Your Guide to Understanding Cannabis Labels

August 12, 2020
Does the measurement system for cannabis products leave you scratching your head? Read our guide to better understand the labels of cannabis flower, pre-rolls, vapes, edibles, beverages, oils and capsules. We will cover how to understand both Phase 1 and Phase 2 cannabis labels making it easier for you to make a decision about your next cannabis purchase.


Labels: How to read them

Products You Inhale: Dried Flower, Vaping Concentrates, Dabbing Concentrates

When reading labels, most of us like to see a percentage to get a sense of the expected potency of the product inside. Dried flower labels used to show a percentage but shifted in Phase 2 of legalization to only show milligrams per gram. Producers have a year to migrate all of their labels to this new system of mg/g. That means that there are two styles of labels you might see on shelves today.

Don’t despair! If you can inhale it, you can convert it to a percentage. We’ll show you how to understand all of your inhalable products.

On every label there are two different values shown for THC and CBD:

1) THC and CBD values show how much THC and CBD are in the product at the time of packaging. This number will be low for any product that hasn’t yet been decarboxylated, including dried flower, pre-rolls, and dabbing concentrates like shatter, wax, and hash.

2) Total THC and Total CBD values show the expected total potency once the product is decarbed. Whatever cannabis product you are looking at, always use the Total THC and Total CBD as your point of reference.

We’ll start with what you would have seen on Phase 1 labels for dried flower.

How to read a Phase 1 label:

This label shows the Total THC is 14.99%. This means it is expected to have 14.99% THC potency when decarboxylated. Easy right?

How to read a Phase 2 label:

Phase 2 labels will not show a percentage. They will show the THC and CBD values in milligrams of THC and CBD per gram of cannabis. That might seem confusing, but we’ve got a great way to interpret this new system.

Find the percentage of THC or CBD in your cannabis by taking the Total values and simply move the decimal point one spot to the left.

This product has 202.3 mg/g of Total THC and 0.06 mg/g of Total CBD. Move the decimal one spot to the left for each value to translate to a percentage. This product has 20.23% Total THC and 0.006% Total CBD.

You can use this easy method for all of your dried flower, vaping concentrates, and dabbing concentrates.

Reading Pre-Roll Packaging

Pre-rolls are a bit more challenging. Their labels have also changed with the introduction of Phase 2 in cannabis legalization. The good news is that they get easier to understand with Phase 2! Phase 1 pre-roll labels need a little math to find the percentage you’re looking for.

Phase 1 pre-rolls will show THC and CBD values in milligrams per unit. Any time you see mg/unit on a pre-roll, you’re looking at a Phase 1 label. This means it’s time to open the calculator.

How to read Phase 1 Pre-Roll Packaging:

The first thing you need to do is translate the size of the pre-roll into milligrams. One gram is equal to 1000 milligrams of THC or CBD. That means:

1.5 gram joint = 1500 milligrams
0.75 gram joint = 750 milligrams
0.5 gram joint = 500 milligrams
0.35 gram joint = 350 milligrams
0.33 gram joint = 330 milligrams

Now that you have the pre-roll size in milligrams, here are the steps to translate it to an expected potency percentage.

1) Take the value you see on the package for Total THC mg per unit
2) Divide that by the size of the pre-rolls in milligrams
3) Multiply by 100

(Total THC mg per unit / size of pre-roll) x 100


0.5 Gram Example

Using an example of a 0.5 g pre-roll, we break down the formula into a series of steps.

1) This pack of pre-rolls has a TOTAL THC per unit of 85.6 mg
2) The pre-rolls are 0.5 grams each or 500 milligrams each
3) Let’s do the math. Take 85.6 (the TOTAL THC per unit), divide by 500 (size of the pre-rolls in milligrams), then multiply by 100
4) (85.6 / 500) x 100 = 17.12% THC

These pre-rolls have an expected THC potency of 17.12%.

How to read Phase 2 Pre-Roll Packaging:

Did all that math harsh your buzz? We feel you. Good news. Phase 2 labels make it easier to translate pre-rolls. They display pre-rolls in mg/g (milligrams per gram), just the same way as all the other products you smoke, vape, and dab. So simply move the decimal one spot to the left when you see mg/g on a pre-roll to translate to potency no matter what the size or number of joints inside.

A pre-roll marked Total THC of 173.0 mg/g is 17.3% THC.

Edibles, Beverages, Oils, Capsules and Sprays

Cannabis that you ingest is already activated at the time you buy it. No decarbing needed! That’s why you’ll see on the packaging that the THC and CBD values are exactly the same as the Total THC and Total CBD values. This will show in milligrams only.

What you won’t see is this number being translated to an expected potency percentage. Why?

There are many reasons, including the way THC is converted to 11-Hydroxy-THC when eaten. The density of the various carrier oils in these products and other factors make converting THC and CBD content to a percentage a guess at best. That’s why you’ll only see milligrams expressed on these products. We’ll cover more on this topic in a future blog.

Now that you know more about how to read cannabis product labels, what kind of product are you looking for?

Low THC (0.3% – 10% in flower and pre-rolls, lower THC oils, capsules, and sprays, edibles and beverages)

There are a few reasons why you might seek out a lower potency. Whether you’re starting on your first cannabis journey or trying your hand at microdosing, low THC products are a great way to gauge your tolerance and learn more about what you enjoy in cannabis. Start low and slow with a low THC strain, a low THC cap, a spray or two of an edible oil, or a nibble or a few sips of an edible or beverage.

High THC (19% and higher in flower, up to 90% or higher in concentrates, high THC oils, capsules and sprays or multiple edibles or beverages)

Experienced users may be looking for a stronger product to lead their cannabis experience. As you experience the full range of high THC products, keep a cannabis journal so you can track how you feel with certain cannabis strains, vapes, and dabs.

Balanced Range: (4% – 12% THC and 4% – 12% CBD in flower, 2-10 mg/g THC and 2-10 mg/g CBD for ingested products)

Balanced products offer a low to moderate amount of THC and CBD that is roughly equal. Many consumers find that balanced products a great place to start on their cannabis journey.

High CBD: (Up to 18% in flower, even higher in concentrates, and anywhere from 20 mg and up for other products

High CBD products are sought out by customers looking to try out a different cannabis experience. CBD is a non-psychoactive ingredient, which helps to trigger the body to create more cell receptors and natural cannabinoids.

There’s a cannabis product for every consumer. Want to learn more about cannabis? Visit us in-store to meet with our Cannabis Advisors!