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Our Guide to Finding Quality Cannabis

By Kim Hughes

In Search of Quality

When it comes to things like food, wine or textiles, most of us have a clear idea of what constitutes high quality. A Grand Cru from Burgundy, for example, is almost certain to be exceptional. Ditto any hotel bed decked out in 800 thread count Egyptian cotton sheets or a meal made with just-picked, locally sourced ingredients.

But when seeking high-quality medical cannabis, what should you look for?

As with the above-mentioned items, provenance is a consideration. Be sure to purchase from a reputable licensed producer. High-grade medical cannabis, if grown from superior genetics, provided with proper conditions, and cured correctly, will be both potent and safe.

There are a few other things to think about. Depending on the strain of cannabis you choose (defined as the “variations or descendants from a common ancestor" with sativa and indica being most commonly used in developing medical strains), characteristics such as taste, smell, potency, and chemical composition will change.

Do you smell pine or citrus or maybe mint on your buds? All are good though indicative of different medicinal effects. Health Canada includes terpenes — the organic compounds that gives cannabis its aroma and flavour — on its Drugs and Health Products list.

Another factor: the degree of the plant's dryness. It should be dry to the touch and all plant stems should snap easily. Moisture and malleability — or extreme dryness to the point of becoming powdery when handled — are signs of poor quality. You also should not see many (if any) seeds in your product.

In addition to health warning messages on packages (do not use during pregnancy or breastfeeding, keep out of reach from children, for example), THC and CBD information serves as a helpful guideline. THC (a.k.a. tetrahydrocannabinol) is the psychoactive compound that causes you to get “high.” CBD (cannabidiol) is responsible for many of the plants’ physical effects in medically treating everything from anxiety and pain to insomnia and nausea. A sensible rule of thumb is the higher the percentage of CBD, the more likely to deliver an effective medical benefit, this is not say that THC does not have therapeutic properties. THC is not commonly sought out as a first line medicine for day to day ailments because of its psychoactive properties.

As with most things, though, “quality” often comes down to personal preference. Just as some people prefer cheddar to provolone, some medical cannabis users will prefer one strain over another, depending on a wide range of expectations and requirements. And there are countless strains available, 600+ based on some sources.

For example, medical indica strains can make you feel relaxed and sleepy, helping with chronic pain, insomnia, anxiety and muscle spasms associated with Parkinson’s disease and Multiple Sclerosis. These are usually consumed at night or just before going to sleep.

By contrast, medical sativa strains can make you feel energetic and euphoric, helping with migraines, depression, and nausea, and are best used when you need to be alert. There are also multiple ways to consume cannabis (smoking, edibles, applied via skin cream) with each method impacting users differently. As with any drug, getting the dosage just right can take time, trial, and research.

Kim Hughes is a widely published entertainment/lifestyle writer and editor whose work has appeared on marquee websites and in print publications throughout North America. She lives in Toronto and is a proud volunteer with Annex Cat Rescue.

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