Getting a certification or renewal in Pennsylvania can be difficult enough, but walking into a dispensary and figuring out what’s best for you is the real challenge. There are hundreds of products to choose from, and each one of those products have labels that can read like a foreign language to a cannabis newbie.
We get that even if you’ve enjoyed marijuana throughout your life, you may not be an expert in things like terpenes, cannabinoids other than CBD and THC, and all the other terms and numbers listed. Many patients in the older generation scoff at such labels—weed is weed, right—but understanding what is in the products you’re buying will help you get better relief for the conditions you certified for.
Depending on your individual needs, there is no right or wrong way to shop for medical marijuana. With that said, knowledge is power, so why not follow along as we dissect PA cannabis labels to help you have the best high possible?
Understanding MMJ Labels
Product Name / Strain
This may seem like a no-brainer, but every container of cannabis sold in PA must list the product name / strain. This makes it easy for patients to document products and strains they enjoy so they can ask for them by name or remember the product if it produced a bad experience.
Cultivator / Grow
Every label on products sold in a dispensary is also required to name the company that grew the cannabis. Again, this helps people recognize companies who produce products they enjoy or dislike, even if packaging changes or the company is rebranded.
Cannabinoids are, for the most part, what imparts the medicinal, “euphoric,” and psychotropic effects of marijuana. Every product is required to state the strength of the cannabinoids in either percentage or milligram. You will most likely see a variety of cannabinoids listed, including:
THC is the cannabinoid we all know and love, this cannabinoid is what makes you feel “high.” THC can help alleviate insomnia, pain, nausea, and vomiting. Those who are experienced cannabis users may prefer products with a higher concentration of THC, while those new to medical marijuana should start with a lower concentration and work their way up.
This is a lesser known cannabinoid. It is the inactive and raw form of THC and does not convert to THC unless it is heated. THCa has many of the same medicinal benefits without the high, making it a great option for those who do not want to experience psychotropic effects.
CBD & CBDa
Neither CBD or CBDa will cause psychoactive effects, but these two cannabinoids have powerful medicinal benefits, including the ability to relieve anxiety, decrease inflammation, and more.
Every medical marijuana product must list the concentration or mass of the cannabis it contains. This is vital information because it can help patients understand their perfect dose, as well as how much they need to buy.
An up-and-coming star in the world of medical marijuana, terpenes are a very popular talking point. Terpenes are not exclusive to cannabis. They are organic compounds found in food and plants that give them a recognizable smell and flavor. Besides imparting a nice smell and flavor, terpenes are also the ingredients that correlate most closely with how the product will affect you. Keeping track of terpenes will help you identify the products that are right for you.
Note that not all brands include a terpene breakdown. If this is important to you and the product does not feature them, ask a dispensary consultant or pharmacist to help. You can also contact the brand!
Every product is required to name the testing lab, a licensed and independent lab that checks the marijuana to ensure it is safe. Independent reviews of the product, much like those conducted on food and prescriptions, help ensure you’re consuming something that is safe for your health and wellbeing.
Much like the importance of independent testing, batch numbers can help brands and grows track products to ensure quality and keep track of where they go. If, for whatever reason, a product is recalled, batch numbers ensure that the brand and dispensary know who to contact.
Every product available at a dispensary will also feature several dates, including the date the cannabis was harvested, the date the product was tested, when it was packaged, and the date it should be used by. These dates help demonstrate the freshness of their purchase, but also serve as a reminder to use it before it goes bad. Generally, cannabis is effective within a year of being harvested.
Weed is rarely just weed anymore. Of course, this applies mostly to consumables, like edibles (currently unavailable in PA), sublinguals and tinctures, which are composed of carrier oils, but also to vape cartridges that may contain flavors and sugar.