Shopping For Legal Cannabis

Ask a Bud: Thinking Beyond Percentage and Potency

When it comes to shopping for cannabis, some consumers start by looking for the highest percentage of THC and CBD. Dave Tomlinson, Budtender at Sessions Cannabis, Wasaga Beach explains why there’s so much more to consider when shopping for your next favourite strain.

Image of Tomlinson

Potency might be the first thing consumers think about, but your local budtender wants you to know there’s considerably more to understanding and enjoying cannabis than just reaching for the strongest strain.

“Whenever we hear the dreaded question, ‘What’s the most potent product in your store?’” says Tomlinson, “we use it as an opportunity to teach the consumer about what goes into making cannabis potent, rather than relying directly on the THC percentage.”

“This helps our consumer make an educated decision,” Tomlinson explains, “rather than an impulsive one.”

We asked Tomlinson for advice on what to look for beyond just THC percentage.


Besides THC percentage, what other factors
have an impact on potency?

“There are hundreds of compounds in this beautiful plant. A chunk of them are cannabinoids and terpenes, but not even those tell the whole story. The specific terpenes, cannabinoids, and other compounds active in any cultivar have a range of feelings and experiences associated with them. Having all of this work together means far more than how the THC operates solo.”

“The most important thing is understanding your own endocannabinoid system. Everybody is different and in turn we all experience terpenes and cannabinoids differently. By chatting with your budtenders and exploring products, you can find which genetics work for you specifically.”

What role do terpenes have in consuming cannabis?

“When you take a whiff of cannabis buds that smell of skunk, citrus, pine or even diesel — those are thanks to your terps! Terpenes are fragrant oils that give a cannabis strain its smell and flavour. Terpenes are secreted in the cannabis flower’s resin glands, which is also home to THC, CBD and other cannabinoids.”

Because many terpenes are associated with various types of plants and herbs used in naturopathic remedies, some people theorize that terpenes play a role in the effect of cannabis. Some people also believe in the theory of “the entourage effect,” referring to the possibility that cannabinoids and terpenes work together in the overall effect of cannabis. As of now, there isn’t scientific consensus on the impact of terpenes beyond flavour and aroma.

Does the type of cannabinoid have an
impact on my experience?

“It sure does. Cannabinoids produce their effects by interacting with receptors in the central nervous system. There are cannabinoids that I am sure you are familiar with like THC and CBD. Then we have their lesser-known sisters, CBN and CBG. There’s still lots of research being done to understand how they impact our experiences. For instance, some studies show that CBG can have an uplifting effect while CBN can help with relaxation and sleep.”

What about consumption methods?
How would they impact my experience?

“It all comes down to how you would like to consume your cannabis and how fast you would like your desired experience to take effect. Different forms of consumption affect people differently. Truly, it all comes down to your own personal preference.”

When cannabis is inhaled through a pre-roll or rolled joint, or other methods, the effects can be felt quickly — within seconds or minutes for some consumers — as the drug is absorbed through the lungs and directly into the bloodstream.

Ingestible cannabis products affect your body differently. When you ingest cannabis, the cannabinoids travel into your digestive system, where they are metabolized by your liver before being absorbed into your bloodstream. It usually takes a bit longer but may vary, especially if you’re using a fast-acting product.

How do I find the right balance
of all these factors for me?

“Explore. Ask your budtender about the cannabis they have available in-store. Do not be afraid to tell them your likes and dislikes, what you are trying to accomplish with cannabis and to try new genetics. Budtenders have an incredible amount of knowledge on the products and can help tailor your experience to what you enjoy and what works for you specifically.”

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