Some mainstream buyers want less potent cannabis. Photo by Getty Images
For years, the marijuana industry has been involved in a kind of arms race toward creating super-potent cannabis products. Looking to provide veteran consumers enhanced highs and more bang for the buck, manufacturers over the past few years have gone full throttle to produce cannabis offerings with greater levels of THC (the psychoactive component in weed that gets users high). But that trend looks to be ebbing, in some respects, as an increasing amount of marijuana retailers across North America position themselves toward lower-dose creations that speak to an expanding mainstream audience. Many consumers — some of whom are new to legal weed or are less-frequent users — want to sample the brave new world of pot products without the fear of marijuana’s potentially adverse side effects. That often means taking it slow and low, as far as potency is concerned.
A considerable amount of the recent activity in lower-dose products has coincided with the increasing tide of marijuana legalization over the past several years in the U.S., which now counts 31 states having legalized cannabis for medical purposes and nine states and the District of Columbia for recreational adult-use. On November 6, four more states — North Dakota, Michigan, Missouri, and Utah — will include the question of legal weed on election ballot initiatives. A prime mover for the industry has also been Canada’s historic legalization of adult-use cannabis countrywide on October 17. Being the first G7 nation to fully legalize pot, now for the first time in the country’s history, there is mass access to legal marijuana. And retailers know that many of those consumers will likely have had very little experience with weed and far less of an adventurous mindset than frequent users do.
A cannabis report by Deloitte, titled “A Society In Transition, An Industry Ready To Bloom,” highlights the shift, saying, “Legalization is expected to attract more of a conservative experimenter — typically one who is aged 35-54, has a university or graduate school education, and has family or other responsibilities. They’re expected to consume less than once a month.”
Those users are very likely to prefer dipping a toe into the cannabis waters rather than doing a rooftop cannonball into the deep end. Because a decent portion of today’s cannabis flower tests at about 18-22 percent THC content, caution is vital at those levels for anyone who isn’t a seasoned pot user. The large majority of marijuana available in North America today has been clocked between approximately 15-18 percent THC, and is typically suitable for moderate to experienced users — but still provides a considerable high-octane buzz. Now, marijuana products are showing up in the 5-10 percent THC range, many of them also rich in the very popular non-psychoactive compound cannabidiol (CBD), which the New York Times notes have taken the country by storm.
Marsha Thierry says she’s very happy to hear that there are less-potent options available now at retailers. “I’m an occasional dabbler,” she says. “A lot of the marijuana you see for sale tends to be really high in THC, and that can be intimidating. I want an amount that I can be sure I can handle. I don’t want a white-knuckle ride on a Friday night out.”