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Cannabis 101: Why shopping based on THC counts is misleading

Looking around at Clark County’s five stores and their menus, it’s easy to think that THC percentages are the most important thing when you’re buying marijuana. In fact, many stores base their pricing structure on those THC counts.

But even if you’re looking for the biggest blast to get you wasted – and from talking to customers, more seem to be looking for pain relief or relaxation than they are for getting blotto – shopping based on THC counts is deceptive.

For one thing, and I wrote about this in September, the counts can vary significantly even in the same batch.

From the earlier post, we looked at four package batches from Liberty Reach, all harvested from the same crop on July 28, 2014. The different batches had THC content of 20.99 percent, 13.43 percent, 24.66 percent and 19.57 percent, even though they all contained the same Blue Dream strain harvested on the same day.


The reason? The testing results depend on what part of the plant the bud came from, the individual plant it came from and possibly some more sneaky things some growers might do – like rolling their test buds around in higher-THC content kief before shipping it off to be tested.

The same thing, to a lesser extent, is probably true of CBD counts. Although if you buy a high-CBD strain you should at least be getting more CBD than you do from most of the non CBD focused strains on the market.

So, if we throw the counts out the window, how do you decide what you’re looking for?

This is where the concept of strainology comes in.

While, as a newspaper, we can’t make medical claims about marijuana, and I-502 rec stores also are not allowed to do that, the Seattle based mega-pot-info site can.

Most of the strains out there in the recreational market today started off as medical strains, and they were developed for a wide variety of uses. There are also some out there that were specifically designed for the underground market aimed at getting you blotto.

Beyond THC and CBD, each strain has a mix of hundreds of other cannabinoids, which are chemical compounds that have a wide variety of different effects.

If you notice that one strain makes you sleepy, while another makes you hungry – or if one makes you paranoid and another makes you happy, a chunk of that can be traced back to the variety of different cannabinoids in each strain and how they interact individually with your body.

On top of that, each strain also has a unique mix of terpenes, which are oils that determine the smell of the plant, such as mint, citrus or pine.

Terpenes are in most plants, not just marijuana, and are used in aromatherapy and other industries. And they, too, can change the way a strain affects you.

(every strain has a unique mix of cannabinoids  and terpenes)
(every strain has a unique mix of cannabinoids and terpenes)

Another thing about this is your own endocannabinoid system – the part of everybody’s physiology that interacts with the marijuana in a way that’s unique to every individual. That system determines how all those other compounds react with you specifically.

Does all this sound complex? It is, but there are ways to find the strains that you like best.

If you look at all the different components and interactions, you can see that THC content is just a small part of the overall picture. For some people, a high THC strain won’t affect them nearly as strongly as a lower THC strain with a different mix of cannabinoids and terpenes.

And the best way to figure out which strain is best for you is to experiment.

Look through some of the most popular strains and the information about them – Blue Dream, Sour Diesel, OG Kush, Girl Scout Cookies, Granddaddy Purple, White Widow, Jack Herer and others. has information about terpenes and various general effects of each one. Then pick a few that seem like they target the feeling you’re looking for.

A good budtender can also give you some general suggestions.

And you can also explore strains by searching for particular effects or medical benefits on the Leafly site here:

Now that 1 gram bags have become more common and inexpensive at Clark County’s rec stores, it’s fairly simple to pick up a few to take home and try. And you’ll save yourself a lot of time and money if you look things up before you head out to the store.

Here are hot links to the menus and prices at all five stores once you’re ready:

High End Market Place
New Vansterdam
Main Street Marijuana
Cannabis Country Store
The Herbery

When you try a strain, start out with a small amount. Note how it makes you feel, what the negative and positive effects are on you individually. If you like it, take more. If not, put it aside for the evening – and then do the same thing with your next sample on a different day.

You may go through several before you find the one that works best. But you can also take the stuff you don’t like and turn it into cannabutter or some other cooking product.

And when you do find the strain that does feel best (or a few that feel best for nighttime, daytime, hiking, etc.), try the same strain from an array of different growers to see if there’s one that feels even better.

And those THC counts? Forget about them. The whole point is how the whole plant affects you individually – not on just one small component of it.

Hope this helps!

-SueVo (

Vancouver store contact info:

New Vansterdam
(360) 597-4739
6515 E Mill Plain Blvd
Facebook Page
@NVansterdam on Twitter

Main Street Marijuana
(360) 828-7737
2314 Main St.
Facebook Page
@mainstmj on Twitter

High End Market Place
(360) 609-0364
1906 Broadway
Facebook Page
@highend_market on Twitter

The Herbery
(360) 841-7500
212 NE 164th Avenue, Suite #11
Facebook page
@theherberynw on Twitter

Cannabis Country Store
1910 W. Main Street
Battle Ground, WA
(360) 723-0073
Facebook Page