Why A High THC Percentage Does Not Matter…

Beautiful music is the summation and interaction of all the separate pieces of a musical group; the singers who tell the story through words for your mind, the band who expresses the emotional energy through sound for your ears, the stage crew who frames the group on the stage for your eyes, and the promotion group who gets the people in the seats in the first pace. Some bands may be known by their venerable rock star, like THC is for cannabis, but that rockstar would not be who they are without the backing and support of the entire band and crew. Imagine a rockstar belting a tune for five or so minutes with no backup singers, no musical instruments, on a bare dark stage. It would not be the same show! The effect that cannabis has on an individual is the summation and combined interaction of all the separate cannabinoid, terpene, and flavonoid chemicals found in the plant. This interaction of all the chemicals in cannabis with the human body is known as the entourage effect.

If cannabis was a musical act, THC would be the lead singer, and well known rockstar of the plant. THC’s backup singers would include other cannabinoids like CBD, CBC, CBN, and CBG. The band’s group of musicians would be rounded out with an eighty or so member sized symphony orchestra of cannabinoid chemicals, which produce a sound unique to each plant’s cannabinoid profile. The orchestra would be supported by the stage crew, which in cannabis would be the many terpenes and flavonoids. According to Whaxy, terpenes and flavonoids are “the molecules that provide cannabis with its aroma and flavor.” Along with enhancing the experience of cannabis, some of these flavor and smell chemicals can also interact directly with the endocannabinoid system themselves, acting like pickup musicians and jumping in to play a song or two with the orchestra. When not playing special sets onstage, the terpene and flavonoid crew would be responsible for the alluring clean and fresh air found in the auditorium, along with a ornate stage which frames the presentation of the musicians beautifully.


Let’s take a quick detour for a history lesson about “pharmaceutical” cannabis! Way back in 1985 the Federal government financially backed and approved a drug, mostly known as Marinol, as a legal alternative to real cannabis. Marinol is 100% synthetic THC, and it was set as a schedule III drug when approved. It is viciously ironic for the government to quarantine cannabis from the public and medical communities as a schedule I drug, and then double-classify THC as a schedule III drug, which can be legally prescribed by doctors with appropriate and acknowledged medical use by the public. Marinol went on to be a lackluster failure of a drug, due to the fact that it got patients too high. Being “too high” is a condition in which the patient is unable to handle the mental effects of THC, and can even go so far as to result in a state of anxiety or paranoia for the patient. This application of only THC in Marinol breaks the convention of the entourage effect. By administering solely THC, the patient’s body is able to quickly absorb the chemical without any mitigating factors, leading some to be overwhelmed. When CBD is combined with THC, CBD works to buffer or meter the activity of THC with the body’s endocannabinoid system. Furthermore terpenes and flavonoids interact with cannabinoids at the blood-brain barrier and influence and affect the crossing of cannabinoids into the brain.

Imagine a rock star showing up to a hotel room without their cast and crew, having no one to influence and mitigate their passion, they brutally trash the hotel room and get the band banned from the hotel for life. Similar to this example, THC could overwhelm a patient and wreck their mental tranquility, and get itself (potentially along with cannabis), blacklisted by a Marinol patient. It would take a lot of education to help a patient overwhelmed by THC in Marinol to give whole plant cannabis another try. Similarly to the case of Marinol, it would be foolish for whole plant patients to only shop for strains of cannabis which are the highest in THC or CBD percentage. Such a patient would be missing out on the bigger picture when it comes to cannabis as a medicine. When you are shopping for strains of cannabis to meet your medical needs, think about how each member of the band will help your body make beautiful music again. Cannabis works seemingly magically to find its own way to where your body needs its help. If your body was short a metaphorical horn player in the band, cannabis would send a stand-in horn player to round out your whole band, and allow your body to make beautiful music again by functioning correctly. The horn player may come from the cannabinoid group, but without the advice from friends in the terpene and flavonoid groups, our horn player might play in the wrong key. Keep this in mind when selecting your next strain of medical cannabis. There is so much more to a strain’s profile than just the THC percentage!


Please keep a medical cannabis journal in which you track each day’s strain, effects, and outcomes, so you can try different strains and find your ideal ratio of cannabinoids and terpenes. Each medical cannabis product will be clearly documented on its package sticker with percentages of the majority cannabinoids and terpenes. The mathematical relationship between the cannabinoids and terpenes which makeup the plant’s profile is known as its ratio. A plant with 5% THC and 1% CBD would be noted as a 5:1 ratio of THC to CBD. When you find your ideal ratio, use your ratio to identify new strains which are similar in chemical composition. As would be the case in a different strain with 10% THC and 2% CBD, still a 5:1 ratio mathematically. This new strain would have a similar effect on your body at ½ the first strain’s dosage, assuming similar terpene makeups. Furthermore your ideal cannabis would be additionally quantitatively described by the ratios of terpenes to each other, and to the cannabinoids. Use this approach to help you understand your medicine, and use the knowledge you gain about your unique ideal ratio to find other strains of cannabis which would be similar in effects for your unique body.

Look for your “ideal sound” in your next strain of cannabis in one of Illinois’ many legal medical cannabis dispensaries. Click here to find the one closest to you!

Posted In: Science

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