Judging Cannabis Quality: Why Terpenes Are More Important Than THC Content

Another week down and it’s time to debunk some more cannabis myths with Spliff Busters here to set the record straight. This episode of Spliff Busters with the Trichome Institute is an in-depth look at how to tell cannabis quality when shopping in a dispensary. Quality cannabis is not as easy to determine for the average consumer, but there a few stellar factors to pay attention to when picking out the best herb. Not only is the industry norm guiding consumers down the wrong path, but the capitalism ideology keeps the truth from being easily accessible. With the cannabis industry growing in size and popularity every year, it is essential to begin focusing on consumer education rather than making a quick buck.

The Old-School Way of Determining Quality Cannabis

close up of bud

Let’s start by looking at the myths that many consumers believe when it comes to determining quality cannabis in a dispensary. Judging the marijuana flower is not as black and white as most consumers think; however, it is not their fault for thinking this way. The marijuana industry is relatively new and to think that for years, people saw cannabis as simple, is utterly amazing. Industry experts were not only lacking the knowledge to educate consumers properly, but the research was not always available, until today. Here is a brief list of what most consumers think about when determining the quality of a cannabis bud.

  • THC Potency
  • Strain Name
  • Strain Lineage

When a consumer walks into a dispensary looking for cannabis flower, odds are they ask what strain has the highest THC content. This idea is something not only consumers tend to focus on, but also many dispensary employees. The lack of proper cannabis education and training is why consumers are never the ones to blame. It truly falls on the marijuana professionals in the industry to guide consumers down the right path.

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Debunking These Old School Methods

The old way most people knew how to tell quality cannabis from ditch weed was by looking for unique strains and its overall THC potency. While these are factors of describing a cannabis strain, they have nothing to do with determining quality cannabis.

Strain’s with a Well-Known Name Means it is a Quality Cannabis Strain.

This statement is most definitely not a fact. Not only is it practically impossible to know 100% that a strain is a lineage it says it is, but with every strain hybridized on the market, it has no bearing on quality. Many consumers purchase strains that stick out with their name and lineage, which is fine if you want something you’ve never had before. When it comes to quality cannabis, strain names play no role. Always keep in mind that the strain name dilemma is real in the market today.

A High THC Strain is a Quality Cannabis Strain.

This statement is not a fact but is something many consumers get hung-up on. The truth is, THC content is not the only factor of determining potency, nor, is it the sole factor of determining a strain’s psychoactive effect. Even though a strain has a high THC content, it could still contain a low cannabinoid profile and terpene content. Plus, if a strain is 20% THC, it does not mean a consumer is entirely absorbing 200mg of THC per gram of flower. A decent amount of the THC content is lost in the consumption and absorption process. In other words, a high THC strain could still lack a psychoactive effect.

A Cannabis Flower that has Undergone Lab Tests is a Quality Cannabis Strain.

Lab tests do not guarantee a quality cannabis flower. Most lab tests only look for a bud’s chromatography. In other words, it determines the chemical compounds within a strain such as cannabinoids, terpenes, microbiols, and pesticides. While these are all good things to know, lab tests do not determine quality. Labs don’t tell consumers the ripeness of a bud, if a flower is flushed, if insects or other diseases are present, or even if its terpene content is high. Lab tests serve a purpose but should not be the sole factor in determining if a bud is quality or not.

How to Tell Quality Cannabis on Today’s Market

Now that the myths behind quality cannabis are debunked, it is time to give consumers the proper education for finding quality cannabis on the market today. Keep in mind; we are not telling consumers to disregard THC content. It’s still something to look at, but it is best to look for strains with a further round of cannabinoids than just THC. However, the easiest way to truly determine a quality cannabis flower is by trusting the nose!

  1. Pungency is the number one factor in determining a quality cannabis flower. Why? A cannabis flower with a distinct and noticeable scent means its terpene content is high, and the flower is fresh. Not only do terpenes provide cannabis strains with its unique aroma and flavor, but they also determine the type of high a consumer will receive. Certain terpenes are thought to cause a stimulant effect, while others are thought to cause sedating effects.

For this reason, indica and sativa are not the best descriptors for determining the type of high, but that is a whole other myth that needs to change with education. Regardless, a strain that truly catches the attention is likely to have a higher terpene content, which will provide a more rounded high than a scentless strain. Overall, pungency is the easiest way to determine a quality cannabis flower.

  1. Ripeness is another excellent factor that plays into the quality of a cannabis flower. If a flower or harvest is old, it will have noticeable differences. First off, it is likely to have a weak or non-existent aroma. It means there are little terpenes left in the flower and that the high is likely to be a bit like ditch weed. Without terpenes, the smoke will be tasteless, and the high will lack a punch.

Secondly, an old cannabis flower will lack in color. It is likely to be a tan or brown color, which means chlorophyll oxidized from the bud over time. Ripe flower should be vibrant in color and have a strong aroma. Unfortunately, lab tests do not determine the ripeness of a flower. It is up to the consumer to be aware of how to recognize specific descriptors of a pre-ripe, ripe, or post-ripe cannabis flower.

Cannabis Education Training at Consumer’s Fingertips

While watching the weekly Spliff Busters is an ideal method of obtaining minor cannabis knowledge, there are other resources available today. In fact, there are even online cannabis certification courses available through the Trichome Institute to anyone with a computer. These courses are an excellent tool to help consumers learn more about quality cannabis, cannabis research, and the future of cannabis products.

Video featuring Trichome Institute

Video summary by Justice Council

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