Read up on the latest research by checking out neutral sources, such as the Government of Canada website.
Ultimately, the best way to know how cannabis will affect you is through personal experience. Begin with a product that is lower in THC and CBD potency, and use a small amount to see how it affects you.
The response to cannabis is completely individual. Everyone’s physiological makeup is different, and the ECS receptor site locations and the number of sites can vary from person to person. That is why the same strain of cannabis can affect people differently. Additional factors that contribute to the potential differences in effect can also include the genetics, sex, current health, personality and age of the individual.
Being aware of this unique interaction between cannabis and the human body is helpful in understanding how to make the right choice for you.
Consider this information along with the method and amount of consumption, and the levels of THC and CBD that are in a strain.
If you’re new to consuming cannabis, consider starting at very low THC and CBD levels as you learn how your body responds.
Health Canada strictly regulates the packaging and labelling requirements for legal recreational cannabis products. Therefore, licensed producers are required to share a lot of information about their product directly on the packaging. While this makes for a busy label, it’s also one that contains all the information you need to understand what you are buying. And, because the labeling is consistent for every product, if you understand one, you’ll understand them all.
There are three main categories of cannabis strains: indica, sativa and hybrid. Each category has its own unique characteristics, which you can learn about below. Some cannabis labels may indicate what kind of strain category the product belongs to as well as the specific strain name given by the producer.
Cannabis labels list the date that the cannabis was packaged. This packaging date is not indicative of when the product was harvested but rather when the finished product was placed and sealed in its final packaging. Expiry dates, which are directionally used to communicate the stability of the product in regards to potency, are not mandatory in Health Canada regulations, so some licensed producers will provide them, but many do not.
Every product is packaged in child-safe, tamper-proof packaging to protect youth from the harms of cannabis. Additionally, because THC is intoxicating, the package for any product containing THC above10 micrograms per gram, will feature a red icon to indicate the presence of THC and a message highlighted in yellow carrying a health-related warning.
As the two cannabinoids primarily responsible for the effects of cannabis, CBD and THC content must be displayed on every product label. To help consumers make informed decisions, they are shown two ways.
What’s the difference between the two numbers?
First, it’s important to know that cannabinoids are only activated by heat over 150 degrees Celsius–a process called decarboxylation. So, in its natural state, cannabis has a low level of active cannabinoids. When cannabis is decarboxylated, either through heating or processing, its cannabinoid levels increase.
On package labels, the first numbers, listed as “THC” and/or “CBD”, represent the active cannabinoid levels in the cannabis as purchased. Dried cannabis will have a low level of active cannabinoids because it hasn’t been heated yet.
The second numbers are listed as “Total THC” and “Total CBD.” These figures represent the active cannabinoid levels in the cannabis when ready for consumption. Because oil and capsule products have been processed (and the cannabinoids heated already), the second and first numbers will be the same between products.
Should you ever need to reach them, the licensed producer of every product must provide their name and contact details on the label, including an email address and phone number.
Each product also includes a lot number which refers to a specific harvest, or “lot” of products, which helps trace it back to quality control processes. Take note of the lot number if making a product inquiry.
The two most common cannabis plant types are Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica. Less common is Cannabis ruderalis, which is used mostly by breeders to enhance their hybrids.
It was once believed that Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica had distinct effects. The former was thought to produce more energetic effects, while the latter produced more calming effects. While some of this basic knowledge may still apply, now that growers have cultivated hybrid strains for so many years, references to the effects of pure species may no longer be relevant or helpful.
Today, there are hundreds of strains of plants-each bred for specific characteristics and often intended to produce specific effects for consumers.
This species can grow quite tall (up to 25 feet) and has long, serrated light green leaves. Cannabis sativa L, more commonly known as hemp is typically grown for industrial use and is regulated to ensure the plants do not contain more than 0.3% THC.
This species is generally faster-growing, bushier and up to six feet shorter than Cannabis sativa, with dark green leaves.
This species is short, stalky and shaggier with light green leaves. It tends to be rugged and auto-flowering, which is good for breeders.
There is a lot of speculation about the varying effects of consuming predominantly sativa versus indica strains, but significant differences can occur from strain to strain. Many products are made from hybrid plants, which combine both species, as growers explore and cultivate cannabis to produce desired effects.
THC is the component in cannabis that is primarily responsible for its intoxicating, psychoactive effects.
CBD increases the presence of our own naturally occurring cannabinoids. Learn how it works and what to expect.
Cannabis gets its scent from compounds in the plants called terpenes. Terpenes are fragrant oils found in many types of plants, especially coniferous (evergreen) varieties. The chemical compounds they secrete give fruits, vegetables, flowers and herbs their signature scents. There are over 100 identified terpenes, many of which are unique to the cannabis plant.
Although cannabis is often generally associated with a certain musky aroma, each strain of cannabis has its own scent. The individual scent of a strain will be based on the amount and type of terpenes present and which ones are dominant. Terpene scents range from earthy, woodsy, herbal, spicy, diesel or cheesy, all the way to citrusy or sweet.
Essentially, a vape device is a battery-powered accessory that heats a substance until it produces a vapour, which is then inhaled. Unlike smoking, in which cannabis is burned, the product is heated, releasing its cannabinoids, such as THC and CBD.
Prefilled cartridges which contain cannabis extracts can be used exclusively with a vape pen. Other extracts (concentrates) such as hash, shatter, resin, rosin, etc. are consumed either through combustion or through a specific device designed to heat them to a precise temperature. If you choose to use extracts such as hash, shatter, resin, rosin, consider the potency — some products can contain up to 90% (900 mg/g) of THC — and how it will affect your body. Start with a very small amount, especially if you are trying a new product, and wait at least two hours to see how it affects your body before consuming more.
What Are Edibles?
Edible cannabis products are foods and drinks, such as brownies or beverages, that have been infused with cannabis extracts, or concentrates, all of which contain active ingredients such as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).
How Do They Work?
According to the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction, THC and other active ingredients in edible cannabis products are absorbed into the body through the digestive tract. They enter the bloodstream and travel to the liver, where they are metabolized and released back into the bloodstream. These active ingredients then enter the brain and the rest of the central nervous system, potentially producing an effect.
How Are Edibles Different from Other Types of Cannabis?
The main difference between edibles and other forms of cannabis is in how the body processes the active ingredients. It has been reported that when cannabis extract is ingested, it can produce effects that are similar to those experienced when cannabis flower is smoked or vaped. When cannabis is inhaled, its THC is absorbed by the blood in the lungs and moves quickly to the brain, producing an almost immediate effect, possibly within minutes. However, when cannabis is digested, the effects will likely be delayed — from 30 minutes to 4 hours or more. It can take up to 4 hours to feel the full effects.
As with consumption of any form of cannabis, the intensity and longevity of the effects depend on many factors, such as your weight and sex, how much food you’ve eaten that day and how quickly your metabolism works.
What Are Extracts?
Extracts (also known as concentrates) is actually an umbrella term for the variety of products that can be produced when cannabis flower is processed into a concentrated form. These products can come in liquid or solid form, such as cannabis oil, hash, vape cartridge liquid, shatter, wax, kief, tinctures, and are either ingested or inhaled.
How Do They Work?
The way the cannabinoids in the cannabis extract enter your body depends on the form of extract and method of consumption. When cannabis extract is ingested, it can produce effects that are similar to those experienced when cannabis flower is smoked or vaped; however the effects may be delayed due to digestion, which can take from 30 minutes up to four hours or more. When cannabis extracts are inhaled (such as by dabbing or vaping), the tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is absorbed by the blood in the lungs and moves quickly to the brain, producing an almost immediate effect, possibly within minutes.
The duration of potential effects also depend on how the cannabis extract is consumed. If it’s inhaled, effects can last one to three hours, or longer. When the extract is ingested, effects can be felt for up to 12 hours. The timing of the onset and duration of effects vary from person to person. Individual factors such as sex, mental and physical health, age, personality, genetics and even the amount of food ingested prior to consumption all play a part.
How Are Extracts Different from Other Types of Cannabis?
The main difference between extracts and other forms of cannabis is in their potential to contain much higher concentrations of cannabinoids than the raw plant. For example, extracts can have up to 90% THC, while dried flower typically contains 1% to 30% THC. Extracts available through OCS that are meant to be inhaled can contain no more than 1,000 mg of THC per package; ingestible extracts contain no more than 10 mg of THC per unit.
Cannabis is widely known by various names; here are just a few: weed, marijuana, pot, grass, dope, reefer, ganja, hash, herb, chronic, flower, joints, bud, mary jane, 420, nug, dabs.
In its natural state, cannabis has a low level of active cannabinoids. When cannabis is decarboxylated, either through heating or processing, its cannabinoid levels increase. So, the CBD and THC content are displayed on every product label in two ways.
On package labels, the first numbers, listed as “THC” and/or “CBD”, represent the active cannabinoid levels in the cannabis as purchased. Dried cannabis will have a low level of active cannabinoids because it hasn’t been heated yet.The second numbers are listed as “Total THC” and “Total CBD.” These figures represent the active cannabinoid levels in the cannabis when ready for consumption. Because oil and capsule products have been processed (and the cannabinoids heated already), the second and first numbers will be the same between products.