Health Canada strictly regulates the packaging and labelling requirements for legal recreational cannabis products. 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 is also one that contains all the information you need to understand what you are buying. Also, since the labeling is consistent for every product, if you understand one, you will understand them all. Cannabis labels have several standard elements including all relevant safety warnings and information, the product name, information and potency, and, of course, the licensed producer’s branding.
- The standardized cannabis symbol
- The brand name of the cannabis product
- THC and CBD content
- Health warning message
- Other brand element
- Other required information about the cannabis product
- Non-required information about the cannabis product
- Nutrition facts table
- List of ingredients
- Bar code
Cannabis labels will always list the number of active cannabis compounds present in the product. In most cases, it also lists the content of the two primary cannabinoids, CBD and THC. When it comes to cannabis, these are two of the most important initialisms to know.
CBD is short for cannabidiol, a compound that is generally considered non-intoxicating. CBD may still have an effect on the brain—but it’s not that common “high” associated with cannabis. On the other hand, THC is the primary compound responsible for cannabis intoxication. The higher the amount of THC in a product, the more potent the effects.
Here’s an example of cannabis labels from the Government of Canada:
When edibles were released to the legal market, the decision was made to try and simplify things by getting both flower and edibles on the same measurement standard.
While consumers have become familiar with CBD and THC potencies being listed as percentages, the introduction of edibles prompted Health Canada to adjust their regulations so all new categories of cannabis products must now display the potency/concentration in milligrams per gram (mg/g) or total quantity in milligrams (mg), depending on the type of product and immediate container.
All products, including beverages, are now labeled with the mg/mL measurement system.
Cannabis oil sprays and any cannabis extract in a container with a dispensing mechanism included display the total THC and CBD per activation in milligrams. (For example, 5 g of THC per spray.)
Oils change from mg/ml to mg/g – a basic conversion is nearly one to one.
Edibles packaging has not changed – the measurements have always been very precise since the product has distillate added that has been measured to the mg.
Existing categories including dried flower, oils and capsules have been given a 12-month grace period to allow suppliers time to transition, so you will likely see some variation and exceptions during this time.
You will notice the biggest change in flower and pre-roll products. Flower products were previously measured in percent to give consumers an idea of how much of that bud is made up of each cannabinoid and terpene as a whole. The conversion method from mg/g to % is quite easy, however: Simply move the decimal point one spot to the left to figure out the percentage of THC or CBD.
Doing the math
Since 1g = 1000mg, if you are holding a 1g bud in your hand that is 22%, there is 220mg/g of THC in there.
Here’s how the formula works: There are 1000 mg in a gram, so first we divide the mg/g and then we multiply it by 100 to get a percentage:
220mg/1000mg (1g) = 0.22
0.22 x 100 = 22%
Keep in mind that for pre-rolls, you will need to consider the size of the pre-roll itself. For example, if it is a 0.5g pre-roll the formula would be:
75 mg/500 mg (0.5g) = 0.15
0.15 x 100 = 15%
There is a bit of math involved but fortunately Merry Jane’s budtenders will have already done it for you and should be able to provide the percentage when requested.
Here are some common potencies in both mg/g and their % equivalent:
Comparing apples to apples
Edibles are stronger than smoking, or at least they may make your body feel that way.
When you smoke cannabis, it enters your bloodstream through your lungs and goes straight to your brain for immediate THC effects. When consumed in edible forms, the cannabinoids have to be processed by your stomach and sent to your liver before it can enter your bloodstream. Your liver also metabolizes the THC into 11-hydroxy-THC which is far more potent, has a much longer half life and can be dangerously overwhelming for people who aren’t prepared for it.
Customers will often ask, “I smoke 25% flower, does this mean I need 250mg edibles?” The answer is no! While representing all cannabis products in mg/g can lead consumers to believe that edibles and smoking flower can be compared in terms of potency, this is incorrect.
When you first try edibles, start with the Health Canada recommended starter dose of 2mg. No matter how much THC tolerance you have built up from smoking, your 11-OH-THC tolerance will not be there yet, which can be a surprise to non-edible users. It’s also not recommended to increase your dose until a full two hours have elapsed. While it’s not possible to fatally overdose on cannabis, it can be very easy to overdo it with edibles and experience an unpleasant “trip”. Taking it slow is the way to go, for both novice and experienced users.
Understanding cannabis labels is important for making an informed decision about products. We’re here to help and answer any questions you might have!