Choosing Cannabis Products

How to Choose the Right Cannabis Products for You

Shopping for cannabis products from the legal market? Read on to discover eight factors to keep in mind — and how to find the right products for you. 

Descriptive Video: Choosing Cannabis

With hundreds of cannabis strains and products on the market, it’s important to make an informed decision, especially if you’re a beginner or trying a new product for the first time. Understanding how cannabis affects you personally, and the different formats and types of products to choose from will help you find the one that is best for you.

Here are eight things to consider when choosing a cannabis product.

1. You are the most important factor

Because everyone’s body works differently, the effects of cannabis are highly individualized. Your experience will depend on many personal factors, such as your:

  • previous experience with cannabis 
  • age and sex 
  • overall mental and physical health

Your endocannabinoid system also plays a huge part in your experience. This system involves receptors in the central nervous and immune systems that interact with the compounds in cannabis, producing changes in our brains and bodies.

All these individual factors are the reason one strain can produce different effects for different people — and even affect you in different ways at different times.

2. Cannabinoids

Cannabis plants contain cannabinoids, which are chemical compounds that interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system. They are responsible for producing the range of effects felt in the mind and body. Over 100 are known, and the most common are THC and CBD.

Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC
THC is the cannabinoid most associated with the psychoactive and intoxicating effects of cannabis. Understanding the THC potency of a cannabis product can help you gauge the level of psychoactive sensation you may experience. Learn more about THC.

Cannabidiol, or CBD
When consumed on its own, CBD generally has no intoxicating effect, but it does affect your mind and body. Research is underway to explore how CBD may be effective in treating many conditions. Studies also suggest CBD may alter the effects of other natural chemicals in the body, such as serotonin. Find out more about CBD.

Read the product label to find out how much THC and CBD the product contains. And consider other cannabinoids that may be featured in larger amounts, such as CBN, CBG and CBC. These “minor cannabinoids” are still being researched, but all cannabinoids, along with flavonoids and terpenes, are thought to work together to produce effects — a theory known as the “entourage effect.”

3. Indica vs. sativa vs. hybrid

With so many cannabis strains available, the terms “indica” and “sativa” became simple ways to categorize the range of intended effects that each one produces. Why those words became associated with certain effects is unclear — they’re simply botanical terms that describe the origins and typical physical characteristics of each plant species.

Indica
Thought to induce feelings of calm and relaxation, indicas have been playfully nicknamed “in-da-couch” strains. The plant species tends to have a shorter, bushier appearance than sativa, with dark green leaves.

Sativa
Sativa cannabis cultivars are usually described as the opposite of indica, thought to produce energizing effects. The plants are typically taller and more slender than indicas.

Hybrid
Hybrids are generally thought to be a varying mix of both indica and sativa, but most cannabis grown and consumed today is hybrid, and its appearance and effects can’t be generalized.

While these broad ways to describe and choose cannabis cultivars are still regularly used, basing your selection on cannabinoid profile and terpene content might be a more reliable way to determine how that type of cannabis will affect you. 

4. Terpenes

Terpenes are the chemical compounds found in the fragrant oils of many plants that influence their scents and flavours. Cannabis strains typically have a few dominant terpenes and may contain several others.

Terpenes may affect how you experience the aromas and flavours of a cannabis strain. Further research is needed to understand how terpenes may work as part of the entourage effect to influence effects and experience beyond taste and aroma.

5. Method of consumption

How you choose to consume cannabis may affect the experience you have, including the timing of the onset and the duration of the effects. Inhalation (smoking or vaping), ingestion (eating or drinking), oral absorption (under the tongue or in the cheek) and topical application (oils and creams) produce different effects because of the unique ways the cannabinoids enter your system.

Inhalation
Inhalation can produce an effect within seconds, so waiting at least five minutes before inhaling a second time will help you control your experience. Be mindful of the potential effects inhalation can have on lung health. Inhalable cannabis products include:

  • Dried flower 
  • Pre-rolls 
  • Concentrates 
  • Vapes 

Ingestion
The effects of ingesting cannabis may take longer to become apparent and last longer than inhaling it. Be sure to wait about one hour to gauge the level of effect before ingesting more. Ingestible cannabis products include:

  • Edibles 
  • Beverages 
  • Oils and sprays 
  • Capsules 

Oral absorption
While the cannabinoids in ingested products are processed through your stomach, oral absorption involves the mucous membranes in your mouth. Orally absorbed cannabis products include:

  • Oils 
  • Dissolvable tablets 
  • Sublingual strips 

Topical application
Applying cannabinoid-infused products topically to your skin is a way to feel effects more locally than other consumption methods, as they are absorbed into the epidermal system and not the bloodstream. Topical cannabis products include:

  • Oils and creams 
  • Lip balm 
  • Bath products

Read the label for edibles and products consumed through oral absorption: Words like “fast-acting” or “quick onset” indicate the product has been formulated using nanoemulsion to produce effects more immediately


6. Potency 

Cannabis potency is the total concentration, or strength, of a cannabis product. It’s represented in the cannabinoid content, usually THC and CBD, on the label, which can be difficult to understand. Specifically look at the “Total THC” and “Total CBD” — these are the amounts of active cannabinoids when the cannabis is prepared for consumption, so once you’ve lit a joint or switched on your vaporizer.

You may see a product’s THC and CBD potency expressed as a percentage. For instance, a product labelled 15% THC means that THC makes up 15% (or 150 milligrams per gram) of the total cannabis content. Note that for dried flower and pre-rolls, 20% THC and beyond is considered “very strong.” Products with similar amounts of THC and CBD are referred to as “balanced,” while those with “high CBD” contain 10% CBD or more but very little THC (less than 3%) or no THC at all.

7. Intended effects

Cannabis strains are often described based on intended effects — like uplifting and calming — rather than specific factors, such as minor cannabinoids (beyond THC and CBD) and terpene content. Information about effects is often crowd-sourced from consumers and has generally not been scientifically gathered or tested. You can find unbiased information by checking out the latest studies and neutral sources that support their information with research.

Ultimately, the best way to know how cannabis will affect you is through personal experience. Begin with a product that is lower in THC and CBD potency, and use a small amount to see how it affects you.


 Cannabis Made Clear is the OCS hub for evidence-backed facts about cannabis consumption, health effects and harm reduction


8. Amount 

The amount of cannabis you consume may directly affect the experience you have. Even if you choose a lower-potency product, if you overconsume, you are more likely to experience unpleasant, negative or harmful effects. That’s why you should start with a very small amount and wait to see what effects you feel before consuming more.


Cannabis can produce unique effects for everyone, but understanding the type of cannabis you’re consuming should help you make more informed decisions about the products that are right for you. Looking for specific product recommendations? Check out our Beginners’ Guide.

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