Cannabis customers in the United States tend to focus on THC potency when making purchasing decisions, often overlooking other important factors that can affect their experience. While the industry claims to educate consumers about the benefits of terpenes and minor cannabinoids, most customers remain poorly informed about these important ingredients and continue to prioritize high THC percentages.
If one surveys the landscape of award-winning cannabis, it is clear that high THC cannabis does not always mean better cannabis. For instance, The Emerald Cup, California’s renowned competition for organic, outdoor-grown cannabis, has crowned strains with lower THC content through the years as the “best overall” strains. While higher THC percentages have become the standard measure of quality, this competition highlights the importance of other factors like appearance, aroma, taste, and overall effect. Judges at the Emerald Cup believe that a strain must not only be potent but also deliver a pleasant high. Additionally, the presence of terpenes, the fragrant oils in the plant’s resin, plays a significant role in determining the overall experience. One year, a CBD-dominant strain accidentally made its way into the main category, and surprisingly, it ranked in the top 10, outperforming THC-dominant strains. This challenges the conventional market logic and emphasizes the need for a more nuanced understanding of cannabis. The Emerald Cup proves that there is much more to top-shelf cannabis than just high THC content.
The myth of “natural” cannabis strains
When discussing cannabis consumption, the term “natural” is often thrown around. But what is truly “natural” when it comes to cannabis strains? All of the high-THC strains prevalent today are the product of years of selective breeding and genetic modification (cannabis in the 70s was typically 1-3% THC). These efforts were primarily focused on maximizing THC content, leading to strains with significantly higher THC levels than what nature initially intended. This artificial manipulation has skewed the delicate balance of cannabinoids that naturally coexist in the plant. While some argue that higher THC levels offer a more intense experience, it is essential to acknowledge the potential consequences for mental health as well.
Despite the growing acceptance and legalization of cannabis, scientific research indicates a strong relationship between high THC levels and mental health issues. Several studies have suggested an association between cannabis use, particularly high-THC strains, and psychiatric disorders such as anxiety, depression, and psychosis.
A glimpse into the science
A 2017 report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine stated that there is substantial evidence of a statistical association between higher THC levels and an increased risk of anxiety and paranoia.
This article by Elizabeth Stuyt, MD, discusses the problems associated with high potency THC marijuana from the perspective of an addiction psychiatrist. Stuyt highlights the increasing THC content in marijuana, with strains now reaching up to 28%, and the lack of minor cannabinoids, the protective components of the plant, in these high THC strains. She emphasizes the negative effects of long-term or heavy marijuana use with high THC strains during adolescence, which can disrupt brain development and lead to addiction, impaired learning and memory, increased risk of mental health problems such as anxiety, depression, psychosis, and suicidal ideation, and lower academic performance. Stuyt also highlights the potential link between high potency THC marijuana and the opioid epidemic. She concludes by calling for regulations to limit the concentration of THC and increased education and prevention efforts to discourage marijuana use, especially among youth.
In his article for The New York Times, Gary Greenberg explores the quest for a predictable and reliable cannabis experience. As the cannabis industry continues to grow, consumers are increasingly seeking consistent effects from the products they purchase. Companies like MedMen and INSA are touting their ability to create a bespoke high through scientific advancements in understanding terpenes and minor cannabinoids. However, the scientific research behind these claims remains largely proprietary, and the race to find a formula for the perfect high is just beginning. While some companies are focused on isolating and manufacturing specific compounds, others argue that the entourage effect, the complex interaction of hundreds of chemicals in cannabis, cannot be replicated in a lab. The author also highlights the efforts of researcher Adie Rae, who is using data from cannabis competitions to analyze consumer experiences and correlations between terpenes and effects.
In Bud Love’s own blind studies, we have found that our blend of CBG, marshmallow leaf and terpenes helped reduce anxiety for 9 out of 10 cannabis smokers, which we believe shows a link and benefit to enhancing the entourage effect. Rather than diverging from nature, this innovation is an attempt to recapture the essence of what cannabis once was—a plant with a complex interplay of compounds that together create an enhanced, well-rounded experience. As we journey further into the cannabis landscape, let us embrace the idea of “only smoking natural” not just as a slogan, but as a way to rediscover the true essence of the plant and the balanced euphoria it can offer.
Returning to a more “natural” cannabis experience
The current societal emphasis on THC potency oversimplifies the plant and fails to communicate its true quality. Many budtenders are also not knowledgeable enough about terpenes and minor cannabinoids, further contributing to the problem. State regulations often do not require testing for minor cannabinoids and terpenes, making the information unavailable to consumers. However, some companies are trying to shift the focus away from THC potency by educating consumers about the entourage effect and the importance of terpenes, flavonoids, and minor cannabinoids in creating a desirable experience. By providing more detailed product labeling and diversifying their product offerings, companies can help consumers make more informed purchasing decisions.
Bud Love’s approach of blending plant-derived CBG, marshmallow leaf, and terpenes is a nod to the concept of the entourage effect—the idea that the various compounds in the cannabis plant work synergistically to produce a more balanced and nuanced experience. The focus on CBG, a cannabinoid with a host of potential benefits, along with the addition of terpenes, aims to recreate a more holistic and harmonious blend similar to what cannabis strains once naturally offered.
CBG (cannabigerol) has been gaining attention for its potential to mitigate the negative effects associated with high-THC strains. CBG may actually counteract THC’s tendency to induce anxiety and paranoia, leading to a smoother, more relaxed and happy experience. By reintroducing CBG into the mix, Bud Love is addressing one of the common drawbacks of high-THC strains and restoring a sense of balance to the cannabis experience.
––This article comes to you from the Bud Love team.