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Guide To Reading Cannabis Package Labels

Guide To Reading Cannabis Package Labels

Cannabis packages have a lot of numbers and very little explanation for what’s going on with them. Health Canada sets the standards for what needs to be present on these heavily regulated packages right down to the logo size and even the colours that it can be. While we can easily recognize the bright yellow health warnings, there are a handful of things that can seem a little bizarre unless you know how to read them or what to look for.

Your Guide To Reading Cannabis Package Labels

One of the most common questions we get at our Calgary dispensaries is a simple one…

”What’s the THC content?”

First, it’s important to know that the THC content on the package is indicative of the lot that the cannabis originated from. We cannot guarantee that what is in the package it will be identical to what’s on the label because each package is not individually sampled for THC content. Instead, a sample from that batch of cannabis is tested for THC content and then used as an average of what a consumer can expect in the package. 

When faced with a cannabis label, we find ourselves with two THC and two CBD numbers. While there are many, many more cannabinoids, these are the two the market currently requires testing for and content of on packaging.

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On this package of Garlic Z, we can discern two things:

  1. The cannabis is 20% THC 
  2. The cannabis is less than 0.03% CBD.

How can we tell that?

The first number for THC says “2.2mg/g”, which means that this is the amount of THC you would consume if you ate the package. So you’d effectively get less than a microdose of THC (equivalent to a 2.5mg edible) if you ate this whole 3.5g package. That’s because this first number is referring specifically to the active THC on the cannabis as it currently exists.

In order to get the full benefits of cannabis flower, you need to decarboxylate it using heat; in most cases, people do this by smoking a bowl or a joint unless they’re vaping or making edibles. So unprocessed cannabis flower will have two different numbers to indicate how much THC is available to us in the flower before and after heating. 

Because concentrates, oils, capsules, and vape carts are already processed and heat-treated to activate the cannabinoids, they will have the same “THC” and “Total THC” content.

The THC number most referenced by people is the “percentage” or “strength”, which is actually the Total THC content.

This is a number derived from testing decarboxylated flower from the same lot, which tells us how much THC is available to us in the plant after processing. This is where we get our percentages from! In most cases, you can find the percentage of THC on a package by simply moving the decimal place one number to the left. So if the Total THC is 200.2, then it has a 20% THC content.

Calculating the percentages of a pre-roll is marginally more complex, but it’s important to remember that there is 1000mg (milligrams) in a gram. If you have a 0.5g pre-roll that had a Total THC of 75, you’d have to calculate it as “75 / 500 = 0.15, and then multiply that by 100 to get a percentage.

This means the THC content of that pre-roll is 15%. 

The AGLC (Alberta Gaming Liquor and Cannabis) provided an easy reference for us for common potencies and their equivalents in percentages.

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You can use the same math to determine the CBD content of your flower. Though in most cases on the legal market, you’ll find that the CBD content is negligible.

Other important landmarks on your Cannabis are the brand contact info, strain, packaging date, and lot number.

It is critical that you know how to find the numbers on cannabis packaging, in case there are any product recalls issued by the AGLC or Health Canada. 

The strain is important to help you recognize what you’re smoking so you can pinpoint what it is you do and do not enjoy! Other than the brand, it’s probably the most obvious part of the packaging. Once in a while, this section will also say if it is an Indica, Sativa, or a Hybrid. This is equally important to know so you can have a general idea of what effects to expect in your flower. If you check out the image below, you can see what we’re talking about: 

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The lot number can appear in a variety of places. Usually, it is demarcated with Lot or (L), but sometimes it is not. If you ever have difficulty finding the lot number on your cannabis, especially if you think it may be part of a recall, please do not hesitate to come to ask our staff. Even if you’re simply curious and not concerned about a recall, just bring in a photo of the back of your cannabis packaging. This is marked in red and with the number 1.

The packaging date is not the same as the plant’s harvest date. This date merely shows when the product was placed and sealed in the container that you now possess. This is marked in yellow and with the number 2.

The brand contact info is where you’ll find who grew the cannabis, who the licensed producer is, and how to get ahold of them. This is great if you have any questions about how the strain is grown, what methods of fertilization they used, how large the batch was or if it is a limited/rare batch or anything else that you believe they can answer in detail for you! This is marked in green and with the number 3.

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Bud Bar is your trusted Calgary dispensary. We pride ourselves on creating an open and welcoming environment where you are comfortable and safe access to recreational cannabis. We set ourselves apart with personalized customer service with our budtenders providing one-on-one sessions so that you can learn about our cannabis products and accessories. We offer a selection of high quality yet affordable products, including flower buds, pre-rolls, oils, capsules, as well as accessories like vaporizers, bongs, and pipes. As your trusted Calgary marijuana dispensary, we can make it easy and safe for you to get recreational cannabis. Visit our marijuana stores in Calgary Northwest today, or place an order online!