Sorry, but high-THC flower is overrated.

The other day, I was driving in a car with a friend who had just gone to a dispensary, and as a cannabis journalist, people often ask my opinion on their buys. He handed me the jar and boasted that the flower tested at an astronomical 35% THC. 

Examining the dense, mechanically trimmed buds that smelled like hay, I had two choices: 

1: Dominate the car ride by explaining to my causal stoner friend why the idea that a high-THC flower is also high-quality is wrong.

or 

2: Nod, say it looks good, and keep it moving. 

For the sake of that car ride, I chose the latter. But for the sake of consumers being misinformed at large, I want to make something clear: a high THC percentage is not the most important factor when buying weed. 

And yet, high-THC consumers comprise the majority of all cannabis consumers, according to data by Flowhub, a cannabis retail management platform. In 2020, high-THC flower (21-28% THC), as Flowhub labels it, accounted for 33% of all cannabis transactions. Medium-THC flower (14-21% THC) came in at 24% of transactions, and low-THC flower (7-14% THC) at 27% of transactions. Very-high-THC flower (greater than 28% THC) accounted for only 12% of sales, and very-low-THC flower (less than 7% THC) accounted for around 4% of transactions. 

All together, high-THC and very-high-THC consumers accounted for 45% of flower sales on Flowhub’s POS systems in 2020.

When asked why he chooses to buy based on THC percentage, Eduardo Valdez, my friend from the car ride, responded, “THC is what gets you high. So, the higher the THC, the higher the potency of the weed. If I’m going to spend 60 dollars for a few grams of weed, I want to get as high as possible … I’d rather pay a little more for something really strong, then still pay a lot for something that sucks. It seems to me that indicas tend to have higher THC than other ones, so I often go for those first.” 

Customers perusing cannabis products at their local dispensary.
(Source: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps)

Whether they’re high-pain patients trying to cope, or recreational  consumers trying to party, it seems that most consumers are simply trying to get the most bang for their buck. Due to the lack of consumer education in the marketplace, they have little else to go one aside from following the cues laid out for them by the way the flower is branded, presented, and sold, all of which feature THC percentages as the only defining characteristic. 

“When you can’t smell the weed, or really even see it in the jar, there’s nothing else to go by. THC is the only thing they tell you about the weed besides the strain [name],” Valdez said. 

With so little information to go off of, consumers have come to believe that THC is the only important indicator to overall quality, so the more, the better — right? Wrong.

This falsehood implies that the best flower has the highest THC percentage, and is unfortunately — and in some cases unknowingly — perpetuated by nearly every facet of the industry, from the grower to the brand to the marketing agency to the dispensary to the consumers and back again. 

Why good weed depends on your ideal “high”

If having high THC doesn’t mean the overall quality of the weed is good, what does make for good weed? 

Everyone experiences cannabis differently, there is no universal “good weed.” For example, someone’s idea of a great high is something extremely mellow, barely perceptible, and lets them stay in control and coherent. Another person’s idea of a great high is getting couch-locked and binge-watching Too Hot To Handle. One person might gravitate to a flower with lower potency while the other might select something with a higher potency. The level of THC in a flower is, among other things, tied to potency, but that’s just one factor in an overall experience. 

“I think there are many variables that make flower great flower, and it’s not just potency,” said Julia Jacobson, CEO of sustainable cannabis brand Aster Farms. “There’s the taste, the flavor, the scent, the pull. There’s the immediate effect, the long term effect. There is also how all of this fits into whatever experience you’re having at the moment. There’s a lot to consider when you are shopping for cannabis that goes well beyond just looking for something with 30% THC.” 

What actually matters when it comes to making an ideal high experience is nuanced and complex, requiring a person to not only learn about cannabis, but about her own endocannabinoid system as well. The factors that determine how weed makes you feel are both objective and subjective. First, there’s the combination of how the strain’s chemical compounds, like terpenes and cannabinoids, react with one another. Then, there’s how the plant’s chemical makeup reacts with your unique endocannabinoid system. And finally, how all of this reacts with you, while you are reacting to your surroundings. 

Jars of cannabis lining a dispensary shelf
Jars of cannabis lining a dispensary shelf – all with varying THC percentages.
(Source: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps)

“Quick sound bites just don’t do it,” said Ghislaine Ball, the former managing director of the 420 Archive, and founder of The Terpene Tasting Kit, an educational product that familiarizes people with terpenes. “You have to get into a hole in order to really explain cannabis. You have to get into chemical biology, then you have to get into genetics.” 

As with other misleading effect-indicating monikers, like sativa and indica, THC percentage is used to indicate potency, but often gets confused with overall flower quality because there isn’t an accurate way to simplify what actually makes flower great. As fellow cannabis journalist Dante Jordan reported, every strain is a hybrid

Potency, terpenes, and THC

While high-THC percentages do indicate a level of potency in the flower, it also indicates a deficit of other compounds that make the flower great in different ways. “Here’s the really interesting thing about the potency percentage,” said Jacobson,  “The THC percentage refers to how much of the total mass of that literal weed is THC. So if someone is saying their flower is like 35% or 40% THC, then almost half the plant matter has to be made up of THC.” 

She continued, “It’s important to remember that as the THC percentage goes up, something else is coming down, and what’s coming down are other beneficial compounds, and the effects they produce.” 

Tetrahydrocannabinol, also known as THC or Delta-9-THC, is a psychoactive compound in cannabis that produces the intoxicating effect we associate with getting stoned. While it definitely determines potency in terms of how stereotypically “high” the flower in question will get you, it has little to do with whether or not the flower is “great,” or whether it produces the effects you are looking for. 

For example, if you’re trying to sleep, you might think to buy the strongest flower available. Most consumers may gravitate towards something with a super-high THC percentage, thinking, “it’s the strongest and therefore most likely to help me sleep.” However, instead of THC, the weed that will help you sleep will have a high percentage of CBN, a different cannabinoid altogether.  

“If there’s really high THC, that’s going to be taking up more space in the plant matter that you could be getting from CBN,” explained Jacobson. “So if you’re somebody looking to sleep, you shouldn’t be focusing on potency or THC percentage. You should be focusing on the percentage of those specific variables, like CBN, that [will] give you that effect.” 

How THC became the focal point for generations of weed smokers 

How did we become so fixated on THC? According to John Casali, the legacy grower behind Emerald Cup winning Huckleberry Hill Farms, it boils down to the simple issue that weed is a complex plant. “Back in the eighties or seventies, even the nineties, we would sell to somebody that would end up selling to somebody else, and we would never hear back from any of those people. The weed wasn’t being tested for levels of different cannabinoids or anything like that,” Casali said. “I think just to simplify it for the end consumer, even back in the early eighties, you know, people could just refer to one compound, which was THC. So they would explain how good a product was to the end consumer by saying, ‘This strain is just amazing. It’s super high in THC.’” 

And because consumers have come to focus on THC percentage, specifically how much THC is in flower, the industry is stuck in a cycle of producing high-THC flower since that’s what sells. “People are hunting for high THC to the point that brands have bred out CBD,” added Jacobson. “I will tell you as a brand, whenever your sample reports come back from the lab, it’s like this moment of terror looking for the THC percentage. Regardless of how great the weed is, if the percentage is too low, we know it won’t sell.”

When it comes to pressure within the industry, Pete Pietrangeli, VP of Cosmic Distribution, agrees. “We’re at the point where we’re automatically reducing the price of any flower coming into us below 20%,” he said. “Even if we know it’s great weed, we know we’ll have a hard time with buyers, so we’re apprehensive to take it at all. We feel an intense pressure to create a pricing tier that’s essentially based entirely on THC percentages.” 

This race to push high THC flower into the market has led to something called “THC juicing,” which can be anything from specifically growing certain flower to produce high THC percentages, to the addition of fallen kief in 1/8th jars or prerolls. “The whole juicing for THC thing, like coming up with clever ways to get the THC percentage up, is just a product of all this miseducation and misinformation that’s gone on,” Pietrangeli noted. “If people are thinking that the buyers and the consumers only care about THC, then they’re going to come up with a ton of ways to accommodate that.”

How to choose the cannabis that’s best for you

So, what should consumers be looking for when they hit the dispensary? In my opinion, the first — and perhaps most — important factor is: who grew it? Familiarizing yourself with legacy farms and their brands — along with distribution and white labels connected to the farm — is more than worth the minimal effort it takes to do so. At the end of the day, great farms don’t produce bad flower, so you’re guaranteed to walk away with something incredible. 

Another thing to consider when shopping for weed is what kind of terpene profile matches the high you’re looking for. Familiarizing yourself with the five dominant terpenes, how they smell, and what they do, will revolutionize the way you experience cannabis, and the control you have in utilizing this powerful plant.

All in all, the best advice I can give cannabis consumers is to do a little research. Check out what a dispensary has online, google the brands it carries, and see who grows its flower. Then, once you’ve decided on a particular brand, google the terpene profiles of the strains you’re considering. In doing so, you’ll have a good grasp on what kind of high that flower will produce — and know the quality will be fantastic. 

As consumers, it’s up to us to educate ourselves. Cannabis education, and spreading this kind of awareness, is the key that unlocks the limitless power of this magical plant and opens doors to full legality and social acceptance. 

Featured image by Dre Hudson/Weedmaps

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The Drop: 5 strains that are hitting menus in August

Another month, another round of new strains and products from some of your favorite brands. Let’s not even waste time with the intro, here are five new strains that will be hitting your local shelves in August.

AbsoluteXtracts: White Rhino 

AbsoluteXtracts —  ABX for short — is one of the leading concentrates brands in California with a full line of both dabs and vape carts. Recently, I reached out to see what ABX might have coming out on either front, and boy was I hype when I saw the words “White Rhino vape cart” fly back through email. 

White Rhino is one of the most potent, sedative strains I’ve ever smoked as flower. So I already know it’s going to smack as a live resin vape cart too. It’s an indica-dominant hybrid that falls from a long line of Afghan, Brazilian, and South Indian landrace strains. Its top reported effects by Weedmaps reviewers are relaxed, happy, and euphoric.

Available: California

Korova Cuts: Black Ice Cream

Korova Cuts: Black Ice Cream

Korova Unrivaled has been dropping heat for quite some time. They had people shook when those 40% THC Wonka Bars hit Instagram, and now in August, they’re coming with some more fire: Black Ice Cream from their Korova Cuts line.

Black Ice Cream (just typing that name makes my mouth water) was bred by Motherland Genetics, a Black-owned genetics research company in South Africa. It is a cross of Do-Si-Dos #18 and Gelato. Black Ice Cream buds have a thick coat of trichomes and kick out a mix of vanilla and sugar dough flavors, and as far as the effects go, I’m told that it’s a relaxing strain that was engineered to knock out pain, stress, and any other obstacle in your way. 

On the terpene side of things, Black Ice Cream is dominant in caryophyllene, myrcene, and humulene. About the strain, Motherland Genetics said, “This was a cross we’ve always wanted to create. We used a selection of only the best genetics to create Black Ice Cream.”

Available: California. Korova is also available in Oregon.

Stone Road: Freakshow

Stone Road puts out fire concentrates. Coming up in August, the brand will be putting out a new strain of flower: Freakshow, originally bred by long-time grower Shapeshifter. 

Stone Road shared, “When longtime grower Shapeshifter had several mutant seedlings with bizarre leaves appear in a batch of seeds, he did what most growers wouldn’t do: he kept them and grew them out. He liked the result so much that he decided to cross these mutants and select for unusual leaf shapes and patterns. Several generations later, with the help of the Humboldt Seed Company, Freakshow was born!”

Freakshow is a sativa-dominant hybrid that is derived from an unknown sativa BX4, and holds 15% – 20% THC. For some people, that THC number may look a little low, but real smokers know that you can’t judge quality solely off of THC percentage. Terpenes matter just as much. Put your nose to some Freakshow and those terps will kick out diesel and grapefruit flavors, with an interesting mix of banana and vanilla. The effects will hit you with a mild head high that’s excellent for daytime use. Look out for Freakshow on dispensary menus in August.

Available: California

Union Electric: Papaya Punch

Union Electric: Papaya Punch

This one’s for my budget shoppers out there who are looking to balance quality and dollars. Union Electric may be the answer for you. Recently, I came across some Union Electric samples — it wasn’t the most flavorful, but still a great choice for the mid-tier shoppers who are looking for something to roll up and burn at whatever time of day. 

In August, Union Electric is putting out a new strain: Papaya Punch. Papaya Punch comes from Oni Seed Company, and is a cross of Papaya and Purple Punch. It’s an indica-dominant hybrid with dense, bright lime-green buds and purple accents. Just like the name suggests, it has a mix of sweet and tropical fruit flavors. For my terp hunters, Union Electric’s Papaya Punch is dominant in caryophyllene, limonene, and humulene, followed by linalool, myrcene, and pinene. Its effects may leave you in a relaxed state of bliss. 

Peep Papaya Punch on menus in August. If you can’t find it, Union Electric will also be putting out Starbird, Purple Punch, and Kind Bomb.

Available: California

Willie’s Reserve: Spunday 

Willie’s Reserve puts out heat, I don’t care what anybody says. I’ve never had a bad experience smoking its weed in any state where I bought it in. So when I reached out to the folks at the company to see what may be dropping in Colorado, I was mad hype about the new cross they have coming in August: Spunday.

Spunday, grown by Indico Colorado on behalf of Willie’s Reserve, is a cross of two heavy hitters: Sundae Driver and Betty White. It has wicked bag appeal with buds that hold orange, green, and purple colors. According to Willie’s, Smoking Spunday will present you with an intense, yet smooth body and head high that will leave you ready to relax and unwind. The strain is great for both beginners and advanced consumers.

Available: Colorado. Willie’s Reserve is also available in Alaska, Washington, and California.

Featured image by Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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Sometimes I get high and walk around Los Angeles

In Spaulding Gray’s one-person show and film Monster in a Box, the monster is a novel manuscript and it sits beside him on stage. A huge problem as prop. Often I’ve thought of the 20th-century storytelling great as I’ve vaped, smoked and munched on the streets of downtown Los Angeles. 

My life is that of a pedestrian in an intensely auto-focused town.

Nearly as much as it’s about being consumed by writing drafts, Monster in a Box is about Gray arriving in Los Angeles, fresh out of Manhattan, aiming to tell stories about local transit on his day gig and work on the novel at night. Early in Gray’s L.A. trip he’s riding with his assistant—searching for Angelenos to interview—when he realizes his driver suffers from a distinctly local affliction.

“Nothing under thirty-five miles per hour registers on her retinas,” he said during the mid-nineties UCLA gig I caughtme. Unless you lived in a village or a city like New York or San Francisco you didn’t think this way. Never mind living in New York, I hardly yet knew Los Angeles.

My downtown neighborhood is in commercials and movies a lot. It’s visual shorthand for the edgy part of town. A flavor in the American mind, like The Fast and Furious. And I am in these streets. Throughout the pandemic, my thing was to spark one before dawn and watch the sun come up amid murals and 100-year-old industrial structures. Skid Row and general L.A. shenanigans are in range enough that my stoned ass is not trying to survive 35 MPH POV. 

Practically, I gave up owning wheels in 2003. In fits and spurts, I’ve since owned a car and had girlfriends with cars, but I’ve not much invested in them. In 2021 there are apps for when I need wheels, as well as apps that get people to drive me around so that I can deal with email and not have to pay for gas, parking and insurance. 

Don’t get me started on the “car is a symbol of freedom” bullshit. 

Mostly, I walk, which in turn lets me think. And burn enough calories to drink. 

You know how sometimes when you get high you lose your earbuds? On low-key fortuitous sunrises like these I sub in actual urban sounds for podcasts and raps. Hearing the city awaken is as important as viewing it, ya feel me. Truck sounds work the low end, with birds and braking freeway flybys playing the high side.

My building is in an East side suburb of Greater Downtown Los Angeles, which is to say far from the center of DTLA. It’s gentrified and exotic. But once a pedestrian crosses the Alameda Delta —late  in the predawn hour, into downtown downtown — ain’t nothin goin’ on but houseless voices.  

“Hey, OG!” That’s the call that can truncate a draw from my Keith Haring one-hit. “OG, got a light?”  “Let me holler at ya, OG.”

“OG” is what Black men under 40 whom I don’t know tend to call me. Usually, I’m good with it, taking the name as a moniker of respect. But on Alameda Street before dawn it’s too often not cool. Of LA’s homeless, Alameda Delta panhandlers are the least together. 

But the secret to living in this town, pedestrian or auto-slave, is to live in a geographic space roughly the size of Portland. Kobe Bryant never could wrap his mind around that, living more than 40 miles away in Newport Beach and employing a helicopter in order to avoid the dreaded 405 gridlock. It eventually, tragically, killed him. To have 35 miles-per-hour consciousness is to constantly put yourself in mechanical danger while missing out on the feel of a heat foretold in crisp morning air. In the 80s, some white pop rockers made a song about how (only a) nobody walks in Los Angeles. Maybe the sentiment was accurate, but it feels like what Spaulding Gray, may he rest in peace, warned us about.  

Too many Angelenos out of their autos for elitism to breathe in these streets today. When the Oscars aren’t interrupting, we walkers are catching trains at Union Station by the invisible million and linking up L.A.’s many suburbs. We buy less gas, damage less Southern Cali air. And sometimes we walkers snatch a train ticket to Oregon, home of sweet, cheap weed that I can roll back into the station with and fortify my perspective. I’m a pedestrian, living slow enough to see a whole coast as home.

Featured image by Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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Consider yourself a foodie? Try these 10 weed products

Moving past the sometimes cringe-worthy term “foodie,” there is a world of cannabis products specifically designed for those of us who seek out flavor and culinary creativity in our infused eats. 

Below, check out ten gourmet products, from delicious edibles to appliances built to unleash your inner chef. Each product has a thoughtful design and no compromise when it comes to flavor and/or the ability to customize according to your palate. 

Edibles

From alcoholic alternatives to unique sweets and snacks, the edibles market is constantly improving with higher quality and tasty products. 

For a wine and booze alternative: House of Saka Pink 

My background in the wine world has made me skeptical of a dealcoholized wine’s ability to hold its own in terms of body and flavor, but House of Saka absolutely does. With care and attention at every step of the process, the result is a fresh and fruity beverage that doesn’t taste like wine per se but delivers a well-balanced complexity as a cannabis wine alternative

It pairs well with anything a rosé would. The best part of this refreshing beverage is the effect — palpable but not too strong; you can easily share this bottle with a friend for a fun and relaxing high and no hangover. 

Available: California

Plus strains gummies

For a pre-dinner buzz: Plus gummies

Hands down the best gummies I’ve ever had, both for flavor and effect, Plus‘s gummy offerings are fantastic. Conceptually evolved, the brand matches its terpene flavor profile with real fruits to craft strain and flavor-specific gummies. 

The nicely packaged bite-sized sweets come in three flavors: pineapple (hybrid), grape (indica), and lemon (sativa), with notes from both the cannabis and the fruit shining through. There are plenty of us who actually like the flavor of cannabis, and these gummies celebrate that in a natural and successful way

Available: California

Find Plus gummies

For a sweet snack for after lunch: High Life Farms’ Nuggies  

A step up from the average infused chocolates, these little snacks combine sweet and salty flavors with a mix of crunchy and creamy textures to hit all corners of the palate. Nuggies’ flavors include chocolate strawberry and cream, peanut butter and banana, and chocolate peanut butter, each built around a pretzel core and coated in chocolate. 

Their miniature-sized packs contain 10 milligrams of THC, and since they are so flavor-packed, one is enough, but they are also small enough to have a few if you’re after a larger dose. 

Available: Michigan

Find High Life Farms

cannabis infused Hervé Les Macarons

For a unique and luscious dessert: Hervé Les Macarons

Edibles have come a long way from homemade brownies and infused candy, and the macarons from Hervé are straight-up luxurious. 

Stunningly beautiful and available in three classic flavors — raspberry, chocolate, and salted caramel — these beauties could easily integrate into the most high-end kitchens. The flavors and textures are classic and clean and feel like a real treat. 

With elegance in the packaging and design of the macarons themselves, plus the rich flavors, these make a sophisticated gift for both experienced and novice edible lovers. 

Available: Nevada

For game day, picnic, or the beach: Potli Shrimp Chips 

Shrimp chips are light and airy with shellfish umami flavors and a satisfying crunch. On taste and texture alone, Potli’s infused shrimp chips knock it out of the park. 

The original flavor has 10 milligrams of THC per pack, while the pack of Extra Lit Spicy flavor, dusted with mouth-numbing Sichuan peppercorn seasoning, totals 50 milligrams of THC. Mixing both options in a bowl can provide a snack tasty enough to serve alongside craft cocktails, beer, and natural wine, while also striking a balanced dose. 

These deliciously addictive chips also have a CBD-only option, with 10 milligrams of CBD per bag in the original flavor, and a new delta-8 infused spicy flavor. 

Available: Nationwide for CBD, California for THC

For a refreshing kick: The Good Stuff  

Infused drinks are one of my favorite ways to enjoy cannabis, and it’s wonderful to see the market overflowing with options, and The Good Stuff is top-tier. Designed to be a mixer, each bottle contains 100 milligrams of THC and comes in three flavors: raspberry iced tea, lemonade, and strawberry hibiscus lemonade. The cap serves as an easy way to measure out a dose

Clean flavors and sheer deliciousness make this a great product, and it is made even better by the fact that you can customize your dosage. 

Available: California

Appliances and flavor-forward cannabis products

For help opening up your appetite, or making things in the kitchen a little easier to manage, cannabis-centric appliances and flavorful products are a great way to explore weed and the culinary arts.

For a between-course palate cleanser: Brockton Mk2

Sometimes, smoking an old-fashioned bowl is just the right thing to do, and for those who prefer to experience the flavor of their bud in this way, the Brockton Mk2 delivers. Its sleek design is thoughtful in every way, and the clean and smooth hits it provides are full of flavor with no charred or burned notes. 

With a magnetic closure on the top, it is lit from the bottom screen which allows the flower to burn evenly without overheating, delivering maximum flavor and an inhale that is comparable to water-cooled vapor. Since it doesn’t accumulate resin or tar, the flavor is pristine every time — enough so that you could hit it in the breaks between courses of a fine dining experience as an herbal palate cleanser. 

Price: $120

Available: Nationwide

For an easy, smooth, and flavorful experience: Misitifi vape pens

Designed to be comparable to sipping a fine scotch or mezcal, or perhaps a glass of wine, the Mistifi vape pens are aimed at those who appreciate luxury and savor flavor. I was admittedly skeptical at first: how elevated can a vape pen really be? But its three flavor blends have set the bar high, each with its own flavors and effects. 

Houdini, the indica blend, offers herbal notes with hints of grape and violet, and a smooth mellow finish, and the Over The Rainbow sativa blend is bright and piney, with refreshing minty notes and an easy lightness. Phantom, the cbd blend, is mild with a hint of smoked herbs and dried tropical fruit. 

The pens themselves are sleek with an unassuming yet sophisticated look and feel. 

Available: California

Find Mistifi

For a pre-dessert hit: Extractioneering 

Oregon-based Extractioneering is the pioneer of HTFSE (high-terpene full-spectrum extract), which has a bunch of scientific specifications, but basically translates to “super-baller natural concentrates.” 

Dabbing isn’t just about getting a higher dose of THC and other cannabinoids, it’s also about savoring the concentrated flavor of cannabis, which is unadulterated in these full-spectrum concentrates. Each one comes in a beautiful and detailed package with a complete breakdown of its terpene composition and effect, as well as flavor profiles. 

Admittedly a bit nerdy, this reminds me of the cultish beverage world, similar to the information that natural wine and bourbon connoisseurs love to delve into. 

Available: Oregon

For making edibles in a snap: Ardent FX 

Truly an all-in-one device, the Ardent FX makes turning flower or other cannabis concentrates into homemade edibles easy and streamlined. This tool is for those who love getting creative in the kitchen and elevating the concept of what an edible can be. 

With the press of a few buttons, your flower turns into edible infusions. It couldn’t be easier to use, and has the benefit of decarbing, infusing, and baking treats all in the same compact machine. The company also sells DIY infusion kits and has recipe highlights on their social media channels to keep the creative juices flowing. 

Price: $350

Available: Nationwide

For convenient and delicious dabs: Dab Devices Little Dipper 

The Little Dipper Dab Straw is an essential product for anyone even remotely interested in dabbing. There’s so much to love about the Little Dipper, like how easy and mess-free it is to use, but what makes it good for the flavor chasers is its ability to manually customize each hit. 

Without needing a full on rig, this handheld device allows you to control the intensity of your high by how lightly you inhale and how close you put the dip tip to the concentrate. Less is more, and a light touch and super light inhale often yields the best flavor. It’s also small and portable, so you can enhance your feasting experiences wherever you go. 

Price: $29.99

Available: Nationwide

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Blackberry Kush’s potency is on a whole other level

Every now and then you come across a weed strain that is too high to handle. It hits you with effects that make your body say, “No thanks on this one ever again.” For some people, those strains are the super racy sativas, like Super Lemon Haze, that make them anxious and hyper; for others, they’re the extremely sedative strains, like 9LB Hammer, that make it hard to even function as a human. All of them teach us a lesson about what types of strains we should and should not be smoking in the future.

That said, here’s why I am absolutely terrified of smoking Blackberry Kush.

What is Blackberry Kush?

Blackberry Kush is a cross of Afghani and Blackberry, according to Leafly. It is an indica-dominant hybrid, classified by its short structure, intense effects, and Afghani-derived genetics. 

Afghani genetics and Afghani landrace strains are considered the backbone of modern day indicas. So with Blackberry coming from a mix of Afghani, Mexican, and Vietnamese landraces, and then being crossed again with Afghani, it’s easy to understand how the indica designation came to be. Across many websites, you’ll find Blackberry Kush listed as a great aid for sleep disorders and pain management. The original breeder of BBK is unknown.

Blackberry Kush flowers are often so darkly colored that they appear black. On the nose, the Blackberry Kush terpenes kick out a sweet and gassy profile. On the taste, much of the gas is sent to the background, as sweet berry flavors dominate the strain’s flavor profile. 

It grows best indoors with a 7 – 8 week flowering period that produces a medium-to-low yield, which is probably why you don’t see Blackberry Kush flower too often on dispensary menus. Thus, if you want to try it, you may have to grow it at the crib

How it feels to smoke Blackberry Kush (to me). 

Cannabis tolerance plays a huge part in how powerful the effects of weed can be. The more you smoke, the more THC your body will need to get an intense high over time, which is why you see frequent smokers elevate to frequent dabbers over time. 

As far as my tolerance goes, on a daily basis, I smoke three to four .75 gram joints and a dab or two, with a healthy dose of continual vape pen use throughout the day. This means that I can smoke pretty much any time of weed all day and be completely fine and productive. Except Blackberry Kush. It’s an absolute showstopper for my endocannabinoid system.

I smoked Blackberry Kush for the first time ever back in June 2018. It was after a trip down to Oregon to tour the facilities of what was then LTRMN, and has since become Korova Unrivaled. During the visit, I caught a few product samples on my hashtag weed journalist shit. One of those samples was a one gram Blackberry Kush Cabana preroll, which is a line of luxury pre-rolls from the aforementioned companies. Its high absolutely kicked my ass.

Have you ever smoked some weed that immediately you know is too much for you? Like, you’ve been facing blunts back-to-back for years, but for some reason, this high has hit your whole body with the Stone Cold Stunner? That was Blackberry Kush. 

Within three hits of the joint, I felt my eyelids get so heavy that I immediately knew my day was over and whatever was on today’s to-do list had just been moved to tomorrow’s. It’s the type of high that makes you understand people who say they “don’t like indicas because they make me too sleepy.” To make sure it wasn’t just a fluke based on my body’s state and mood that day, I smoked another one of the BBK Cabana prerolls three days later and had the exact same experience.

Two years later, in November of 2020, I found myself in possession of a Blackberry Kush vape cartridge from AbsolutXtracts (ABX) during a road trip through California. I figured that the flower from years prior was just not a match for me, but maybe some oil would be a more relaxing, less overwhelming experience. I was wrong. A few puffs and I immediately got that wicked sleepy feeling. It taught me that while Blackberry Kush is simply not the strain for me, it may be the strain for consumers who do want some help passing out for the night.

Why I think Blackberry Kush is great for sleep

Sometimes you get so high that the only thing you can do to reverse it is go to sleep. That’s what Blackberry Kush does to me. And that’s exactly why I always recommend it to anyone who asks me about sleepy or indica strains — the for-now standard term that the industry uses to describe sedative effects. 

Blackberry Kush is the perfect example of a couch-lock strain. In fact, sites like Pot Guide, CannabisNow, and Way of Leaf that have ranked sleepy cannabis strains have all named Blackberry Kush as one of the best. 

So what makes Blackberry Kush so great for sleep? Perhaps its terpene profile. According to Cali Terpenes, who produces cannabis terpene profiles in liquid and spray formats, Blackberry Kush’s main terpenes are: caryophyllene, myrcene, limonene, pinene, linalool, menthol, nerolidol, and cineol. 

Caryophyllene is expected to have relaxing effects, myrcene is expected to have calming, sedative qualities, and limonene is thought to be uplifting. Combine these perceived effects and it’s easy to see why Blackberry Kush can be such an overpowering, sedative strain for even the most seasoned stoners. For more information about the relationship between cannabis terpenes and effects, peep this article about why we should be smelling weed before we buy it.

Featured image by Dre Hudson/Weedmaps

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We tried it: Cookies’ CBD flower review

I am that perennial THC aficionado for whom hemp flowers can often fly under the radar. Despite expertise that informs me otherwise, packing a bowl with hemp nugs can feel counterintuitive. I often feel like my familiarity with cannabis is inextricable from my experience with THC, and that smoking cannabis should consistently result in some manner of intoxication. 

If mine is a relatable position, Cookies’ CBD hemp flower might be what changes both our minds about hemp. 

Historically, hemp has always been an industrial crop, taxonomically indistinguishable from cannabis, but with effects more likely to cause a crunchy headache than a psychotropic excursion. But today’s hemp flowers are a world away from its industrial counterpart, and far more in line with dispensary cannabis in terms of looks, aromas, and terpene profiles. For example, the CBD flowers available for online order through Cookies are an ideal example of that chemical versatility in hemp. Visually indistinguishable from top shelf flower, Cookies’ curated hemp nugs are just as sugary, dense, and powerfully fragrant as regular THC flowers. 

I auditioned Cookies’ Monk Fruit strain, a hybrid, CBD-forward phenotype, and despite my own perceived competence as a cannabis professional, I was justly reminded of how much more there is to smoking cannabis than getting high.

First impressions

An eighth of Cookies’ CBD flower costs $40, compared to an eighth of its THC offerings, which run between $50 – $60. 

The simple and effective bright blue packaging bears the brand’s name in white cartoonish script. It’s catchy branding that would be distinguishable from across a room or on a cluttered shelf. Cookies currently stocks three varieties of hemp flower — each grown by Secret Nature — in these bold blue packages. A silver sticker is all that differentiates each sack; the bags are opaque, with only the necessary, generalized manufacturing info stamped onto its backsides and not even a peek-a-boo window to entice potential consumers.

This calculated and distinct look is part of Cookies’ appeal. The joyful script for its logo, the particular shade of blue that engulfs everything from its weed sacks to the brick and mortar shop, even rapper Berner’s affiliation with the brand all tell a story.

Cookies’ Monk Fruit CBD hemp flower

When I opened my eighth, I could see that the nugs had maintained their constitution, with only a fractional smattering of crumbs dusting the bottom of the bag. But the density of these nugs was not the first thing about this cultivar that captivated me, what hit me first was the smell.

Aroma

Cookies’ Monk Fruit cultivar has a gassy, potent perfume so loud it practically screamed at me as soon as the bag’s seal was broken. There are top notes of sweet citrus, peppery wood, and resinous pine braided into a skunky sun-baked diesel that, to the untrained nose, could be substantially offensive. To the consummate pothead, however, this is not only a familiar fragrance, it’s a complex aroma that portends a robust entourage effect.

Appearance

The buds of Cookies’ Monk Fruit strain are tightly structured and deep green. It breaks apart easily but  crumble; it has an almost doughy give that makes it peel apart like moon-rocks rather than cured cannabis flowers. These nugs would assuredly gum-up a grinder with its oily trichomes, so I broke a bud open with my fingers and first packed a one hitter rather than attempting to roll my own spliff. 

Effects

Despite the aggressive perfume, these buds have a sheer, flowery exhale. A suggestion of pine and lemon linger on the palette, but only for a breath or two post-hit. Overall, I found the smoke to be mild and silky. 

A second round had me loading it into a flower vaporizer. Again, the inhale was sheer, though the phenotype’s skunk was far more toothsome at low temperatures. When combusted, the mouthfeel was decidedly delicate. When vaporized, this became a mouthful of funk that might delight a true cannaisseur, but a newbie may have a harder time tolerating. 

When smoked during the day, I found the effects to be both deeply valuable and barely discernible — a slight easing of superficial soreness, a slight sharpening of focus during work hours, a mood lift that turned the corners of my eyes up and made patience more accessible than it had been otherwise. When smoked before bed, however, this cultivar is a sleeping potion panacea.  A few puffs as part of my bedtime routine has ensured restful, restorative sleep, which, for a troubled sleeper like myself, is an absolute life hack.

Bottom line

For consumers still in the exploratory stages of their cannabis journey, Cookies can help build a familiarity with alternative cannabinoids. For more established stoner-types, these nugs have a legitimate therapeutic efficacy that make them a primo stash box supplement. 

And though Cookies’ CBD flowers won’t be replacing the THC nugs in my stash box anytime soon, for nights when sleep feels particularly evasive, or days that require medication without intoxication, I’ll be thrilled to have it in my cannabis inventory. 

Featured image courtesy of Cookies

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4 new weed products to try from Baker’s Cannabis, Houseplant, and more

With so many great cannabis brands releasing exciting new products in new markets, it can be hard to keep track of every release. So we’re rounding up a few significant releases. This week, we look at releases by Monogram, Select, and more. 

Houseplant: New Gravity Glass bong 

Houseplant, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s cannabis brand, dropped a new bong July 15, 2021, from its Housegoods line. The glass piece is a take on the classic gravity bong, and is now available via Amuse exclusively for customers in L.A. and San Francisco. 

Available: California

Monogram: Release of limited-edition art prints

Courtesy of MONOGRAM

A limited release of prints, shot by Hype Williams and based on the work of mid-century American photographer Slim Aarons, will be available for purchase from Jay-Z’s cannabis brand, Monogram. The brand is printing a limited run of premium,  poster-sized vignettes for $320 each and featuring stills from Monogram’s new “The Good Life, Redefined” campaign. 

Available: Nationwide via The Webster, or California via Caliva.com

Select: Launch of two new live resin concentrates

Select: Launch of two new live resin concentrates
Courtesy of Select

Cannabis oil brand Select just launched two new live resin concentrates for its Select Elite Live line, Select Diamonds and Select Sugar. The diamonds line contains tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) crystals that are larger than 3 mm in size, while the sugar line contains THCA crystals that are smaller than 3 mme, so you can choose which concentrate method suits you best.

Available: Arizona and California

Baker’s Cannabis: New infused prerolls

Baker's Cannabis: New infused prerolls
Courtesy of Baker’s Cannabis Co.

Baker’s Cannabis just launched a new line of infused prerolls available throughout California. Its latest prerolls are infused with high-potency oil and feature blend-specific terpenes to boost both flavor and intensity.

Available: California

Featured image courtesy of Power Digital

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Everything you need to know about the DaVinci IQC

The current market for hand-held cannabis vaporizers has become intensely competitive. With all the advanced features and add-ons, you have to be honest and ask yourself: “what works for me and what’s really worth it?” 

DaVinci has been an exceptional brand in the vaporizer industry since it began designing vaporizers more than five years ago. Not only does DaVinci put purity, innovation, and control at its core, it also responds to the needs of consumers with every update. 

You may have seen the DaVinci IQ2 and the MIQRO vaporizers, both are highly acclaimed by cannabis vaping connoisseurs across the board. The newest release — the IQC — is the perfect balance between the two, delivering the same sleek look, but now with a shorter charging time, lower price, and an even cleaner approach to the design.

Here’s everything you need to know about the DaVinci IQC.

What is the DaVinci IQC?

The DaVinci IQC is a portable, dual-use vaporizer well-equipped with customizable, high-tech features and convenient tools. Compatible with both dry herb and concentrates, this device offers pure and precise draws that enhance the terpene flavors of your cannabis through its zirconia glass-lined ceramic oven. Long, light draws are recommended.

The IQC costs $229 — a luxurious purchase, but well worth the spend if you favor efficiency and components that make dosing easy on-the-go. The IQC also has app connectivity through bluetooth, which serves as a control and personal tracker for your temperature and usage that will soon be available on the iOS app store and online.

DaVinci IQC colors

How is the IQC different from the IQ2?

DaVinci has been actively listening to the reviews on their previous devices, and came back with an updated product that the people have been asking for. The IQC has thoughtful upgrades and embodies a more simplified DaVinci vaping experience. 

  1. One of the main differences is the patented Sharesafe™ mouthpiece crafted from an FDA-approved antimicrobial polymer. Antimicrobial polymers inhibit the growth of bacteria and viruses, making this a more sanitary smoking device. In a time where we must be vigilant about hygiene, the IQC was designed with these health aspects in mind.
  2. No more six hour charging time: Now, the IQC has longer battery life and can get a full charge in as little as two hours, thanks to the new Type C charging port.
  3.  A notable feature missing from the IQC that you’d normally find on the IQ2 is the adjustable airflow located at the bottom of the device. The adjustable airflow allows users to gauge how much air passes through the device, changeable with a dial. The IQC’s airflow is non-adjustable, meaning the vapor is more likely to get hotter. 
  4. For about $66 less than the cost of the IQ2, the IQC still offers DaVinci’s most impressive features. But keep in mind that the warranty on the IQC is good for five years instead of the ten year warranty on the IQ2. Might be considered a downgrade, but you definitely get what you pay for.

How do you use DaVinci IQC?

Let’s get into how the DaVinci IQC works and what comes with the vaporizer kit.

Parts

IQC device:

  • Mouthpiece
  • Zirconia “Flavor Chamber” vapor path
  • Replaceable 18650 battery
  • Onboard pick tool
  • LED display
  • Control/navigation buttons
  • Pearl Zirconia adjustable spaces
  • Glass-lined ceramic oven 

Extras:

  • Alcohol wipes
  • Extra pick tool
  • USB-C charging cable
  • 10mm water tool adapter
  • Stickers

*Those who pre-order will also receive a Smell Resistant Carry Case.

Basic Operation

  1. Open the IQC’s bottom lid to reveal the glass-lined ceramic oven.
  2. Pack herb tightly for maximum vapor. Close the bottom lid to allow the pearl to firmly pack the herb.
  3. Power on/off by clicking the control button five times.
  4. Adjust the temperature up and down with navigation buttons. Choose from the four preset ranges called “Smart Paths.” Note: the IQC is programmed to start in Smart Path 3 (390-410ºF).
  5. IQC will vibrate when the target temperature is reached.

Modes:

On the IQC, there are a couple of modes you can play around with. 

  • Smart Path Mode: There are four “Smart Paths” preset with temperatures that’ll gradually build over eight minutes. Adjust between paths with navigation buttons.
    • Rest: 410 – 430ºF
    • Body: 390 – 410ºF
    • Mind: 370 – 390ºF
    • Flavor: 350 – 370ºF
  • Precision Mode: With temperature accuracy up to +/- one degree, you can choose an exact temperature. Click the control button to display the current temperature, then use the navigation buttons to adjust to your temperature preference.

Is the DaVinci IQC worth it? 

The intent behind the design of the IQC is what truly makes this device worth buying. The IQC was created with the consumer needs and health safety in mind without making the product more expensive — instead, DaVinci made it more affordable. It’s the ultimate combination of the simplest yet cutting-edge technology, which translates into an ideal vaporizer for just about anyone. 

Sometimes the extra bells and whistles aren’t necessary on a vaporizer and all you really need are top-notch materials and technology to ensure a divine vaping experience. The IQC is practical, high-quality, and now that its iOS app software will be available soon, there’s a lot to love about this device.

Check out the DaVinci IQC at davincivaporizer.com. Photos courtesy of DaVinci. 

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5 weed products Besito founder Maggie Connors can’t live without

Maggie Connors is the founder and CEO of Besito, an Los Angeles-based cannabis brand specializing in “mini-joint” prerolls of classic California-grown strains. Besito was recently acquired by vertically integrated Bay Area cannabis operator SPARC, with Connors joining the SPARC executive suite as VP of Brand Marketing. 

Though a longtime and passionate cannabis consumer with a keen eye for brand and an appetite for business, the idea of going into the business of weed wasn’t an immediate one for Connors. Her interest in people, how they think, and what motivates them initially drove her to want to be a therapist, but a love for art and a built-in awareness of emerging brands and consumer conversations eventually led her to a position in Brand Management at Pepsi in 2009. 

In her five years at Pepsi, Connors had reached a level in the company that MBAs are accepted into, which made the thought of going back to business school seem counterintuitive. Still, she was itching for a change, and she couldn’t shake the feeling that her career would be bigger than her if she stayed on the Pepsi track. 

So she switched gears and went to the Stanford Graduate School of Business in 2015.

“This was right about the time that I was like, ‘I think I’m gonna go into cannabis.’ In between my first and second year [at Stanford], I started diving [into cannabis] as a consumer. Someone was like, you can just get your card and go to dispensaries and buy weed, and my mind was blown. At the same time, my business mind started ticking. These brands are all sort of similar, and there’s a lot of black packaging, very masculine, potent, and I wanted a more accessible brand … It came together as not just my personal interest, but an advantage in business.”

Connors was part of a group of students who loved to smoke weed, but when she told them she was thinking of starting to work in cannabis professionally during a sesh, the initial reaction was something along the lines of “dude, you’re harshing the vibe here. Doing research was also tricky at a school funded by federal money. But she persevered and eventually applied all of her business and design interests to what would subsequently become Besito. 

“I think a lot of big corporations were turning to design then,” Connors explained. “This idea of human-led design thinking was also drilled into me at Stanford. The way great design can inspire innovation, new concepts, new brands, stuff you’ve never even thought of when you can really think creatively.” 

Anyone in the cannabis industry is well aware of the eternal tension between the OG culture of lifers who took unimaginable risks to facilitate cannabis consumption before it was legal, and the new generation of venture-backed brands and businesses. For Connors, who didn’t come from money and, like many of us, had to go into debt to go to school, there was no other option but to raise venture capital. 

“I was very lucky to find my first investor here who had already done several early, early cannabis deals, and believed in me and in what we were building,” said Connors. “Interestingly, our first round of investors in 2017 was a lot of international folks. Americans knew the state of cannabis here, and it was still too early and scary. Back in 2017, there was no institutional money, but I had a few institutional groups in 2019 come in. They were best in class consumer funds, and I was the first cannabis one next to their other investments in Warby Parker, etc.” 

Today, she’s is still hyped on weed, and remains committed to honoring the communities that paved the way for the industry she occupies. 

“I think the thing in this industry that always helps me keep it in perspective is, this was not as tough as the queer community in California that pushed for laws to help their friends dying, and it’s not as tough as hundreds and thousands of mostly Black and brown males sitting in jail for the same thing. I’m very aware of the history and the privilege it was for me to come in when I did. So I always try to use our platform to educate and make sure everyone knows the history of this plant and the advocates before us and what a privilege it is for even just a consumer to buy something. We’re all privileged.”

Here are six products Maggie Connors can’t live without.

Homegrown Gorilla Glue 

“I grow, so I mainly smoke my Gorilla Glue out of my garage in Venice. Just smoking a joint in the evening is my preferred method. I’m looking for that end-of-day wind-down but still be able to do some emails. I have a little porch and I go out there and roll and smoke, so it’s a ritual and that perfect end-of-day reset.”

Besito Minis

“I love our pack of Minis on the go, especially rolling up to a group. ‘It’s so cute!’ is usually the reaction. People are like, ‘that’s the perfect amount!’ You can finish it in four big hits then you’re wonderfully high. Then for some of us, maybe I’ll have another one in 30 or 60 minutes. And there’s ten of them so it’s perfect. Everyone has their own, no sharing and no throwing away weed. That’s my party-on-the-go-one, I love to bring it to a beach or backyard moment.”

Marigold Dip & Dust

“Marigold has a Dip & Dust pre-roll that’s dipped in oil and rolled in kief. It’s so good. I like their one-gram and usually am sharing it at a moment that’s strictly focused on getting high. 

“My sister and I shared one on 4/20 in her yard in San Francisco and it was perfect. We’re both heavy consumers, but this got us to the next level. We were giggling and our partners came back and we were like, ‘we can’t help you with dinner.’ Love that Dip’ n Dust for a special occasion.”

Sonder Space Crystals

“I love the Sonder pop rocks. One of the Besito team’s favorite brands. Just a really sharp design, and an awesome, different point of view. And that’s what we’re all about. I’m so impressed with the innovation. Everyone likes a pop rock that gets you high. I love the idea of nostalgic products.”

Rose Delights

“My favorite edible is Rose Los Angeles. They have a turkish delight, and it’s not your average gummy. Similar to turkish delight, less sweet, different sort of texture. They have a dope brand and do collabs with chefs and artists, very much cultural touchpoints that resonate with me. That’s the homework of a great brand. They’re speaking my language.”

Featured image courtesy of SPARC. Graphic by David Lozada/Weedmaps

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Do cannabinoids from topicals enter the bloodstream?

Lorena Cupcake, voted “best budtender in Chicago” in 2019, has answered hundreds of questions from cannabis shoppers and patients during their time as a budtender. And now they’re turning that experience into a monthly advice column, Ask a Budtender. Got a question for Cupcake? Submit your questions to askabudtender@weedmaps.com.  

Dear Cupcake,

Do you know if cannabinoid-infused topicals, such as Papa & Barkley‘s topical, go into your bloodstream? I’m asking for my sister who works for the government. She has a lot of physical aches and they want her to do surgery but she would rather experiment with different products.

— Concerned Sister

Dear Concerned Sister,

Before I answer your question, I want to cover a few points I hope we all agree with. Drug testing for cannabis and other drugs is wildly inaccurate, based on false premises and applied inequitably among members of the workforce. Rather than accurately weeding out unfit workers, drug testing is just another means of hyper-surveillance and hiring discrimination used against the working class.

With popular track star Sha’Carri Richardson recently suspended from competition in advance of the Tokyo Olympics after testing positive for cannabis use, there’s been an increase in conversation calling out drug testing as yet another racist relic of the war on drugs.

While I’m not convinced of the real-world utility of testing anyone for cannabis, I can understand the trepidation when it comes to potentially failing a random drug test. While everyone’s body metabolizes and eliminates THC at different rates, someone who smokes multiple times a day may have their drug use detected on a urine screening up to one month after putting down the pipe. While the actual time elapsed before a clean screen may be much shorter, that uncertainty can make it impossible for those subject to random drug testing to use cannabis without worrying they’ll lose their livelihoods.

Can cannabis topicals show up on drug tests?

I have good news for those of you who only use topicals, via Dr. Bonnie Goldstein. She’s the Medical Director of Canna-Centers, a California-based medical practice, and was kind enough to answer my questions. “Topical preparations have minimal penetration through the layers of the skin, therefore effects are limited to the local area where it is applied,” she explained.

That means that the cannabinoids in topicals don’t reach the bloodstream, much less the liver, and their metabolites won’t show up on any type of drug test: urine, saliva, even hair or blood. There’s no reason to forgo topical THC or CBD with even the most stringent drug-testing policies in place.

Applying infused topicals to sore muscles
Applying infused topicals to sore muscles will not cause a positive drug test. (Source: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps) 

“Both compounds have been shown to have anti-inflammatory, pain-relieving, and anti-itch properties when applied to the skin,” Dr. Goldstein said. “So many people may benefit from topical cannabis, including those with arthritis, post-injury pain, neuropathy, muscle spasms, and those with rashes such as eczema or psoriasis.”

What’s the difference between topical and transdermal cannabis products?

To truly answer this question, we also need to discuss transdermal products, which often appear right alongside topicals in the form of gels, compounds or — most often — drug-delivery patches. To explain how transdermal products interact with our body, I spoke to Dr. Rachel Knox, who advances insight into the endocannabinoid system along with her family of doctors. According to the cannabinoid medicine specialist, “Transcutaneous — or transdermal — cannabinoid products, such as a patch, are designed to deliver cannabinoids deeper into the skin where they can enter the systemic circulation and reach more distant tissue targets.”

These products contain chemical penetration enhancers, ingredients that weaken the skin’s barrier to allow cannabinoids and terpenes to pass through the epidermis, or outermost layer of skin, into the blood-vessel rich dermis. Depending on what sort of patch you select, THC, CBD and/or CBN will circulate through your bloodstream, just like if you popped a gummy or hit a vape pen. 

Unfortunately, that means they could potentially show up on a drug test. “Regardless of the mechanism through which THC was consumed (e.g., through smoking, edibles, or transdermal patch), THC and its metabolites will behave the same once absorbed into the circulatory system,” Dr. Knox said.

While they’re not a good idea for anyone undergoing random drug testing, I recommended transdermal patches to many people during my time as a budtender. It’s an invaluable resource for those who need consistent, long-lasting pain relief to supplement or replace opioid painkillers. Patches are frequently used by cancer patients undergoing radiation or chemotherapy, who may not have the ability to tolerate edibles or inhalation. Along with RSO, it’s a potential alternative to edibles for folks with severe food allergies.

Tips for using topicals and transdermals

If you don’t want a nasty surprise on your next drug screening, it’s vital to know the difference between topical and transdermal products. While they sometimes appear in similar packaging, or in the same section on dispensary menus, they’re meant to serve different purposes.

Before applying any product to your skin, Dr. Knox recommends hopping in the shower for a scrub. “Exfoliation can do a number of things to likely improve product absorption,” she said, such as removing dry and dead skin, unclogging pores, removing chemical agents that may prevent or diminish absorption, and improving blood circulation throughout and under the skin.”

After drying off, topical lotions or balms can be applied directly to the affected area, like an arthritic ankle or a strained bicep. While cannabinoids won’t reach the bloodstream and get you high, they’ll decrease inflammation and pain in that localized area. Don’t allow pets to lick your skin while wearing any product containing THC, as it can be dangerous to many animals.

Topical THC and CBD products for inflammation, arthritis, and other skin and muscle issues
Topical THC and CBD products can be a great option for those suffering from inflammation, arthritis, and other skin and muscle issues. (Source: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps) 

While some topicals are in neutral carrier lotions, many combine THC and CBD with potent pain-killing ingredients like menthol and borneol to create a tingly effect similar to Tiger Balm or Icy Hot. If you have a preference, pay close attention to product descriptions, or ask your budtender for guidance. 

Transdermal products appear most often as gels, sometimes contained in an easy-to-dose applicator pen, or as patches, similar to a nicotine or birth control patch. If you don’t want to use the whole dosage of a transdermal patch at once, they can generally be cut into halves, quarters or even smaller pieces. 

Since the active ingredients need to penetrate the skin barrier to reach blood vessels, all transdermal formulations work best when applied to a flat area with pronounced, surface-level veins. The inside of the wrist and top of the foot are the two most popular locations.

Dr. Goldstein of Canna-Centers reminded me to watch out for the chemical penetration enhancers that allow the cannabinoids in transdermal products to penetrate deeper into tissue. “Patients should always check the ingredients on these products to make sure that they are not allergic to these chemicals, and to also make sure that they are safe for their particular condition.”

In addition, don’t forget that that innocent-looking transdermal will actually get you high. I’ve tried a patch myself, and despite having a high tolerance, I noticed intoxicating effects within twenty minutes. 

“I only recommend transdermal products to patients who have had some experience with cannabis,” Dr. Goldstein told me. “It is important to know how you react to THC, CBD, or other cannabinoids before applying a transdermal product.”

Featured image by Gina Coleman/Weedmaps


Need advice on how to incorporate cannabis into your lifestyle? Write Cupcake at askabudtender@weedmaps.com 

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