small and work your way up, rather than get way too high and have a bad experience. When it comes to cannabis potency, edibles are known to be all over the place. Users have been known to take way too much of an edible and experience a horrible high. This has even hurt the sales of products like weed brownies because there have been so many instances where people get so high they literally felt they were going to die. It has never actually happened, but users generally don’t want to feel like this when enjoying cannabis. But for those who have built up a tolerance for potent cannabis products, there are edibles out there with 1,000 mg THC. I don’t recommend ever taking that amount of THC, so just start small, go slow, and do your research.

Cannabis Potency

Understanding the potency of cannabis products is one of the most important things you need to do as a consumer. Although there are recommended dosages and guidelines for how cannabis affects our bodies, every body will have a different response. Since California recently legalized cannabis, all products must go through lab testing. The results of the testing show that 1 in 5 samples have been failing the tests, largely due to inaccurate labeling of potency levels. This testing process will be the norm across the country when the plant is inevitably legalized on the federal level, and could help give users a more accurate idea of what they are taking.

Ask your budtender questions if you’re in a legal state, and do your research online. When trying new products, it’s extremely important to take it slow. Keep water near you, some munchies, and maybe even some CBD. You can try to avoid negative side effects by starting off small and increasing your dosage slowly as you go along. It typically takes edibles a couple of hours to kick in, so don't eat some and expect for them to kick in right away. But just like with anything in life, be careful and responsible when using high potency cannabis products. If you do it right by easing your way into the experience, they can be a lot of fun. Make sure you’re educated so you can enjoy.