Confused? Here’s how to read cannabis labels

heres how to read cannabis labels in Massachusetts

Legal cannabis is a whole different ball game from the world of illicit market weed. Those who used to partake in black market cannabis often were accustomed to a “you get what you get” philosophy, with little information on strain selection let alone terpene or total cannabinoid content. If you’re confused looking at your legal Massachusetts cannabis label, you’re not alone. We’ll show you how to read cannabis labels so you can truly understand what’s in your weed. 

Massachusetts cannabis label requirements

Each state deals with its cannabis labeling differently. Most have key components in common, such as requirements to disclose THC content, date of manufacture, and other items. 

In Massachusetts, cannabis labels must have product information listed in a font that is large enough to be legible; include a clear identifier of the product; list the licensee name and contact information; include the net quantity of contents; list product batch codes; include ingredient lists and allergen labels for ingestibles; have a cannabis facts panel that delves into the cannabinoid content and other product information. 

Now, a lot of this information is a requirement or recommendation from the state. As a consumer, you don’t have to worry too much about everything on the label. However, having access to the licensee name, batch number, and other information is crucial in some cases, especially if you need to report an issue with a product. 

We’re going to focus on what is on the facts panel and break down how to read it. 

How to read cannabis labels

Strain names, the grower, whether it is indica/sativa/hybrid, and legal information are all typically present somewhere on a cannabis label. Additionally, you may see testing lab information and the expiration date for the results. 

This should all be generally self-explanatory, so we’re going to move on to some of the specifics that tend to confuse consumers. 

Total THC content

Most consumers want to know how much THC is in their cannabis product. It gives a good general idea of how potent the strain is, though we have previously discussed how other factors like terpene content also influence potency. 

Total THC content can range from small amounts under 5% to higher percentages like around 25%. And then there are concentrates, which can boast over 90% THC. 

Edibles are dosed a bit differently. Rather than a percentage, THC content is represented in milligrams. Most standard doses start at about 10 mg, though people tend to eat much less or more depending on their tolerance. 

You may also notice THCa listed on cannabis labels. THCa is the acid precursor to THC, and it is only activated and converted into intoxicating THC when heated, such as when smoked or baked in the oven. Because THCa loses mass when converted, the state recommends that products include the percentage concentration by weight or list weight by volume of effective THC. To get that total number, you can use the formula: 

THC effective = (THCa% x 0.877) + THC%. 

Products that list the total THC have already completed the calculation, and you can rely on the single number to give you a good idea of potency. 

The state only requires total THC to be listed and does not require companies to list other compounds. Still, many products list the breakdown of other compounds as they are key components of the specific item. The most common secondary cannabinoid listed is CBD. 

Total CBD content 

Just like THC, CBD content is often listed on cannabis products – especially since so many strains are sought after for their high CBD content. 

You will find the CBD labeling to be very similar to THC labeling. The total CBD content may be listed as one number, or you can expect to see a combination of CBDa and CBD. CBDa is the acid precursor to CBD, and just like THCa, it doesn’t activate unless heated. 

Total cannabinoids 

Some companies opt to list the total cannabinoid content for a given product. This means they have added up the total THC, CBD, and all other cannabinoids – like CBG and CBN. The total number gives you a general idea of how many cannabinoids are working synergistically when you consume the product. 

Terpene profiles 

Though less common than cannabinoid content, terpene profiles of strains are sometimes listed on the package. This breaks down the percentage of each terpene present in the strain and allows consumers to get a better idea of what kind of effects they will experience. 

Testing lab information 

We mentioned testing lab information earlier but will emphasize it once again. Cannabis products in Massachusetts must be tested for specific contaminants. Different product types have different testing requirements, but overall, you can expect to see proof of testing, along with a batch number that can be used to further verify the purity and potency of the product. Additionally, you’ll see a harvest date and a date for when the cannabis was tested. 

Final thoughts 

Cannabis vocabulary and its intricacies can be difficult to master. We hope that this guide will better prepare you to understand your cannabis products. All of the products at our Fitchburg dispensary are labeled in accordance with state guidelines. If you find yourself confused, you can always ask one of our friendly budtenders to clarify information. 

We are a recreational dispensary located in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, serving all guests 21 or over with legal identification. We carry a wide selection of brands with a variety of categories like cannabis flower, concentrates, pre-rolled joints, vaporizer cartridges, edibles, infused drinks, tinctures, topicals, and accessories. Give us a follow on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.Love The Healing Center? Leave us a review on Google or Leafly!

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