How to read Cannabis labels

Even with the legalization of cannabis products, many consumers are still skeptical about trying them due to the excessive labelling. For an average person, the copious amounts of warnings, dosages and numbers can be extremely confusing and thus be off-putting to a first-time user. So, how do you decipher these endless labels to find what you are looking for?

Different kinds of labels

With the legalization of products containing CBD and THC, there are regulations set in place. These regulations make sure that each product has a clear indication that it contains cannabis along with the percentages. The products can contain labels of all safety warnings, information about the product itself, product name, the potency information as well as the branding from the licensed producer.


For newcomers, all the general information may also come off as extremely confusing. Some vendors tend to list 2 different numbers for the THC and the CBD content in the product.  Along with that, different variations of Active THC, total THC, THCA and potential THC may be listed on the cannabis product. All of it combined can be overwhelming for any customer. So let’s break the measurements down and read into what the numbers actually mean.

The ABC's of CBD and THC

There is no need to give yourself a headache while reading all the different numbers on the labels. The 2 numbers actually indicate 2 different measurements of the same thing, being THC and CBD.


Firstly, let’s take a look at the THC numbers. The higher or, the greater number is to denote the amount of THC present in its primary form. This is when it is created from the plant itself and is called THCA ( tetrahydrocannabinol acid).


The THCA/ total THC/ potential THC etc. numbers refer to the total amount of THC that will be produced after the heating or carboxylation process. That is when the THCA is converted over.


When the carboxylation occurs, this THCA is converted into plain THC, which is in the form that our body uses.

How to read Cannabis labels


The smaller number of THC on the product represents this plain THC in the plant. If a person were to eat a whole bud raw, that smaller number is the amount of THC would get in the system. Initially, when Cannabis products first came out, these numbers were displayed in an organized and efficient manner.  Some standard practices included:


  1. Having a single standardized cannabis symbol clearly stating that the product contained cannabis.
  2. Brand name of the cannabis product. This told the customer what the product actually was.
  3. The CBD and the THC content are clearly marked.
  4. Any warning signs and messages for health.
  5. Any other branding of the product, including any logos.
  6. Useful information about the product that was required.
  7. Any other non-essential information about the product.
  8. Nutritional label containing the facts about the product.
  9. List of ingredients that product contains.


However, all this changed when other edible Cannabis entered the market.

Cannabis products and edibles.

The cannabis flower and its products are measured in percentages.  This paints a relatively simple picture explaining how much cannabinoid and terpene are in each bud. 


On the other hand, edibles are more precise; hence they have a different way of measurement altogether. Since you add in disstailate that has been measured exactly to the mg, you are able to get exact quantities for each product.  For example, if you add 1000mg of distillate to a tray of brownies and then divide the tray into 10 pieces, you can figure out exactly that each piece contains a 100mg of THC. The type of brownie or food does not play any factor in the potency of the THC. The brownies simply act as a delivery system for the CBD and THC. A small piece of brownie can contain 10mg of THC, whereas a whole cake can also contain the same 10mg of THC.


Thus, when it came to releasing edibles into the market, the section was made to keep the measurements simple by having the same units for both the flower and the edibles. As we already discussed, it was next to impossible to measure the edibles in percentages. So, the Cannabis flower measurements were converted to mg to maintain a standard.


This caused a little trouble as the flowers came in many different shapes and sizes, so the vendors had to measure the mg per some amount. Most ended up choosing mg/g, which allowed for much simpler conversions.

Comparing flower to edibles

These conversations caused a lot of confusion among the consumers. It added another step in the whole process of purchasing Cannabis where the customer would have to do math in order to get the perfect product for them. However, the main problem with the conversion is that consumers start to believe that both the flower and the edibles can be compared in terms of their potency. They often get confused and believe that since they smoke a certain percentage of the flower, that they will need the same mg of edible to reach the same effect.

This is entirely not true. The potency of the edibles is entirely different from that of the flower. When you smoke the flower, the THC is absorbed by the lungs and goes directly to the brain to produce the effects. On the flip side, with edibles, they are firstly absolved by the stomach and then the liver before they can even enter the bloodstream. The liver also changes the form of the THC to 11- hydroxy- THC, which is far more potent than its simpler form. It has a much longer half-life as well, which makes the high longer. Therefore it can cause adverse effects if taken without precaution, especially for those who try it for the first time.

When starting for the first time, the recommended dosage is 2mg of edibles, no matter how experienced the person is with smoking the flower. Even if the user has a developed tolerance for the flower, chances are that they don’t have a tolerance for the 11-hydroxy THC, which is why you should always begin slowly.


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In conclusion, there is some amount of math involved with selecting THC and CBD edibles and flowers. All the numbers and measurements can seem confusing at first, but the trick is to go slowly to reach the optimum amount for you. More often than not, the vendor will have already done measurements for you, and you won’t have to do the math yourself.

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