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Most consumers don't know how much THC is in cannabis edibles

Researchers say that the majority of consumers struggle to identify high THC levels

Photo (c) Fudio - Getty Images
Cannabis is becoming more popular with consumers due to more states legalizing it and major corporations infusing it into well-known products. However, researchers from the University of Waterloo in Canada have found that many people are still uninformed when it comes to edibles.

In a recent study, the researchers found that the majority of consumers can’t identify what constitutes high or low levels of THC when reading the packaging of cannabis edibles. 

“Using THC numbers to express potency of cannabis products has little or no meaning to most young Canadians,” said researcher David Hammond. “We’ve known for many years that people struggle to understand the numbers on the back of food packages and cigarette packages. Consumers seem to have equal or even more difficulty with THC numbers, which are used to indicate the potency of cannabis products.” 

Understanding potency

The goal of the study was for the researchers to gauge consumers’ understanding of cannabis edibles. To achieve that, they put a group of nearly 900 participants to the test. All of the participants were between the ages of 16 and 30, and the researchers wanted to test two primary figures: if the participants could identify how strong the product was and how many servings were in a particular package. 

When the packaging included THC levels as a percentage, most of the participants couldn’t determine the potency of the product. When it came to serving size, including the number of doses included in the package was important. 

When the dosage was indicated, 77 percent of the participants could identify the proper serving size, compared to just six percent of participants who did the same when the labeling was more ambiguous. When percentages were omitted but packages included descriptive words or symbols -- such as using a traffic light system that signified strength by color -- over 65 percent of the participants correctly determined the potency of the product.  

Rethinking labels

The researchers explained that Canadian law requires that all cannabis edibles are specifically labeled with the ingredients and the THC percentage, which typically indicates how strong the product is. However, this study proves that companies may want to rethink how they’re labeling their products, as using a more consumer-friendly approach could clear up any confusion about the strength of cannabis edibles. 

“Effective THC labeling and packaging could help reduce accidental over-consumption of cannabis edibles and adverse events, which have increased in jurisdictions that have legalized recreational cannabis,” said Hammond. 

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