Botanist dispensary building

Let’s talk about strains. The word strain has many meanings: there are musical strains, muscular strains, and, yes, marijuana strains. The latter is what one looks for when purchasing cannabis from a dispensary.

Granted, in simpler times, all that mattered was 1.) the baggie held an ounce (the metal meter on the hanging scale read “1”), 2.) no stems, no seeds (Acapulco Gold is … ), and 3. It got ya high. As the plant has grown more well known, simplicity seems quaint. To purchase intelligently and learn which plant properties alleviate aches, pains, nausea, seizures, stressors, tremors and traumas, familiarity with various forms and components of cannabis becomes essential. Strains categorize these components and forms add flexibility to how they are consumed.

Cannabis contains molecules called phytocannabinoids (plant-based cannabinoids), the most infamous of which - THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) - got ya high. An estimated 150 others include non-psychoactive CBD (cannabidiol). Each has therapeutic value. THC is associated with reductions in pain, muscle spasticity and nausea. CBD is said to help alleviate seizures, migraines, and anxiety. 

Terpenes, aka terpenoids, also contribute to cannabis’ therapeutic effects. These prolific botanical compounds give plants their aromas, sometimes lemony, piney or peppery. Despite their miniscule concentrations, terpenes may have substantial medicinal benefits and account for subtle differences in strains possessing similar cannabinoid levels. Terpenes include limonene (anti-depressant), pinene (anti-inflammatory), and caryophyllene (anti-anxiety). 

As plant-based medicine, cannabinoids and terpenes don’t function in isolation as single chemical entities. Instead, THC, CBD and the other cannabinoids, along with terpenes, work synergistically to form an “entourage effect” that makes “the whole greater the sum of its parts.”

Combinations of cannabinoids and terpenes define plant strains, the three most common being Sativa, Indica and Hybrid. Sativa is known for an energetic effect that enhances productivity and creativity. Relaxing and sedating describe Indica. Hybrids combine the effects of the two strains and can be tweaked to make one dominant while retaining qualities of the other.

Dispensaries itemize products for sale via “menus.” Some menus are easier to understand than others; all are subject to change. Ohio’s medical marijuana regulations under Ohio Administrative Code section 3796 define menu contents. Purchasable forms include dried plant flowers (vaporization only – no smoking), vape (for pens and vaporizers), edibles (gummies, chocolate bars, etc.), tinctures (under-the-tongue oil in a 25-30 ml dropper bottle), concentrates (of mostly THC) and topicals (creams and patches). Flower is also divided into tiers, with Tier 1 containing maximum 23% THC and Tier 2 topping THC at 35%. Further, total THC cannot exceed 70% in any medical marijuana product.

Cultivators give their offerings English names like the whimsical “Poochie Love,” Papaya Punch,” and “Apple Pie.” Numbers associated with these products portend potency. For flower, percentages might appear: “THC 20.0%-CBD 0.10%” or “THC 0.80%-CBD 19.10%” or “THC 7.00%-CBD 8.00%.” THC holds dominance in the first percentage set with almost zero CBD. Conversely, the second set is CBD dominant, and the third represents a balance between the two.

All other forms measure cannabinoid content in milligrams per ml, capsule, piece or patch. Here, CBD may be more prevalent. A tincture can be high in THC or CBD or roughly equal one to one  (1:1). The minimum daily purchase by law equals 110 mg THC, which crosses over to gummies, capsules and candies. Their serving sizes may range 10-20 mgs THC, but will still add to the purchasable 110 mgs, given a +/- 5% statutory margin. Patches contain 10-35 mg of THC each – but zero CBD – in packages of 1, 5 and 10. Topical creams, in contrast, come in several 1:1 THC/CBD ratios.

Looking for vape? Despite the vaping crisis, Ohio dispensaries still sell cartridges mostly in 500 mg sizes. THC can run as high as 349.7 mg, while respecting the 70% THC statutory limit (example: 349.7mg/500mg=69.94%). Oils for vaping can be purchased as well, in much larger volumes and with more milligrams of THC and CBD, still honoring the 70% THC limit. Other specialized vaping products include kief (finely ground flower), RSO (Rick Simpson Oil – highly concentrated THC oil) and shatter (breakable translucent concentrate). 

Confused? Here are a few tips:

·  Consult your recommending physician for strains that match your medical condition.

·  Research. Analyze menus for the strains and forms that interest you.

·  Embrace math. All strains and forms involve numbers. Use them to determine your preferred levels of THC, CBD or both.

·  Start low, go slow. Novices might try lower THC ratios over shorter timeframes.

·  Write it down. Log your purchases to determine which strains work best over time. 

·  Trial and error. Use small quantities of various strains until you find one you like.

Welcome to a Brave New World. Happy cannashopping!

Dispensary Review – The Botanist

And the award for the best dispensary menu goes to … The Botanist! Located in Columbus’ Arena District, The Botanist places a priority on education and empowering patients. Important to achieving that goal is an organized and informative menu. Updated daily, the menu in PDF format reflects The Botanist’s dedication and attention to detail that, in turn, create a warm, friendly patient-centered experience. Adding to that, a pharmacist and students from the OSU College of Pharmacy are available to assist patients and collect badly needed data on strains, forms and medical conditions. As Rony Sinharoy, The Botanist’s Designated Representative notes, “To be recognized for our efforts means a lot and we will continue to make improvements that better serve our customers.”


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