Informed High - Becoming Informed about Cannabis

Canadian Cannabis Labels and Packaging

What Consumers need to know

While it took a couple of years, Canadian’s now have access to the full suite of cannabis products. With a staged release, Cannabis 2.0 opened up edibles, beverages, topicals, and concentrates for consumers. If any of these terms is new to you, don’t worry, you’ll understand it well by the end of this blog post. Readers will learn all about the packages and labels found on legal Canadian Cannabis. The focus is on recreational cannabis products, although it applies to medical Cannabis as well. 

Cannabis Product Types

With newer technologies, the valuable compounds in Cannabis are being extracted and concentrated in ways never seen before. Numerous products are being developed and entering the market at all times. We’ll learn what to expect to see on labels and how to read that information to get what you need. I’ll decipher the jargon so that you can be sure about what you’re buying and consuming. I won’t be talking about strains today, for a conversation on sativa and indica read this. I also wrote about the experience of buying Cannabis online, which you can read here.

Even more Cannabis Products types and Labels

Canadian Cannabis Products

Today we’ll learn about the standard types of cannabis products, and how the delivery methods differ. I’ll focus on the products found in legal cannabis industries right now, with a specific focus on the legal Canadian cannabis market.

The most significant difference between cannabis products is in their delivery method. Each requires different steps to consume, produces differing effects, and with various timeframes. This can make Cannabis a bit tricky for the novice. I’ll ignore the science behind delivery methods at this point, and stick with introducing the various types of cannabis products. Look for a future post to explain the impacts of different delivery methods. For now, check out this post on the timing of effects. Let’s start with some basics to get us all on the same page.

Bilingual Labels

Expect all cannabis labels to be bilingual, as that is the law here in Canada. Sadly this requirement for English and French language can make labels look even more overbearing and hard to read. This won’t change, so just ignore the French and focus on the English (unless you prefer French, like any Québécois reading this). 

The THC Warning Label

Expect to see this on all products, sometimes more than once. This legally mandated logo must be on all cannabis products, including vape carts or batteries. Not much to worry about with this, but the symbol does let you know you bought a legal product, at least.

THC Warning Label

Health Warnings

Expect to see these yellow health warnings on all your product labels. It may seem a bit odd reading about edibles on a dried flower box, or vice-versa. But that is just the way it is since each company must print all the different warnings in roughly equal numbers. Some of the poor wording on initial health warnings have been changed to be less inaccurate or vague. Overall, these warnings are reasonable, and I’m glad they are there. Sadly, labels can become quite large when all this information is included. 

Cannabis Health Warnings on Labels

Expiry Dates

All products, except Cannabis plants, seeds, and Edibles, will display the expiry date. This describes how long the product should be stable when stored under appropriate conditions. Keep your bud in cool, dark, and dry spaces. Keep oils, beverages, and some edibles in the fridge to help keep them more fresh. 

THC versus ‘Total THC’

For simplicity’s sake, you can ignore the THC number, focusing instead on the total THC content. This can be confusing for many new consumers. The reason for this distinction is because many products, including Dried Flower, do not yet contain much THC. Inside these products, you will find the compound THCA, which is not psychoactive. Heat will convert THCA to THC, and this is the number expressed by total THC. It describes how much THC the product will have when used as intended. 

Total THC and total CBD on Labels

CBD versus ‘Total CBD’

The same thing for CBD, with CBDA found in buds and CBD created with heat. Both do not have the impairing psychoactive kick that THC has. Heat converts CBDA into CBD to make it more bioavailable for your body. For the chart below, I’ve excluded the non-total number, and when reading labels, I suggest you do the same. Keep it simple, focus on the Total CBD and Total THC to get the information you need to know.

In Discrete units

This refers to products with separated portions for consumption. It includes joints, capsules, edibles, and any product that has divided sections within one package. On the other hand, dried flower and cannabis oil count as a single unit, although you can split it up and dose it yourself. 

Aurora CBD Liquid-gels in Discrete Units

Measurements

THC and CBD content will either be expressed by a quantity (mg) or a concentration (mg/g). Liquid forms may show mg/ml as well. Remember that 1000 milligrams (mg) make one gram (g). For quick conversion, 3.5 grams is about an eighth, and 28 grams is around an ounce.  Below you’ll find a table that outlines they essential differences between how different products will list their THC and CBD content. As mentioned, I’m only including the ‘total’ numbers as they are the ones to watch.

Cannabis Class In Separate Units Single Units
Dried or

Fresh cannabis

Not intended for inhalation

Total THC per unit __ mg

Total CBD per unit __ mg

Intended for inhalation

Total THC __ mg/g

Total CBD __ mg/g

Total THC __ mg/g 

Total CBD __ mg/g

Cannabis Extract Not intended for inhalation

Total THC per unit __ mg

Total CBD per unit __ mg

Intended for inhalation

Total THC __ mg/g

Total CBD __ mg/g

Total THC __ mg/g

Total CBD __ mg/g

Cannabis Topical Total THC per unit __ mg or mg/g

Total CBD per unit __ mg or mg/g

Total THC __ mg or mg/g

Total CBD __ mg or mg/g

Edible Cannabis Total THC per unit __ mg

Total THC __ mg

Total CBD per unit __ mg

Total CBD __ mg

Total THC __ mg

Total CBD __ mg

The Cannabis Product Types

Cannabis products are divided into categories based on what they are and how they were made. You’ll see Dried Cannabis labeled as Flower or Dried. Fresh Cannabis includes seeds, plants, and future product offerings like juices made from leaves. Cannabis extracts are made from cannabinoids (THC and CBD) extract from the dried flower and condensed. Cannabis topicals are creams and lotions that have THC, and CBD added to them. Edible Cannabis includes any food or drinks that have been infused with THC or CBD. We’ll go through each of these in-depth through the rest of this post. 

Dried Flower

Dried flower is just the technical name for cannabis buds. These are the usual nugs most of us have seen at one time or another. These can vary from popcorn-sized buds to single pieces that can weigh multiple grams. These can be bought in sizes ranging from 1-gram through 28-gram pouches. Expect to see containers at the following increments: 1, 3.5, 7, 15, and 28-gram containers. One of the reasons why I discussed Dried Flower first is because it is the reference point for the other products. This is due to the Canadian law, which dictates a dried flower equivalency so that we can all stay under the legal 30-gram limit for purchases and personal carrying.

Dried Flower – Cannabis Buds

Dried Flower Equivalency

While I have some issues with the methodology, Health Canada has created guidelines for how much each other product is equivalent to Dried Flower. This is because here in Canada, we have a 30 gram limit on purchases and personal carry limits. And so, we need to convert all these other products into that format so we can keep track. Sadly, the equivalencies used do not align with the amount of THC in the product. I hope they improve this system over time, as a cannabis beverage can be worth 5-6 grams on your cart while only containing 2-mg of THC. Yet, one gram of Cannabis can have 100-200 grams of THC or more. 

Cannabis Class Dried Flower Equivalency
Dried Cannabis 1-gram
Fresh Cannabis 5-grams
Solids containing Cannabis 15-grams
Non-solids containing Cannabis 70-grams
Cannabis concentrates 0.25-grams
Cannabis plant seeds 1 seed

 

Breaking down Cannabis Categories

While the categories described above are how these products are categorized legally, you’ll see different breakdowns online and in-store. The next few sections will go through each of these, describing the various terms use and what they are describing. We’ll also discover the key factors to consider when exploring each of these product types.

Featured and New Sections

Check out what products are featured by your distributor, along with new product offerings under this category. The exact products will be of all the various types, but this category is useful for seeing what’s new. You may find a ‘back in stock’ option to find the bud you’ve been waiting to buy. Some websites also have a section for price-drops or sales. 

Dried Cannabis

You may see the category labeled ‘dry’ or ‘flower,’ but it all means the same thing. This is where you will find cannabis buds to buy. I’ve discussed them above, so I won’t add too much here. Factors you should explore include where the bud was grown, under what conditions, and what methods were used for trimming. Also, pay attention to the THC and CBD percentages, expressed in a range. You can also determine which terpenes are most prevalent in the bud so you can buy the right weed for you. 

Dried Flower

Pre-Rolls

This is where you’ll find cannabis buds in discrete units, in the form of joints. They come in packs of 1-5, usually either 0.5-gram or 1-gram in size. Prices are generally displayed per gram, so you can compare the price to that of dried flower that you have to roll yourself. These products can be a bit more expensive, but you’re paying for the convenience of not having to roll your joints. 

Cannabis Seeds

This section has been sorely lacking in options, but this is changing. As the summer growing season approaches, check out the seeds section if you’re considering growing cannabis plants at home. This is an excellent option for cost-effective weed, if you have the time, energy, and capabilities needed to grow, harvest, trim, and cure your weed. 

Cannabis Plants

These are even harder to find that cannabis seed. Partly due to the tricky problem of delivering these plants alive and well. Once they sort out the technical side of things, Canadians will be able to have baby plants delivered to your door so that you can take control from there. This saves you from having to germinate and plant a seed, reducing risks of failure in those early stages. 

An older Cannabis plant then you’ll be able to buy

Cannabis Edibles

Often just labeled as ‘Edibles,’ you’ll find different breakdowns of these products depending on the website. Usually, beverages are included under here as well, along with chews, chocolates, baked goods, and various similar breakdowns.

Pay close attention to the dose per piece, and total package amount. Edibles can have up to 10-mg of THC  per container. Pieces may contain 2-mg each or there may be one big piece with the entire 10-mg limit. Also, consider what type of extraction process was used to make the product, along with other essential factors like shelf-live and storage conditions. 

Nutrition Facts Table

Cannabis edibles will always contain a nutrition facts table. This table is pretty similar to the ones found on all other food products in Canada, including the French translation. Expect to see any sources of food allergens or glutens, as this is legally mandated. Same with potential cross-contamination risks. If you have allergies or health concerns, pay close attention to this table to find the critical information you need. 

Cannabis Nutrition Facts Table

Cannabis Oils

‘Cannabis oils’ was originally part of this chart. It was merged into the Cannabis concentrates column after the release of Cannabis 2.0. You will still see Cannabis oils under product categories, often under ‘extracts’ or ingestible extracts.’ Cannabis capsules, which contain Cannabis Oil, can usually be found under the same sections. You may see ‘Sprays,’ which are just cannabis oils with containers that disperse the oil in sprays instead of through the eye-droppers usually found with cannabis oils. If you get Cannabis Oil, check out how strong it is per ml, and then pay close attention to the measurements on the eye-dropper to ensure you get the right dose. 

Inhalable Extracts

Ingestible extracts like oils and capsules are ones you swallow. Inhalable extracts are modern cannabis extracts used for smoking, vaping, or dabbing. Products may include rosin, vape carts, hash, kief, sift, and more to come. Vape carts require ‘batteries’ to use, and some of these carts may be product-specific or using the standard and exchangeable ‘510’ thread design. When buying these products, look into whether they are 100% Cannabis or if they use additives like terpenes from other natural sources. 

Cannabis Topicals

Expect to see a growing product offering under this category, but not much right now. All of these products will be for use on your skin. None of them are meant for use on broken skin or around the eyes or mouth. Talk to a medical professional if you think topical Cannabis may help with what ails you. Keep in mind that THC administered topically will produce minimal or no psychoactive effects.

Cannabis Accessories – like this grinder and rolling papers

Cannabis Accessories

The last product type I should also include is accessories. Online stores (link) are seeing a growing offering of cannabis tools and devices for consumers of all experience levels. Check out your Provincial website to see what accessories they are selling. Expect to see rolling papers, filters, rolling trays, vaporizers, grinders, bongs, storage containers, cleaning supplies, and more. Look into humidity-controlling pouches to help keep large amounts of Cannabis fresh over time. Check back over time to see what new accessories come to the market. 

Final Thoughts

To go from being unlawful to having an ever-expanding product offering, we’ve come a long way here in Canada. I hope Canadians are proud of the progress we’ve made and push for even more growth. I hope this article helps provide the key facts you need to know when exploring various products and their labels. Stay safe by starting low with any dosage and slowly increasing it over time. 

mm

Arnold Warkentin

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