How to Read a Dispensary Label

Marijuana Dispensary Bottle
Photo by: Teri Virbickis/Shutterstock

Stop me if you've heard this one before. You walk into your favorite marijuana dispensary and discover they've added quite a few strains to their selection, many of which you’ve never tried before. The budtender is helping a few other customers, so you start reading the dispensary labels to acquaint yourself with the new flower. The first thing you scan for is a high percentage of THC. The higher the THC, the higher the high, right?

Actually, no.

Legal dispensaries usually provide THC percentages, but it is only one of many numbers on a dispensary label that can help you make the right choice about the flower you buy. But why are there so many numbers and percentages shown on a label anyway, and what do all of them mean?

Leafbuyer is a strong proponent of responsible and informed marijuana use, and we want to do what we can to ensure that you're armed with the necessary information to decipher a dispensary label before ? and after ? you buy.

With April 20th around the corner, many consumers are excited about the awesome 420 cannabis deals that happen. So, it is important that the community understand how to read a cannabis product’s label. without further ado, How to Read a Dispensary Label:



After the name of the cannabis strain and the phenotype (indica, sativa, hybrid, etc.), the first thing people will often look for when perusing marijuana for purchase is the percentage of THC. It is a common misconception that the given THC percentage on a dispensary label represents the amount of THC in that strain, in comparison to the overall chemical composition of the product.

What that percentage actually means is something completely different. In the lab analysis of a marijuana product, the percent of THC that ultimately appears on the label is the ratio of THC present when measured against the other terpenes and cannabinoids within the strain.

Generally, it is the THC that produces the psychoactive effect or "high" from marijuana.


THCa, or ?9-tetrahydrocannabinolic acid, is a naturally occurring carboxylic acid in the marijuana plant that has no psychoactive effects ? until it's heated. THCa reacts to heating by changing into THC, complete with a psychoactive high. The THCa value on a dispensary label represents the percentage of THCa present. Once heated, this percentage will not translate directly to % THC ? users can reference the equation (%THCa) x 0.877 + (%THC) to find the total percentage of THC present in a strain.


This is the amount of activated THC present in the flower, meaning no chemical reaction is necessary in order for the psychoactive effects of THC to take place. This number is usually <0.00%, which is why you can't get high from simply ingesting bud ? you have to heat it up first.


Similarly, the percentage of CBD you'll find on a dispensary label is the ratio of CBD present when measured against the other terpenes and cannabinoids in the strain. CBD doesn’t induce psychoactive effects.


There may be similar percentages on your dispensary label for CBDa and CBN. These are cannabinoids similar to CBD, and the percentages represent the ratio of CBDa or CBN present when measured against the other terpenes and cannabinoids in the strain.

Harvest & Test Dates

When you're purchasing weed from a medical or recreational cannabis shop, you'll likely notice the harvest date and test date on the label. These dates refer to when the flower was harvested from the plant and when it was tested for mold, mildew, pesticides, and/or potency.

Activation Time

You're going to want to know how quickly each strain will kick in. The activation time for flower represents how soon after smoking you're likely to feel the effects. When smoking or vaping with bud, the activation time is usually between 0-15 minutes.

Lab/Grower Name and ID

Where did your flower come from, and how can you learn more about them? Both recreational and medical marijuana dispensary labels are required to include identifying information about the grower of the bud you buy. For some users, this is something to safely ignore, while others may only buy weed from a certain lab.

Batch ID

The batch ID or batch # on a dispensary label helps dispensaries and consumers alike identify the batch associated with the manufacturing and processing of the flower for sale.

Usable Marijuana / Net Weight

This one is pretty easy: the number here is the amount of weed you're buying. Whether it's written in by your budtender as she fills your order or already typed out on the label of pre-packaged marijuana, the usable marijuana number tells you how much flower you're getting (usually in grams or ounces).


Edible Cannabis Chocolate
Photo by: Creative Family/Shutterstock
In addition to many of the same percentages present on dispensary labels for bud and flower, edibles also have several unique label features.

Lot Number

The lot number on labels for edibles is similar to the batch ID for flower: It allows dispensaries and consumers to identify the batch associated with the manufacturing and processing of the edible. If there were ever a need for a recall, the lot number would be one of the identifying factors.

Nutritional Facts

If you choose to ingest your weed in edible form, you should know what else you're ingesting. That's why dispensary labels for edibles feature a nutritional facts section similar to what you would see on your groceries.


Since tinctures distribute marijuana in drops, their labels tend to show slightly different information from flower and edibles. As ingestible food-based products, these labels feature nutritional facts and other, more unique components:


The potency of a tincture is shown on a dispensary label in terms of milligrams. A tincture label will convey how many mg of CBD, THC, and CBN are present in the product.

Dosage per Drop

One of the most vital features on a tincture label is the dosage amount. When using marijuana products, it's important to understand how much of each cannabinoid you're ingesting. Tinctures include an approximate measurement (in mg) of THC or CBD present in each drop so users can more easily gauge how much to take. Some tinctures contain only CBD, like CBD olie, which is very beneficial for those looking for the medical benefits of cannabis, without the high.

We know this is a lot to think about and it can be pretty overwhelming, but it's well worth a little study time to better understand what you're putting into your body. So keep yourself informed about the information on dispensary labels and learn to read the weed you buy.