Mall cannabis users think that the THC percentage is the measure of the quality of the herb and will often pay more for a flower that reaches 24% or more. On the face of it, the logic is good: if THC gets users high, then more THC gets users high. In fact, the demand for ultra-potent flowers is so high that some growers are throw away perfectly good harvests as they test at a measly 18% THC. But is it really a trash can? And is a higher THC content really such a treasure?
In this article, we review the myth surrounding high THC, the conditions that fostered it, and what the mainstream research says about how cannabis gets us high.
How did we get here?
In the early days of clinical cannabis research, THC has been identified as an intoxicating chemical compound in marijuana. But soon after, in 1970, the Nixon administration issued the Controlled Substance Act of 1970, which declared that cannabis had “no presently accepted medical use and strong potential for abuse”, ending to any further research. Unfortunately, much of our popular understanding of cannabis has remained fixed on knowledge from that era.
After 1970, cannabis research in America went underground and knowledge was passed on as scandalous literature. Without a public forum or framework, little progress has been made and even less consensus reached on how to grow the substance, let alone its chemical composition and pharmacokinetics, and some of the early discoveries surrounding the composition of cannabis have calcified. in the last word. It’s true that THC gets users high, but that’s not the whole truth.
The entourage effect
The term “entourage effect” refers to the apparent ability of different cannabinoids and terpenes to work in concert to achieve therapeutic effects. The phrase is most often used to sell the benefits of whole plant extracts or whole flowers, as opposed to partial spectrum products and distillates.
The phrase was first used by Dr. Ben-Shabat in a 1998 study concerning the cooperation of fatty acids and endocannabinoids. In 2011, Dr. Ethan Russo popularized the phrase in his article “Taming the THCin which he suggested that terpenes play an essential role in the pharmacology of cannabis.
Terpenes are chemical compounds found in a variety of plants, including garden herbs, and are responsible for the aroma and flavor of plants. For example, limonene is a lemony terpene found in lemons, and pinene is abundant in fir trees. Terpenes themselves are not intoxicating, although some are technically psychoactive. Caryophyllenea terpene found in marijuana as well as cloves and black pepper, has been observed to bind to cannabinoid receptors similar to THC.
Specifically, caryophyllene binds to CB2 receptors in the peripheral nervous system (outside the brain). Surprises like these support researchers’ suspicions that more elements contribute to a cannabis high than THC alone. In fact, THC isn’t even the only cannabinoid in cannabis.
CBD and other cannabinoids
Marijuana has over 100 identified and counting cannabinoids, including CBD, CBN and THCV, and when isolated they reveal their own unique contributions to the full spectrum of a marijuana high. CBN is embraced as a sleep aid, and THCV may be a viable weight loss tool by decreasing appetite. On their own, these cannabinoids don’t get users high, but they do appear to be the individual ingredients of a more complete marijuana high. Of course, most of the research has been done on CBD, which may give us another clue to the potential limit of THC.
In 2015, researchers testing the effects of transdermal CBD in rats, four doses were given – small, medium and large, and a final group received ten times the large dose – from 6.2 mg to 62 mg. The effort wasn’t to find a lethal CBD limit (which doesn’t exist), but rather to address the same myth that cannabis consumers believe when buying high-THC weed: if some are good, more is better?
To their surprise, the researchers found that the exorbitant dose of 62 mg had the same effect as 6.2 mg. Of course, CBD and THC act differently in the body, but both exert an effect on the endocannabinoid system (DHW). Since the role of the ECS is to achieve and maintain homeostasis in the body, the study suggests that the ECS may have measures of self-regulation, refusing excess cannabinoids in the same way as excess vitamins pass through the body unabsorbed.
Certainly, some proponents of high-THC weed might consider the evidence for the entourage effect valid without discrediting the full THC flex. After all, why not have both? But researchers at the University of Colorado may have proven why not, and why consumers shouldn’t pay more for this “premium” product: High-THC weed doesn’t get you high.
Does high THC weed get you high?
In 2020, researchers at UC Boulder tested the alleged potency of THC in 121 regular cannabis users. Those who smoked flowers had to use flowers with 16 or 24% THC, and participants who used concentrates chose between 70 or 90%. The THC in their blood was then measured at three regular points – before, immediately after and one hour after consumption. As expected, participants who used concentrates had higher levels of THC, especially those who used a 90% extract. But to their surprise, similar feelings of intoxication were reported among all users.
“People in the high-concentration group were much less compromised than we thought,” said Kent Hutchinson, professor of psychology and co-author of the study. Lead author Cinnamon Bidwell added that “potency did not keep up with intoxication levels”, even though some participants had blood levels of THC more than twice as high as others. The study concluded that there may be a “saturation point” or a point at which additional cannabinoids offer diminishing returns at best, or no additional effect at all.
A word of caution for less experienced consumers
The CU Boulder study was conducted among experienced users with some tolerance to THC. Seasoned smokers can approach THC-rich strains a little more cavalierly, but first-time or inexperienced users should definitely be wary of THC-rich products and edibles.
While there may be a limit to how much THC can saturate the body, suddenly finding that limit five minutes after smoking is a quick way to ruin your day.
THC content is the metric most consumers still use to gauge the quality of cannabis, but contemporary researchers have revealed the value of what is commonly referred to as the “entourage effect” – that is, i.e. the harmonization of other cannabinoids, including CBD, CBN and THCV. , and terpenes like caryophyllene, which interacts with cell receptors in the same way as cannabinoids. Although THC is the primary intoxicant, even many industry insiders are in no rush to buy high-THC products because this broader terpene profile is usually sacrificed in the process.
Additionally, high levels of THC in the blood do not always correspond to a higher high, as CU Boulder researchers demonstrated in 2020.
Do you use high THC weed? Share your experiences in the comments below!
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