Most people who have lived through cannabis prohibition probably have memories shopping out of someone’s living room, the back seat of a car, or at a party. If you were lucky, there was more than one option for you to choose from. This made picking a strain easy because you didn’t have many choices.

Today, when you walk into a dispensary is full of options and it can be overwhelming.

Many cannabis users tend to think of cannabis strains in the same way they think about prescriptions. They want one strain to treat a specific condition the same way that specific medications are used to treat a disease. This isn’t how cannabis works.

A full discussion of plant chemistry is beyond the scope of this course, but different strains produce different effects because of the different compounds that grow naturally inside the plant. While medical research is still underway, there is some evidence and plenty of anecdotes that suggest that the multiple and varied compounds in cannabis work together to deliver therapeutic effects. Understanding the combination of cannabinoids and terpenes and their possible medical benefits is important.

There are more than 100 cannabinoids found in cannabis. The most well-known cannabinoid is THC, but CBD has also gained in prominence starting in about 2016.

Cannabinoids are the principal compounds in cannabis that provide therapeutic relief.

Hot Tip: A 1:1 balance of THC and CBD is considered the most therapeutic place for cannabis newcomers to start.

Terpenes are the other side of the cannabis coin regarding therapeutic benefits. Terpenes are the molecules that contribute to the distinct aromas and therapeutic benefits of different essential oils. These compounds are able to interact with the human body in a manner similar to cannabinoids.

Hot Tip: Do not focus on individual terpenes, rather, focus on what a blend of individual terpenes will offer.

Once we moved past strain matching, there is a simple three-step process to matching patients to the best option available to them. There is no such thing as the perfect strain or the right strain. It’s about identifying the best option available in the dispensary.

Your patient has specific goals regarding cannabis use. These goals must be put in the context of a patient’s lifestyle. For example, if your patient is a minor, they may want to be able to play with other children. A college student may desire higher academic achievement. These lifestyle factors will impact the kind of products that will benefit the patient most.

Once you understand the patient’s goals you can eliminate different modes of administration which will narrow the number of options. 

The patient’s preferred mode of administration is going to also narrow the field. Some patients are very emotionally attached to loose flower. Other patients prize the convenience of vaping cartridges. For other patients, they may have a respiratory condition that requires oral-only options.

The patient’s preferred mode of administration will help narrow the field so you can look at the lab reports for the remaining products.

Learning to read a lab will allow you to select products that offer the right balance of cannabinoids and terpenes.

To start, we recommend patients start with a product that delivers a 1:1 balance of THC and CBD. You can skew the level of THC higher to increase psycho-active effects or increase the CBD to minimize them. Different medical conditions also benefit from differing levels of THC and CBD regardless of patient preference.

Next, you should look at the balance of terpenes in the product. You should prioritize products with terpenes whose possible benefits align with patient expectations. Typically, patients will want uplifting products for daytime use and sedating products for nighttime and pain management.