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Many growers, seeking to make as much money as they can in a highly taxed new industry, want to grow the weed the stores want and customers say they want. Recreational consumers have been trained by the black market and years of weed culture to seek out the most potent, mind-melting pot possible. Because we know so little about the myriad other cannabinoids in pot, THC numbers have taken top billing. Lathrop pointed out that THC and CBD are the only cannabinoid molecules we even test for, out of more than different ones.
There's a lot more going on in there. Lauren Downes, who manages Ponder, a new pot shop in the Central District, pointed out that it's not just THC that has an impact on how high you get. She said that without the aid of terpenes, the molecules responsible for the distinct aromas of pot, THC itself wasn't all that jazzy.
It is only in conjunction with terpenes that you begin to feel the variety of effects. For example, limonene is what is responsible for citrus smelling strains.
It actually thins the blood brain barrier and enables your body to absorb more terpenes and more THC, thus producing a stronger high. Lathrop said that breeding strains to get the highest possible THC definitely comes at the expense of diversity: There are so many different kinds of plants out there that are all being bred for one cannabinoid, the one that gets you as whacked-out as possible—THC—which means we're potentially missing other chemical combinations that would have different effects.
After that, it can't really make any more cannabinoids. What we've done with the street strains, just by economics, is we've washed out all of these other cannabinoids. They're not tested for, they're not on the label, but that's what you're paying for. You're paying for this whole product, not just the THC. Despite the ostensible benefits one misses out on when you go for a 25 percent THC strain, we don't seem to know enough about what we're missing to even miss it.
However, that's still a long way off, as things stand. Stoners have been trained for years to get the most bang for their buck, and, as far as they've ever known, THC is that bang. Thus, it continues to be the deciding factor for many. While it may turn heads in the medical marijuana world, CBD is no one's darling in the recreational market.
The consumer fetishization of THC has lots of consequences. A recent analysis of publicly available testing data by Dr. Jim MacRae, of Straight Line Analytics, noted that the cannabis testing labs that consistently returned the highest THC results were most popular with growers, suggesting a financial incentive for labs to nudge their THC numbers. This led to the formation of new industry group, the Washington Cannabis Lab Association, that will enable labs to double check one another's work, ensuring that everyone plays by the same rules.
Meanwhile, there's an artificial supply-side deficit of high-CBD pot. Because THC-rich weed is so sought after, it takes the lion's share of the state's canopy space.
Cooley, of Solstice Cannabis, said that, while he's a huge fan of high-CBD pot, the market for it isn't there. Plenty of growers grow great high-CBD stuff—Cooley noted that many CBD strains grow "like a weed"—but it isn't exactly their cash crop. Whereas we'll harvest 20 pounds of Sour Tsunami, and it'll be sold in eight weeks," said Cooley. And it's as great to smoke as it is to look at—but if I hadn't put it out at a lower price than comparable, higher-testing strains from the same vendor, it would have sat on the shelf for a long time.
Life Gardens devotes only about a tenth of its canopy to such strains. Lowatchie, their administrative director, said, referring to retailers, "Even if we happen to have a coveted strain, if it's not high-THC, they're not interested.
Life Gardens still grows high-CBD strains, said site director Matt Begni, because it's not any more difficult or expensive to grow than regular high-THC strains, but they don't grow more than the market can bear.
Because of the low demand for high-CBD stuff in recreational stores, growers tend to minimize those strains in favor of big-ticket i. While there is a significant amount of high-CBD weed out there, it's not exactly an endless supply. In fact, they were down to just one high-CBD strain.
While most recreational stores carry at least one high-CBD product these days, and many places strive to carry more, it's still an afterthought. Many budtenders, when faced with a customer complaining of weed-induced anxiety, don't even think to recommend high-CBD strains as an alternative. People might not be as educated on the effectiveness of CBD because they don't use it, and they're just like, 'You wanna relax? If you're one of the unlucky few who doesn't react well to THC, a high dose of it can send your mind racing and set your heart rate on overdrive.
As Wilhelm put it, "It's like putting rocket fuel in a Datsun. You're going to go from 0 to miles per hour, especially if you're more prone to anxiety. Or as Iszard, the chemist, aptly put it, smoking pot that's all THC can be like "stabbing yourself in the third eye. Lathrop, despite his temporary lack of inventory, said that, as a medical professional, educating consumers and his own budtenders about CBD was a high priority for him. In fact, we really try not to purchase products with unrealistically inflated THC numbers.
While Lathrop, Wilhelm, and Downes are clear proof that low-THC strains have some advocates in the recreational retail sector, knowledge and inventory continue to be in short supply. Sadly, the hegemony of high-THC pot means that alternative options are often left off the table entirely.
Well, growers could plant significantly more CBD crops, retailers could start asking for more CBD products at wholesale, and budtenders could make it a more regular recommendation. But it ultimately falls to the consumer. Money talks, and we're the ones spending. Buying pot based on the outdated method of "highest THC for the lowest price" discourages growers from experimenting with new strains, encourages shady lab testing practices, and robs many of us of what could be a very positive experience with pot.
Ironically, it could be the least snobby potheads who bring about a change in the recreational market, by eschewing the "hottest, newest, and dankest" for some good ol' dad weed.
For your own sake and the industry's, all of you anxiety-ridden, "tried it once and hated it" types should really give high-CBD pot a chance.
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