Determining THC Percentage: Just how accurate is it?

If you go into any dispensary and buy your favorite flower, it is almost a guarantee that you can find the THC percentage somewhere on the label.

THC is the magic ingredient to cannabis that will get you higher than a kite. There is a good bit of interesting science that goes into determining the THC levels for any marijuana product.

If you’ve paid attention to any of the labels at a dispensary, you may have noticed different percentages listed. There is THC, CBD, THCA, and CBDA. I will be breaking these down and how they are determined.

Knowing the differences between these percentages won’t necessarily change how you enjoy your cannabis. However, it is a fascinating science and it can improve your overall experience with marijuana.


The first thing to differentiate is THCA and THC. Any label that has been tested will show a percentage for both, or it will say total THC.

THCA is what is already present in cannabis before it is exposed to heat. When the flower reaches a certain temperature, it converts to THC. So, if you were to eat cannabis before heating it in any way, there would be no psychoactive effects.

A lot of dispensaries now require products to be tested in a lab, which means that the THCA percentage should be pretty reliable. Now, determining the total THC accurately is where it gets a bit more complicated, but I will explain that later.

Professional scientists have studied the conversion from THCA to THC, and which methods get the most accurate results. The truth is, the actual total THC you will consume will be different for everyone.

What makes its way onto the label is what scientists have determined to be the closest estimation for each tested flower. This process is the same for CBD and CBDA. CBD is the non-psychoactive component of cannabis, but it has plenty of its own benefits that won’t get you high.

In order to better understand the accuracy of these labels, I will need to explain decarboxylation.


This fancy-sounding term is the process of heating up cannabis. Decarboxylation is an absolutely necessary process in order to enjoy marijuana. Whether you prefer smoking joints, vaporizing extracts, or cooking up your own edibles, every method of consumption requires decarboxylation.

Decarboxylation simply means heating up the flower or extract enough to convert THCA or CBDA to CBD and THC. Whichever method you prefer to consume marijuana can have an effect on this process, which changes how much THC actually gets converted.

When you use a lighter and smoke cannabis, this is using combustion to convert the THC or CBD. It works perfectly fine, but it can actually overheat some of the flowers, which doesn’t convert the maximum amount of THC.

For maximum results, vaporizing cannabis is actually the most efficient way to get the highest amount of THC. But it really just comes down to personal preference. Marijuana can convert to CBN when it is exposed to too much heat quickly, which just means that it is past the point of convertible THC.

This is why the percentages on labels will never be fully accurate. Scientists can get an accurate estimate in a lab, but they are always testing under perfect circumstances. However, in reality, it will be different for each person.

Someone who prefers pre-rolls will not get the most THC possible compared to someone who vaporizes the same flower. The process of heating the cannabis actually changes the total THC you consume.

In Conclusion

Determining the THC percentages is a fascinating process. It is interesting to learn about just how much research goes into testing cannabis.

As marijuana becomes legal across the states, the testing and science behind the flower are only going to get better. This will result in even more potent and incredible strains.

At the end of the day, the THC percentages on the labels are just approximations. It all comes down to how you consume it, and whether maximizing the THC even matters to you personally.

I have no doubt that you will still enjoy marijuana whether or not you are getting the most THC from each puff. So take a hit, sit back, and enjoy the high.

Originally published on Loud News Net on January 26, 2021.

Author: Brent Arwine

Brent Arwine is a freelance writer currently enjoying life in Southern California. When he isn’t reading comic books or watching Lord of the Rings, he is checking out local concerts or chilling at the beach.

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