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  • Writer's pictureGreen Leaf Medical Marijuana Card Doctors

Does THC Percentage Matter in Medical Marijuana?

It seems logical that high-THC strains would be more potent than those with lower levels of THC, but does THC percentage matter in medical marijuana? Science suggests that although THC levels influence the consumer's experience, other factors also come into play.

Indeed, there is evidence to suggest that THC content is a poor indicator of quality and potency. When checking products on dispensary shelves, it may be wise not to only take the THC percentage into account but also other cannabinoids, terpenes, and the conditions in which the plant was grown.

High-THC Weed Doesn't Necessarily Get You More High

Though cannabis consumers naturally gravitate toward higher-THC cannabis products, greater THC potency doesn't automatically lead to a stronger high or greater therapeutic benefits.

In a 2020 study into the connection between high THC content and "getting high," scientists at CU Boulder reported that cannabis consumers who smoked extremely high-THC cannabis products had much higher levels of THC in their blood but didn't feel higher. The researchers noted that:

  • Potency didn't match intoxication levels in their subjects despite very different THC blood levels.

  • The level of intoxication reported by the subjects was similar regardless of the type of cannabis product consumed and the potency of the weed.

This study shows that although high-THC cannabis dominates the cannabis industry, THC percentage isn’t as determinative as we thought it was.

The Entourage Effect and THC

The “entourage effect” describes the way that the terpenes and cannabinoids in cannabis work together to achieve each strain's effects. In other words, potent weed strains with higher THC percentages aren’t necessarily more powerful because they have more THC, but rather because of how THC interacts with other compounds in the plant.

The cannabis plant is incredibly complex and one cannabis strain can be vastly different from another. This is because cannabis flower contains a wide range of cannabinoids, flavonoids, terpenes, and tannins that contribute to each strain’s taste, aroma, and effects. When the ratios of terpenes and cannabinoids change, the consumer’s experience also changes.

The Importance of Terpenes

Aromatic compounds called terpenes give cannabis strains their unique fragrances and flavors. While we usually focus on cannabinoids and their properties for determining which strain might be more helpful for a certain condition, the terpene profile of a given strain is also important for several reasons:

  • Terpenes interact with cannabinoids synergistically to produce each strain’s unique effects.

  • Some terpenes can boost the effect of other cannabinoids, emphasizing feelings of relaxation, energization, stress relief, or focus.

  • The terpene profile of a given cannabis strain affects its flavor and aroma. This can make the experience of consuming cannabis more pleasurable.

  • The successful treatment of headaches with the OG Shark strain has been attributed to the potential medicinal benefits of THC—analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and antiemetic—in conjunction with the anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties of its terpenes: β-caryophyllene and β-myrcene.

The Influence of Other Cannabinoids

Cannabis consumers will be very familiar with the two most famous cannabinoids: THC and CBD. However, cannabis is a complex plant; it produces more than 100 different cannabinoids that can affect your experience depending on the percentages and ratios of cannabinoids that are present in a given strain.

For example, CBD may alter the psychoactive effects of THC in different ways depending on the delivery method:

  • Researchers at Johns Hopkins found that high CBD ratios may increase the effects of THC in edibles. Their findings indicated that CBD inhibits the breakdown of THC, leading to a stronger and longer high.

  • Strains that are high in CBD have been reported in various studies to be beneficial for pain, anxiety, depression, and the general well-being of patients with moderate to severe symptoms.

Research into lesser-known cannabinoids is still in the early stages, but patients may find that cannabinoids other than THC or CBD help to lessen their symptoms. As cannabis contains so many different compounds, it could be interesting for MMJ patients to experiment with strains that contain different ratios of cannabinoids to find the perfect blend for their condition.

Quality Growing Practices Count

Legal cannabis meant for medicinal use is subject to strict control before it’s made available for purchase. Regulation of MMJ includes practices such as:

  • Growing the plant indoors in a controlled environment

  • Regulating the use of pesticides to ensure a safe product

  • Controlling and labeling the CBD/THC content on the product

When browsing cannabis products at your local dispensary, learn as much as you can about each brand’s philosophy and growing practices, inspect the product visually, and check the Certificate of Analysis to ensure you’re buying high-quality cannabis.

Cannabinoids and Terpenes for Different Medical Conditions

There are currently 13 qualifying conditions for medical marijuana patients in Arizona. These include cancer, chronic pain, and severe nausea. Though each person may respond differently to certain compounds in cannabis, there is evidence to suggest that the following compounds may offer medical and therapeutic benefits:


  • In one small study, the synthetic THC-like compound nabilone (Cesamet) was found to be more effective than a placebo at relieving PTSD-related nightmares. This indicates that high-THC flower may be more effective for PTSD than high-CBD flower.

  • In a Cochrane review, cannabis-based medicines (containing THC) were seen to be more effective in treating chemo-related nausea and vomiting than placebo. If you’re looking for the best strains for nausea, prioritize strains with more THC than CBD.


  • The cannabidiol (CBD) preparation branded as Epidiolex® was approved as a treatment for certain rare forms of epilepsy.

  • Studies and self-reports indicate that CBD might be helpful for anxiety, sleep, chronic pain, and certain addictions in addition to seizures.

Nabiximols (close to a 1:1 THC:CBD ratio)

Nabiximols (branded as Sativex) was found to help spasticity in patients with multiple sclerosis, with improvements of 30% in some patients. This indicates that patients suffering from MS may do well with strains with an evenly balanced blend of THC and CBD.

β-Caryophyllene (BCP)

BCP has been reported to reduce proinflammatory factors. This means that strains high in BCP could be effective in the treatment of chronic conditions caused by inflammation or oxidative stress. Some of the best strains for inflammation, including AC/DC, contain BCP.


Limonene may be useful in the treatment of a wide range of disorders as its therapeutic effects are numerous. Limonene has potential as an antibacterial, immunostimulant, antispasmodic, gastroprotective, antiproliferative, antimicrobial, antifungal, antidepressant, and anxiolytic compound. Cancer patients or people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis could do well to look for strains that are high in limonene.

Ask for Expert Advice on the Best Strains for Your Condition

For medical marijuana patients, it’s important to choose the right strain for your condition. Though finding the right option is often a question of trial and error, knowing which compounds to look out for could help you find a strain that’s effective sooner rather than later.

Experts in your local dispensary can help you find a strain that contains the right balance of cannabinoids and terpenes for your symptoms. Your MMJ doctor will also have recommendations. Though it may be tempting to go for a higher percentage of THC, keep in mind that many other factors contribute to the effectiveness of a product or strain for providing relief.


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