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January 7th, 2022
If you have already received your Utah medical cannabis card, then you are ready to make your first purchase. You may be wondering what kind of product is right for you and how much you should take.
Whether your aim is to lower pain, ease anxiety, or get help with a major condition like MS, there is a perfect dose and product for you. Learn more below.
A typical “standard unit” that is used for most research studies on cannabis is 2.5mg to 5 mg THC. Being consistent with this amount helps researchers compare findings across investigations. (1)
That being said, unfortunately, there are no set guidelines for what makes up a “standard dose” for an actual patient. Most experts recommend starting out low with a MED (i.e., Minimum Effective Dose) of about half the research dose, or 2.5 mg THC. Experts also warn not to go over roughly 40 mg THC per day. (2) We will go over how to find your unique MED a little later in this article.
For many people, using a product that specifically offers a lower dose of THC is a refreshing option. Low or “micro-doses'' of THC can produce the effects that you desire without making you feel out of control. Low Dose THC can come in a variety of modalities.
First of all, there is using extremely low dose THC, also known as “micro-dosing.” A microdose of THC would be 1mg to 2.5mg for most patients. Microdosing is great for patients who are new to cannabis, are worried about side effects, or have a heart or liver condition and want to be extra careful.
A recent study at the University of Illinois in Chicago gave one group of participants a low dose of 7.5 milligrams of THC in capsule form. They gave another group a moderate dose of about 12.5 milligrams. They then had participants in both groups perform high-stress tasks. Based on feedback and biochemical measurements, they discovered that those who were given the moderate amount of THC actually experienced more negatively related stress as well as more difficulties with recall than those who took the low dose amount. (3)
Another form of low-dose THC comes in the form of “low THC cannabis flower” For this consumption method, whole dried cannabis flower is usually between 8-15% THC. Anecdotal evidence indicates that low THC strains can be just as effective in providing relief for common symptoms than strains with higher THC.
Consuming low-dose medical cannabis may also allow a person to experience more of the “entourage effect” from cannabis phytonutrients combined. Some examples of low THC strains available through WholesomeCo include Triple Chocolate Chip and Mai Tai Mint.
Many people new to medical cannabis ask the question: Can you overdose on weed?
According to most experts, overdosing on medical cannabis is pretty much impossible. Even the CDC states that “(a) fatal marijuana overdose is unlikely.” (4)
That being said, there are some considerations that you should know about. The first one is that, if you take too much there is a good chance that you will experience uncomfortable side effects. These may include:
If you take too much THC, ultimately all you can do is simply wait it out or “sleep it off.” Eventually, the side effects will lessen. There are also things you can do to calm down as well as to help shorten the wait time for “coming down.”
Another factor to consider is pharmaceutical drug interaction. Research has discovered so far that CBD (found in both THC-containing cannabis and hemp) can increase the concentration of SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) in the body. (5)
When it comes to THC, even less is known. Some research indicates that interactions tend to be mild in general. A report published in the journal Experimental Biology also found that THC in combination with opioids may actually help patients to gradually ween off these highly addictive drugs. (6)
That being said, it is wise to start with lower doses of THC when taking SSRIs, opioids, or other pharmaceuticals at the same time. It is also vitally important that you work with your doctor or another professional, such as the Doctorate-level pharmacists available at WholesomeCo, to monitor any adverse reactions that may occur right away or over time.
Here are some general guidelines for three of the most common conditions that people may use medical cannabis for:
Study after study has proven the efficacy of cannabis for sleep. Because most people wish to fall asleep quickly, the preferred method of consumption for most is vaping. Studies also show that “short-term, low-dose delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) cannabis products can have a mildly sedative effect.” Low-dose THC can help you to fall asleep faster and can increase total sleep time sleep quality. However, studies have shown that high-dose THC may actually have the opposite effect. (7)
Pain is a very broad category. Many medical cannabis patients use THC to help with moderate muscular pain and fatigue. An international task force addressing health care professionals wishing to offer medical cannabis as an alternative to opioids for moderate pain had the following 2020 recommendations:
“Treat the majority of patients along the ‘routine’ scale. This means starting patients with 5 mg of cannabidiol (CBD) twice daily. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) should only be introduced if patients do not respond to at least 40 mg of CBD daily, starting with 2.5-mg daily THC doses. THC doses should be capped at 40 mg daily.” (8)
One suggestion if you are wanting to simply “get through the day” yet still be productive is to take a low amount of THC via gelatinous cube. This would mean typically 1-5 mg THC and CBD, preferably taken with a meal so that the THC would absorb slowly and the pain and inflammation reducing effects would last all day. To discuss your particular situation, needs, and preferred method of consumption for pain, be sure to reach out to one of our Doctorate-level pharmacists.
Like pain, anxiety can manifest in a range of conditions and symptoms such as OCD, Social Anxiety Disorder, Pain Disorder, PTSD, and generalized anxiety.
CBD-only cannabis as well as THC has been found to help nurture and strengthen the endocannabinoid system. In turn this helps to rebalance hormonal levels and neurotransmitter firings related to the “rest and relaxation response,” as well as boost corresponding “feel good” substances like serotonin. (9)
Like forms of anxiety, forms of medical cannabis that can help are diverse as well. People use pretty much all dosing methods to help with their anxiety, including vaping and cubes, depending on their need.
The best advice is to first determine your MED (see section below) and then start out slow with the equivalent of about 2 mg THC (or one puff of an 8%-15% THC vape). Monitor your results and especially take note if the amount you just consumed helped to calm your anxiety or actually increased it. Increasing anxiety may mean that you have consumed too much THC.
Many conditions, such as those mentioned above, respond best to specific ways of consuming cannabis. Likewise, each consumption method varies in terms of units used to measure THC content as well as strength levels. Here is a very brief rubric for the methods of consumption legally available in Utah:
Smoking dried cannabis herb (in a joint or pipe, for example) is illegal in the state of Utah. However, utilizing flower in a vape or atomizer is permitted. THC levels in flower are measured by percentage. These percentages vary greatly from 8% to 30% THC content.
For dried cannabis flower, less than 15% THC is considered “mild” or “low THC.” Over 15% is mid-range and over 20% is considered strong. It is important that you are aware of the source and cultivar of your product.
The most important thing to remember when it comes to flower is that the onset of the effect will be quick. These effects will peak at in 20 to 30 minutes. The total amount of time that the effects will be felt will vary but is from 90 minutes to 3 hours. If you are a beginner, start with a low dose flower and wait 15 minutes between inhales to see how the product affects you before taking more.
Vapes come in various shapes, sizes, and technologies. Some vapes allow you to use dried flower in them. Most vapes, however, utilize a “cart,” or cartridge containing cannabis oil. Some THC levels in vape pens are measured by percentage, but most are measured by milligrams.
Because vapes produce inhaled cannabis in vapor form, the product will enter directly into your lungs and directly into the bloodstream when you inhale. Thus, whether it is flower or THC oil that you vape, it is essential that you understand how the particular brand you are using calculates and converts THC percentages and milligrams for the cultivars that that brand uses. It is also important that you check for fillers in vape carts since artificial ingredients, preservatives, and other additives may have an adverse effect on you.
All of the vape products available at WholesomeCo have passed stringent inspection to make sure they are free of added harmful additives. Be sure to consult with a WholesomeCo pharmacist if you are unsure of conversion rates when using a vape product for the first time.
“Edibles” such as cookies, brownies, and candies are illegal in the state of Utah. However, consumable products called “gelatinous cubes” are legal in the state and can be found at your local Utah dispensary.
Gelatinous cubes are quite different than vape carts or flower since they are consumed orally and must pass through the digestive system in order for effects to take place. The digestive process transforms THC into 11-hydroxy-THC. This is a cannabinoid compound that tends to be more potent and lasts longer than vaped cannabis. When consuming a gelatinous cube, it can take anywhere from a half hour to two hours for effects to kick in. These effects can last anywhere from three to eight hours, depending on your unique metabolism, whether you ate a meal before consuming, and the THC edible dosage amount.
The THC content of gelatinous cubes are typically measured by mg (milligram). One to two mg is considered a micro-dose. Between 2 and 5 is considered a low dose. Between 5 and 10 is considered a moderate amount. Above 10 mg at a time is usually reserved for specific conditions or for experienced users who have found their MED through intensive trial and error.
The basic rule of thumb for gelatinous cubes is to go “low and slow” when first starting out. Start with 1-2.5 mg, which in most cases will be ¼ to ½ of a cube. Be sure to not consume alcohol at the same time that you are consuming a gelatinous cube. Also, be aware that consuming a cube on an empty stomach can amplify the effects. Be sure to wait a full 24 hours between dosings and to record the effects in a journal so you can determine your MED.
Tinctures are created via combining cannabis extracts with oil to make them easy to dose. Tinctures can be consumed “straight” under the tongue or mixed with food or drink.
The rapidity and way that tinctures affect you are directly related to how you use them. Taking tinctures directly under the tongue bypasses the digestive process and allows the cannabinoids to crossover into the bloodstream. Therefore, the effects will occur a lot quicker, usually within 15 minutes to a half-hour after consumption. These effects can last from 3 to 8 hours.
When tinctures are mixed with food or drink, then THC must go through the digestive process. Like we explained above, the amount of time it will take for effects to take place will be longer, usually between half hour to two hours. However, these effects can last for 6 to 8 hours.
A general suggestion if you are just starting out with a tincture is to start with about 2 mg of THC plus other cannabinoids and wait for the results. Record the effects in a journal to determine your MED. Then wait another 24 hours before you experiment more.
Most THC concentrates contain a very high percentage of THC, usually 60-99%. Concentrates can be used in oil, in tincture, or by “dabbing.” When using concentrates in oil or tincture, an extremely small amount is first ingested, usually about the size of a grain of rice. When dabbing, the substance is heated to create a vapor and then inhaled. Other words for “dabs” of THC are wax, shatter, budder, sauce, and crumble.
Concentrates are usually only recommended for the most experienced medical cannabis patients or by need based on condition. Again, be sure to talk to your Wholesome professional to discuss your unique situation.
You may have already figured this out by now, but it is worth repeating. Everyone’s journey with cannabis is unique. We are all dealing with unique conditions, unique bodies, and unique tolerance levels for cannabis.
If you are a beginner, it is vital that you remember to go “low and slow” when determining the dose that is just right for you. This particular dose amount is often referred to as the “Minimum Effective Dose,” or MED. As a beginner, your aim is to find the minimum amount of THC that will give you the effect you want to experience. Finding your MED can help your health and save you money!
But finding your MED takes time. We suggest first taking a look at your condition and choosing the consumption method that will work for you. Then start with a small amount, usually 2 mg THC or one inhale on a vape with an 8-15% cannabis cultivar. Keep a journal and write down your experiences each time as well as the dose amounts and other factors (such as if you ate a meal right before). Be sure to wait a full 24 hours (if consuming a cube or tincture in food or drink) or at least 3-5 hours for vaping before taking another dose.
In general, by going “low and slow” and taking your time, you can adjust your dosage each time you consume. This will save you from negative side effects as well as save you money in the long run!
In addition, remember that THC/CBD levels and legal Utah consumption methods are not the only factors you need to consider when looking for the perfect medical cannabis product. When shopping for products, consider terpene profiles, brand quality (including certificates of analysis), and cultivar information.
Eventually, you will find your MED and the best, high-quality products for you. Armed with this information, a whole new world of possibility can open up for you!
And, of course, if you have any questions whatsoever, don’t hesitate to give our team of Doctorate-level pharmacists a call! They offer a FREE “Cannabis Curious” consultation and most inquiries are answered within 24 hours!