Category: Cannabinoids

What We Talk about When We Talk about “Top Shelf” Cannabis, PART ONE

Terms like “Top Shelf” get thrown around quite a bit in the cannabis world, and we thought it was about time we talked about the fact that every brand and every retail shop has their own meaning for those qualifiers. We think it’s important that you, as a cannabis consumer, understand that and are able to form your own set of priorities when it comes to the products your purchase, rather than letting the shop or the grower do so for you.

Is high THC your jam?

Rare or hard to grow cultivations?

Pesticide-free herb?

Not sure at all, and would like a little guidance? We feel you. We decided the best way to tackle this conversation would be to lay out a few common quality-based categories and let you know where we stand on them. Whether or not you share our priorities, we figured this would be a great starting point for our customers, and recreational cannabis customers as a whole, to start thinking about what really goes into the products they choose. So with that, let’s dive in!

We decided to start with everyone’s favorite hot topic, TESTING RESULTS

Whether your priority is a THC content inching close to 30%, a healthy dose of CBD, or a specific terpene you keep an eye out for, we all look at testing results as a mark of quality. How can we not? With state mandated numbers clearly marked on each package, it’s often the easiest way to compare Option A with Option B. When we talk about testing results, even though they are coming from state-licensed laboratories, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. Those results are only truly, honestly, 100% indicative of the sample that was sent to the lab. For most growers, sending a sample means submitting a pretty damn good looking bud, and hoping for the best. While we all like to think that we only produce THE BEST buds in every harvest, the truth is that quality and potency vary from bud to bud, from plant to plant, even within the same harvest of the same strain. Is that variance a lot? We can’t be entirely sure, though we’ve read that the variance for THC percentage can be as much as 12% between a bud harvested from the top of the plant versus the bottom. These are natural, living plants we’re talking about after all! When you’re looking at numbers, keep in mind that you’re looking at the results given to one very small sampling from up to 5 pounds of product.

  2. You know how I said above that “for most growers” getting good results means submitting a good looking sample and hoping it reflects good results? Well, while that’s true for most growers, please be aware that there are others that are altering these samples before sending them. Whether that means rolling them in kief to boost potency, or something similar, customers do need to know that this is real and it is happening. While it’s easily reduced to heresay and gossip, we’ve had these practices confirmed by multiple testing labs we’ve worked with, and we take their existence very seriously. We’re not broadcasting this to convince you to buy Raven, but as a broader encouragement to talk to your retailer about the brands you buy. Ask questions of your shops in order to build trust in their decisions regarding which brands they carry.

  3. Speaking of testing labs, did you know that the same sample, ground up and sent to three different labs can bring you three different sets of results? It’s very true. Some of the variance stems from honest differences in their approach to testing standards and practices based on the guidelines put forth by the state. Then, there is the talk of the dishonest differences. It’s pretty widely known within the growing community that testing with certain labs will gain you higher potency numbers. Are we going to come out and accuse certain labs of falsely inflating test results? No, there are plenty of people pointing those fingers already, and we’re sure there will be more public conversations to come. What we want you to understand is that honest or not, there are discrepancies in testing results from lab to lab. If numbers are truly important to you, especially THC content, then get to know your labs. Each shop is required to provide you with testing information for the strains they carry. If high numbers are your thing, do a bit of research online and be sure that the labs that are providing those high results are reporting low-testing numbers as well.

  4. We love terpenes. We love learning about them and we love sharing that information with you all. We’ve been having our product tested for terpene content since our first harvest and reporting those results to you. We believe that those results are really helpful when it comes to choosing a strain that’s right for you, once you learn how the various terpenes effect your experience. Certain terpenes are known to enhance (Myrcene) or calm (β-Caryophyllene) the psychoactive effects of THC, and will most certainly effect your experience! We’ve learned as we’ve tried various testing labs in the state that terpene information is not a priority for many growers, and thus not a priority for many labs. While there are quite a few that claim to test for them, we have gotten some INSANE results from labs who aren’t as up to date on their terpene testing procedures. Lesson learned, if those terpene numbers look crazy (like, above 10% total terpenes for flower), they are likely not accurate.

Though we may sound like Fox Mulder with his “trust no one” refrain, we’re actually encouraging you to do the opposite.

Get to know your bud-tenders, and help them know what’s important to you when it comes to your cannabis experience. High THC numbers don’t necessarily mean a more intense experience, which may seem counterintuitive, but bear with us. There are numerous cannabinoids and terpenes that make up the chemical constituents of each cannabis strain, and all of those in combination is what produces the effect when their consumed. This “entourage effect” will effect everyone’s body chemistry differently. When we do strain testing internally, we’ve found that members of the team will have incredibly different responses to the same strains.

Speak to your bud-tenders and find someone who shares your strain preferences to align you with someone who has a similar reaction to your own. If you don’t have a lot of previous cannabis experience, just explain what you would like your experience to be like (social, creative, relaxing, insomnia aid, etc) and start trying!

We hope this proves helpful in your strain selection experience. If you’re interested in learning more about the diverse effects cannabinoids and terpenes have on the body, check out The Leaf Online’s excellent terpene and cannabinoid profile series. We’ll cover them later on the blog as well. Next week, we’re tackling more top shelf issues– what it really means to both grow pesticide free cannabis and to smoke it.