Quality, Potency and Price: A Primer to Pick your Pot

A customer had a bad experience at Daikoku today. I’m still reeling from the interaction myself. It was due mostly to the fact we were talking two different languages: they equate potency to quality, whereas I see them as two distinct elements.

In light of this conversation, I thought I would go over the various comments I hear and read about the legal cannabis market in Canada:

“It’s way too dry.”

“The quality is terrible.”

“It’s too expensive.”

Let us begin by describing quality.

Quality cannabis will have a moisture content between 52 and 65%. When you pinch it, it’s springy and your fingers should feel sticky, as they would if you were to touch a bit of sap.

Another indicator of quality will be how the bud has been trimmed: cannabis of higher quality will come in bunches, called ‘nugs’, that are greater than 1” long and will have no stem that isn’t covered with flower. Containers that have many, small nugs (derisively called “popcorn”) are perceived as being of lower quality.

Milled flower will be completely pre-ground. It will lose its moisture and smell rapidly, and as a result, are perceived to be of the lowest quality.

A word on pre-rolls

In states where cannabis is sold legally, dispensaries are typically the party that is responsible for preparing the joints. In Canada, however, the pre-rolls are prepared by licensed producers. Many of them use the whole flower to create their pre-rolls, rather than ‘left over weed’ (also known as “shake”). As a result, pre-rolls tend to be fairly well made, but, as they are machine packed, it’s a good idea to roll the joint around a bit to loosen the herb.

Potential of Potency

Too many people equate potency to quality. That’s like comparing a high-end Champagne to Moonshine.

Just because Champagne has 12% alcohol content doesn’t mean you’d pay less than you would for 40% Moonshine.

Potency is the amount of THC that is likely to bind to your endocannabinoid receptors – in other words, how likely you are to get high.

It’s not an exact science: many producers use a range to define how potent their cannabis might be, some with a large range (I’ve seen a range marked as 7% to 27% THC, so it feels like a gamble every time we order it).

Further, while potency will give you an idea of how much THC will enter your system, it will hardly be a guarantee of how it will affect you. The interplay between THC, CBD, terpenes and method of consumption, as well as external factors, such as what you ate, how you feel and who you’re with, are more than the sum of their parts. This is referred to as the “entourage effect.”

What are all those numbers on the label?

If you’ve looked at a container of legal cannabis, you’ll observe two numbers: one smaller, usually under 1%, and a second, much higher one.

The smaller number represents the quantity of THC in the plant as-is. The larger number represents the THC that’s released when it’s activated – in other words, heated. However, bear in mind that these numbers are laboratory results under optimal conditions, and methods of testing and calculating THC can differ from one lab to the next.

The Price Is… Right?

Yes: legal cannabis is more expensive than it’s the black-market counterpart. Let’s investigate why:

  • Illegal cannabis is not taxed:
  • Illegal cannabis is not (always) lab tested
  • Illegal cannabis doesn’t need a permit to grow
  • Illegal cannabis might use pesticides and fungicides to limit crop loss
  • Illegal cannabis doesn’t need to track inventory from seed to sale
  • Illegal cannabis doesn’t need to pay rent on their premises: they typically live where they operate from or use public spaces to finalize sales
  • Hey, someone needs to pay for all the packaging…

To conclude: it’s injudicious to lump all cannabis in one pile. There’s a wide range of prices and at least 3 different levels of quality: affordable, mid-range and premium. But we won’t deny: legal cannabis is dry. Cannabis in Canada is packed into containers by the licensed producers and is packed when relative humidity is still fairly good. As a result, we’ve seen containers that weigh less than they’re marked. If you rehydrate your cannabis (you can ask our budtenders for suggestions on how to do so), you should see the weight increase to close to what it should be. Hard to believe? Test it at home and let us know how it goes.

2 Replies to “Quality, Potency and Price: A Primer to Pick your Pot”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *