POST CATEGORY: Special

Testing Cannabis: Choosing The Right Product

May 06, 2017 | WES ABNEY

Tips on reading a testing label, information on common cannabinoids, terpenes, residual solvents, and more.

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READING A TESTING LABEL

Every package of Cannabis sold will have a testing label on it like the one shown on this page. When purchasing Cannabis, it is important to read the label, to understand the information included and to ask questions if you are unsure about a product. That’s what your budtender is there for! Common elements include: Cannabinoids levels, Terpenes (If tested), Dosage (if applicable), Company information, Strain Name and Class (sativa/indica/hybrid).


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HOW ARE EDIBLES' STRENGTH MEASURED?

Alaska’s law limits a serving to 5mg of THC and a total package to 50mg of tetrahydroncannabinol (THC). All edibles will be within a target range of this potency, roughly more or less than 5 percent. For most users, one serving will have minimal effects. But don’t let that fool you. A good starting dose for anyone should be no more than 10mg. This allows for a comfortable edible experience. A good rule of thumb is “you can always eat more, but not less.” Edibles can take up to two hours to take effect, so be patient! For those looking for a higher edible dose than the state limit of 50mg, we recommend purchasing a concentrate and infusing it into a cooking oil or butter.


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WHAT IS A CANNABINOID?

The term Cannabinoid refers to a variety of chemicals found in the Cannabis plant. They interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system, which delivers the effects that we associate with Cannabis, both recreationally and medicinally.


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COMMON CANNABINOIDS

THC The rock star of the Cannabinoid world, this is the chemical that causes the majority of our high from Cannabis. But it is the interaction of THC with terpenes and flavonoids that delivers the full high (the entourage effect) Medicinal properties: Pain relief, anti-nausea, increases appetite, anti-epileptic/spasms.

THCA Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid is the acid form of THC, which is how THC is often shown on flower test results. When heat is added to THC through smoking or vaporizing the compound converts to THC, which delivers the high we all know and love. Medicinal properties: Sleep aid, anti-epileptic/spasms, anti-cancer cell.

CBD Cannabidiol is known as a wonderfully medicinal chemical that is non-psychoactive and can be used with all ages. CBD products are currently sold legally nationwide, sourced from the hemp plant. CBD can also come from Cannabis, and finding products with CBD in them is a great indicator of medicinal value. Medicinal properties: Relieves pain and inflammation, anxiety, fights cancer, is an antipsychotic, relieves nausea, has anti-seizure properties, helps treat diabetes, PTSD, heart health and more.

CBG Cannabigerol. This Cannabinoid is often associated with euphoric highs, or the giggles, but is also highly medicinal. Medicinal properties: Sleep aid, cancer cell growth inhibitor, bone growth aid, slows bacterial growth

CBN Cannabinol. This Cannabinoid is what causes the “couch lock” sensation, although that can also come from terpenes like Myrcene. Medicinal properties: sedative and sleep aid.

THC-V Medicinal properties: anti-epileptic/spasms and promotes bone growth.


WHAT ARE TERPENES, AND HOW DO THEY AFFECT BOTH STRAINS AND THE USER?

Terpenes are the basis for essential oils and the flavors that we associate with Cannabis. It’s what gives a strain the lemony-fuel sharp flavor, or the deep earthy muskiness in another. But they affect more than just flavor. Terpenes have a recreational and medicinal value in how they interact with Cannabinoids. This is known as the entourage effect. Different terpenes will cause a variety of differences to a high, from uplifting energy to calm and sleepiness.


WHAT ARE THE MOST COMMON TERPENES AND THEIR EFFECTS/FLAVORS?

Limonene This terpene has a citrus flavor, and is an appetite suppressant as well as a viable treatment against cancer.

Myrcene This earthy and musky terpene delivers the couch lock sleepiness, but it’s also beneficial as an anti-inflammatory agent and for pain.

Caryophyllene This terpene doesn’t have a huge flavor profile, but it is a mood elevator and great for treating depression and anxiety or PTSD.

Linalool This spicy and floral terpene is great for treating pain, inflammation, is a known sedative and antipsychotic. It is more commonly found in Lavendar extracts.

Many more There are dozens of terpenes that can be found in Cannabis. If you want to learn more, check online for enhanced info!


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WHAT ARE RESIDUAL SOLVENTS IN CONCENTRATES?

All Cannabis concentrates like shatter or oil in a vapor pen are processed with a solvent. Often these solvents are industrial and carry potential health risks if they are not removed (purged) from the end product. The most common solvent we worry about purging is butane, and Alaska limits total parts per million (PPM) of solvents to 800. The lower the residual solvent level, the cleaner the product is. In products like Co2 or Clear/Distillate, this is not a concern, because the solvents are either benign or avoided completely.


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TAKING A BUDTENDER’S ADVICE

The most important rule is “Don’t be bashful.” Budtenders will generally have a pretty decent idea of what product can meet your price point and expertise level if you converse with them. They should also be taken with a grain of salt because some producer/processor companies promote better than others and budtenders may be trained to be more knowledgeable in these companies’ products, and will promote them more than the others.

Not all budtenders are created equal, some take their job seriously and are very knowledgeable while others are just there for the discount and just want to shovel off grams. Let the budtender know if you are a first-time consumer or new to Cannabis so that they don’t send you home with something that may be way too potent for your experience level. 

Remember, it’s always easier to consume more, take things slowly and learn where your line is. Yes, you can overdose on Cannabis, but overdoses won’t kill you. They will, on the other hand, make you feel extremely uncomfortable and can alter your plans very quickly, possibly making you look rather foolish when you are laying down on the floor. The point to take home here is that the budtender should have a decent idea of what the product is like and the effects, but do your homework; no one knows you better than you do.


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WHAT IS MOST IMPORTANT WHEN LOOKING AT A TEST LABEL AND CHOOSING A STRAIN? SHOULD I GO FOR THE HIGHEST THC POSSIBLE?

The most important factor when choosing a strain is never “how high is the THC.” While high THC test results can be a solid indicator of how potent a strain is, simply buying Cannabis based on the THC numbers will leave you disappointed and missing a wide world of quality products. 

All products sold in Alaska will have test results on the package listing THC content and other cannabinoids. Most new consumers assume that high THC content means the biggest “high.” While THC does promote the majority of the psychoactive responses that one receives when they consume Cannabis, it is the entourage effect of cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids that has the most influence on how potent and how long the effects last after consumption. 

With all the hybridizing of plants, we are now starting to see cultivars that grow like sativas but can carry a heavy sedative effect like an indica characteristically would do and vice versa. Just because a plant is 20-some-odd percent THC doesn’t particularly mean you will be on a space rocket ride for four hours. The combination of other cannabinoids and terpenes along with environmental stimuli will all play a role in how the effects are felt and their longevity.  

The first decision you should make when buying pot is deciding what you want to use it for. Do you want a sativa for daytime use or a heavy indica for nighttime? There are thousands of strains, all with different effects, and dialing in the purpose for smoking goes a long way towards a good experience. From there getting a clear picture of the strain’s lineage, cannabinoid profile, terpene profile and overall looks will give you a solid base from which make your decision.


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OVERALL

In the long run, the best way to find out what works and what doesn’t is by doing a little bit of research about what you are looking for along with trial-and-error sampling and questions for the budtender. Don’t buy an ounce of something unless you are sure you like that cultivar and the farmer who grew it. Don’t forget that Cannabis is a commodity like any other crop and there are good harvests and bad harvests. One farmer’s Northern Lights might not be the same as the next farmer on the shelf.

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