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How Do I Pick the Right Cannabis Flower at the Dispensary?

Updated: Sep 24, 2022

Going to the dispensary for the first (or the thousandth) time can be a stressful experience. With the high prices of cannabis products in most markets, you want to make sure you are getting the best bang for your buck - right? In this guide, I hope to help point out the key things to look for when purchasing cannabis flower (note: there will be accompanying guides for edibles + tinctures, concentrates, vape cartridges and more).

When picking cannabis flower, how can you make sure you get the best deal? Well, to make it easy, there are a few easy indicators that can tell you whether a product fits your needs and is worth spending your hard-earned money on.

Sativa, Hybrid, or Indica?

The cannabis plant has 3 naturally occurring families: Cannabis Sativa, Cannabis Indica and Cannabis Ruderalis. Cannabis Ruderalis has been largely bred out of modern Cannabis (a subject deserving of its own post), which leaves us with Sativa, Indica, and Hybrid (mixed) Strains.

But what does this mean?

As a general rule, cannabis sativa plants will leave you feeling more awake, while indica plants will lean toward a sleepy feeling. Hybrid strains will be somewhere in the middle of the two. This is an important distinction when looking at Cannabis and how you plan to use it. Do you want to go to a concert? Maybe a Sativa or Sativa leaning Hybrid. Going to watch a movie and go to bed? Indica might be up your alley. Consider which effect you want when looking at the strains in the dispensary.

THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) Content (%)

Now, before all of the cannabis veterans leave me an aggressive comment, I want to quickly point out that out of everything on this list, this is generally the least important thing to consider. That being said, it will likely be the first thing that the budtender mentions. When looking at any legally tested Cannabis product, the % of the product that contains pure THC is shown on the label - along with several other data points we will go more into later.

THC (Specifically, delta-9 THC) is one of the active compounds in cannabis smoke that makes the user feel high. Todays weed has largely been bred to have very high THC %, and it is not uncommon to see strains with 35% or more THC. As a very general rule, strains with more THC are likely to get you higher, but read on before you buy based soley on this...

Other Cannabinoids

Equally as important, or possibly more important than THC Percentage, is the number and amount of other cannabinoids present in the product. Cannabis contains at least 120 cannabinoids which have been discovered so far (including CBD and CBG, which are both fairly popular on their own), and when you combine the high producing THC with these other cannabinoids, you get what is known as the entourage effect - which is what allows different strains to have different effects.

Most products will have a total cannabinoid content near the THC content. By taking the Total content and subtracting THC, you can see the amount of other cannabinoids present.

For example, if a strain is 22% THC and 23.5% Total cannabinoids, you can see there are 1.5% other cannabinoids present (23.5-22=1.5). Most smokers will agree that a larger gap between the two is more important than a high THC percentage on its own.


Terpenes are chemicals that exist in many plants and give them smell and taste. They are found in most plants, not just cannabis - but their presence in Cannabis is what gives the different strains their distinctive tastes and smells.

Some products will tell you which terpenes are present, and typically, more terpenes is better. Different terpenes are also associated with different effects. For example, Carophyllene, which is present in many cannabis strains (and also black pepper) is generally considered calming, while limonene (abundant in lemons) is more energy inducing. By learning the terpenes and their effect, you can start to judge how the strain will feel before you leave the store


In my opinion, this is the most important determinant of how good a cannabis product will be. Cannabinoids degrade quickly, which means that cannabis that is not stored in the freezer will lose its effect over time. Aim to purchase cannabis that was packaged within the last 2-3 months for best results. Cannabis over a year old will be severely lacking in effects and flavor.


Hopefully, this is helpful to both new and experienced consumers of cannabis who want to get the most out of their dispensary experience.

Feel free to add any feedback in the comments, or to reach out on the Contact Us page, or @westcoastcanna.io_ on Instagram. Thank you!

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