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Terpenes or THC? Retailers share the secret to buying the best bud

Published on October 4, 2021 · Last updated October 1, 2021
If you want to buy the best cannabis for you, shop by more than just THC content. (Adobe Stock)

Buyers are getting savvy about what makes good weed. Canadian cannabis consumers are moving away from high THC strains and asking educated questions to get the best product, every time.

While high THC potency still dominates demand, patrons are choosing their weed based on other qualities. They are asking about freshness and flavour profiles, according to retailers across Canada.

There’s also increased interest in low THC and high CBD options. It doesn’t hurt that newer, higher-quality products are making their way to shelves on a consistent basis.

Watch out ditchweed, consumers are becoming more educated about what makes for good flower.

Good weed doesn’t always need to be high potency

Once upon a time, people weren’t interested in cannabis unless it was over 20% THC. Nowadays retail store owners are seeing a big shift from the high THC crew to those seeking 1:1 balance or even high CBD cultivars.

Consumers are beginning to realize that THC isn’t the only factor in good weed. (Adobe Stock)

Sasha Soeterik, co-owner of Flower Pot, a cannabis retailer in Toronto’s west end, says she’s seeing a shift away from what she calls the ‘bro’ culture of focusing on the highest THC flower available.

“I don’t think everyone is looking for ultra-high, other than those who really buy into that culture of high THC weed. But what I am seeing is more people asking for balanced cannabis,” says Soeterik.

“It’s not the majority, but I’d say about 10-15% of my customers come in asking for high CBD joints. There really isn’t enough choice out there for something with THC and CBD.”

Ryan Roch, the owner of Lake City Cannabis just outside Calgary, agrees that consumers are starting to move beyond their focus on THC as the be-all-and-end-all of weed.

“We’re seeing a shift where they’re almost done with [THC],” says Roch. “[Customers] are looking for something that is better quality, seeing it’s not always the best option and we’re seeing that shift in ideology.”

The evolution of the average ‘cannabis consumer’

A big part of this shift, says Roch, is retailers like himself taking the time to talk with their customers and help them discover new products.

“They want the best quality,” says Roch. “There are some starting to ask about terpenes. People will come in and look at the menu but more often now they’re asking us what’s the best, what we would recommend.”

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That trust isn’t taken lightly by Roch, who makes sure his budtenders have the information they need to help patrons.

Consumers aren’t just asking the same old questions either. Roch says that there is more of a conversation, they want to know what’s new, what’s good. They even ask about genetics, cannabinoid content, and terpenes.

Leafly terpenes fragrance perfume; perfume bottle spraying aromatic plants
Terpenes play a big role in the overall experience of cannabis. (Jesse Milns/Leafly)

Andrea Dobbs, co-owner of The Village Bloomery in Vancouver, says micros are increasingly popular among customers as well.

“[Customers] want to talk about the cannabis they buy and ask us about where it comes from,” she says. “They ask about the quality, the moisture, how it smells, what are the terpenes. It’s about quality.”

Although she says mid-grade, affordably priced products continue to be a big portion of their sales, there is a growing interest and demand for higher quality products.

“The bread-and-butter products like Pure Sunfarms, sell themselves. I don’t even have to talk about it, people ask for it because it’s pretty good weed at a pretty good price. It’s decent and everyone is very happy with that.”

High terpene content sells, even if the customer doesn’t know why

There is still a split between consumers looking for the highest THC and those asking about packaging date and other quality factors, says Ariel Glinter, head of business development at The Joint, a retailer with locations in Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

While terpenes are often hotly discussed within the industry, Glinter says consumers aren’t necessarily educated about what they are, but they are still gravitating to high terp cultivars because of the taste and flavour.

“Terpenes are definitely bigger than people realize. We see higher sales of high terpene products, whether or not they’re marketed that way,” says Glinter. “So even when consumers aren’t aware of it, those are selling better.”

People want weed that smells so good you can practically taste it—whether or not consumers know terpenes and flavanoids give off those properties.

Glinter explains how old, dry flower isn’t good enough anymore. He shares that customers have realized that THC doesn’t mean much when the packaging date is old.

“All consumers are getting more educated and, having tried more products, they’re starting to learn what to look for, even if they don’t know it’s the terpenes, for example, that are doing it.”

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David Brown
David Brown
David Brown has been working in and writing about the cannabis industry in Canada since 2012. He was formerly the Editor in Chief and Communications Director for Lift Cannabis and Lift News, a Senior Policy Advisor for Health Canada's cannabis legalization branch, and is the founder of StratCann Services Inc.
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