How to Read Cannabis Labels 101
In Canada, and many other countries where cannabis is legalized, cannabis labels and the packaging are highly regulated by governing bodies, to protect and inform consumers and patients. They are intended to give you the product information you need to create an informed, comfortable and repeatable experience. Even so, cannabis labels can be overwhelming and confusing to consumers and patients.
Whether you’re considering taking cannabis for the first time or it’s an established part of your life, understanding the information on your cannabis product label gives you better control over your experience and the ability to repeat it every time.
What matters most on a cannabis label
For consumers and patients working to find the right formulation and dose of a cannabis product, the most important information on the label is:
Cannabinoid Content in the Product:
- CBD content (or the relative amount of cannabidiol in the product or total in the bottle)
- THC content (or the relative amount of tetrahydrocannabinol in the product or total in the bottle)
Product Content Amount (units):
Cannabis oil labels display the amount of CBD and THC in milligrams per millilitre (mg/ml). It is a standard and straightforward benchmark to help understand and measure your ideal dose of medical cannabis.
For example, 50:2 (50mg of CBD per mL to 2mg of THC per mL) translates to 1000mg of Total CBD and 40 mg of Total THC per 20mL bottle.
Labels can also tell you the CBD and THC content relative to each other, so you have an idea of the type of result to expect from using the product.
For example, a high-CBD, low-THC formula with 25mg of CBD-per-ml to 1mg of THC-per-ml (or a ratio of 25:1, CBD to THC, mg per ml). This can be considered a regular strength concentration for a CBD dominant product. This product would primarily provide you with the effects of CBD.
A lot of formulated oil products on the market are either high CBD, high THC or 1:1 balanced products.
When you consider the size of the bottle, vape cartridge or other packaging, you can start to establish your dose and how often your product will last.
Depending on your country’s cannabis regulations, your cannabis label will likely include warning verbiage to inform you of any risks associated with the consumption of cannabis, such as a THC symbol.
What Cannabis product is right for you?
CBD and THC are cannabinoids (phytocannabinoids specifically, because they originate from plants), and they work in conjunction with the endocannabinoids and cannabinoid receptors that occur naturally in the human body (to generate the effects you feel when you use a cannabis product.
CBD is a common cannabinoid in cannabis. And although cannabis users associate the plant with its intoxicating effects, CBD is non-intoxicating, however can still have effects on your body. CBD has been studied for its various health benefits and effects,
These include the treatment of, or alleviation of symptoms associated with:
- chronic pain1
- the muscle spasms associated with multiple sclerosis2
- chemo-induced nausea and vomiting3
- Dravet syndrome, an epileptic disorder that produces drug-resistant seizures4
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Crohn’s disease.5
The intoxicating part of your cannabis is THC. It’s psychoactive and gives you the feeling of being high. More experienced cannabis users might opt for products containing more THC, or at least a balanced cannabis oil (1:1) whereas less experienced consumers might want to start with a mix of CBD and THC in their products.
In dried cannabis flower potency can vary from product to product. But as a concentrate formulated as cannabis oil, extracted from the plant using one of several methods, such as the supercritical CO2 method, consumers can get a quality product with measured potency. With this delivery method (oil, rather than smoking), you can give your body a more repeatable dose and may get the result you want.
On the label of cannabis oil products, you can see the amount of CBD or THC per ml, and in brackets you will see a total. The total includes the active and inactive versions of that cannabinoid. In some cases, it is the same number since dried cannabis is decarboxylated prior to extraction to activate the cannabinoids. This results in the oil being ready for consumption as is. In dried cannabis products, these two numbers will be different – dried cannabis products must be prepared for consumption by the consumer, by heating up and smoking, for example, and this activates the cannabinoids of the product. So the total listed on the label refers to the potency of your cannabis product when it’s ready to be consumed.
How To Dose Cannabis
Whichever cannabis product you choose, on top of learning how to read your cannabis product label, Keep in mind that cannabis products vary in potency and formulation, and every individual is different. It is recommended you consult a doctor when using cannabis products for the first time and starting off slowly with a low dose. Please consult the Canadian Pharmacist Dosing and Titration Guide for more information on how to help find a proper dose for you.
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- Piper BJ, Chronic Pain Patients’ Perspectives of Medical Cannabis.2017 Jul; 158(7): 1373–1379.
- Al-Ghehzi ZZ et al., Combination of Cannabinoids, Δ9- Tetrahydrocannabinol and Cannabidiol, Ameliorates Experimental Multiple Sclerosis by Suppressing Neuroinflammation Through Regulation of miRNA-Mediated Signaling Pathways. Front. Immunol., 21 August 2019 | https://doi.org/10.3389/fimmu.2019.01921
- Parker L, et al. Regulation of nausea and vomiting by cannabinoids. Br J Pharmacol, August 2011, v. 163 (7).
- Perruca E, Cannabinoids in the Treatment of Epilepsy: Hard Evidence at Last? J Epilepsy Res, December 2017, 7 (2); 61-76.
- Amed W, et al. Therapeutic Use of Cannabis in Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Gastroenterol Hepatol (N Y). 2016 Nov; 12(11): 668–679.