Alibi V.27 No.43 • Oct 25-31, 2018 

Cannabis Manual

Remedial Math

The hunt for THC

Bobby B.” “That Fire.” “Chrondo.” “KayBee.” “Kill.” “Chief.”

It's way easier to come up with a list of funny names for good weed than it is to quantify what good weed is.

Kryptonite.” “Bomb.” “Bin Laden.”

It should be easy. THC gets you high, so you want to see bigger THC numbers, right?

Much of our attention has been focused on THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the psychoactive compound taking up the largest portion of the chemical makeup of cannabis. But it's only one of at least 113 cannabinoids that have been isolated so far. Most of them are found in only trace amounts, and many of their characteristics have gone unexplored.

Less sexy than THC is CBD (cannabidiol), the cannabinoid that makes up most of the rest of cannabis' chemical profile. CBD has become the darling of the marijuana movement, thanks to its apparent usefulness in treating PTSD, psychosis, tumor production, neuro-degeneration, anxiety and a host of other mental and physical disorders. In particular, CBD might have helped swing the national attitude toward acceptance of cannabis after it became apparent that high-CBD strains were offering an effective treatment for Dravet syndrome, a severely debilitating form of epilepsy that affects children and is highly resistant to other forms of treatment. Helpful was the fact that CBD is also non-psychoactive, meaning no one had to worry about getting their kid stoned.

The current cannabinoid piquing the interest of the medical community is CBN (cannabinol), which is less psychoactive than THC, but is the culprit behind those lazy afternoon weed naps. When buds are left exposed to air over time, the acid group THCA (which turns into THC when subject to decarboxylation) converts to CBNA (which turns into CBN during decarboxylation). According to Steep Hill Labs, 5mg of CBN is as effective a sedative as 10mg of diazepam. It might also be the compound that gives indica strains their characteristic dopey feel.

And all of these cannabinoids (including CBG, CBC, THCV and the ones we don't really know about) seem to have a synergistic affect on each other. CBD is not only non-psychoactive, it also seems to regulate the (so-called) negative effects of THC, like paranoia or space-time distortions. CBN is known to lower feelings of anxiety sometimes reported during experiences with high-THC strains. Israeli scientists Shimon Ben-Shabat and Raphael Mechoulam call the interaction between different cannabinoids the “Entourage Effect,” the theory of which has given rise to an enthusiasm for whole plant extracts.

But it makes grading specific strains troublesome. One has to keep in mind that a higher THC percentage doesn't necessarily mean the strain will get you higher, because the amount of CBD present will counteract the effect. It also means that choosing the right strain for your particular illness might have little to do with THC amount, especially for those patients who are using cannabis to treat insomnia, schizophrenia or epilepsy.

To trouble the waters some more, there have been dispensaries in the past that listed the THCA content on their labels rather than THC. See, there's a trick in there: THCA (as I mentioned earlier) is the non-psychoactive acid group that turns into THC after decarboxylation. The ratio between the mass of these two substances is not one-to-one. To find the actual THC percent mass, the THCA percent mass has to be converted through this little math equation:

THC total = (%THCA) x 0.877 + (%THC)

Still with me?

That's okay if you got lost back there. My head is spinning, to be honest. The thing I've walked away with here is that trying to find the right meds with a math equation probably won't work out. Thank God.

Leaflet logo
Sign me up for Leaflet: news updates and product reviews from Alibi's crack team of medical cannabis journalists.