Knowing your ideal THC dosage is like a weed passport. Once you've found the milligram range or THC percentage that works best for you, the vast world of cannabis is yours to explore. But in the same way that planning for a big trip requires time and effort, so does finding your dose.
Learn how to find the right dose for you by product type, how to incrementally adjust the dose, and how different factors can affect a cannabis high.
Dosing considerations for different product types
The cannabis product you're interested in consuming will play a large role in determining how much you need to consume to feel high.
Smoking cannabis flower provides a quick onset of effects. You can expect to feel high within minutes of inhaling cannabis smoke, so you'll know whether you consumed too much or too little fairly quickly. That high will then peak roughly 30 minutes after inhalation before tapering off for an hour or so.
Cannabis strains vary widely in potency, cannabinoid content, and terpene content — all of which can affect your high. Luckily, lab-tested products purchased from licensed, legal dispensaries come with certificates of analysis that make the dosing process accurate and easy. Look for the THC percentage on a package of cannabis flower to determine how much of an effect you can expect to get from one puff of a joint or bong rip.
- 10% THC or less: flower in this range is considered mild
- 10 - 20% THC: strong for beginners and often just right for casual consumers
- 20% THC and above: some of the strongest weed you'll find
Bottom line: make note of the THC percentage before you consume, take one puff, and wait 15 minutes before consuming more to get a sense of how that potency affects you.
Most vape pens and cartridges are pre-filled with cannabis oil, a type of cannabis concentrate. Vapes heat cannabis oil to its vaporization point, producing a potent vapor that cannabis consumers can inhale. Similar to smoking cannabis, vaporizing cannabis produces an effect within minutes that then peaks after 30 minutes or so.
Vapes can produce a strong cannabis high with minimal effort, so it's wise to exercise caution when trying vapes for the first time.
Bottom line: make note of the vape's THC percentage before you consume, take one pull on your vape pen, then wait 15 minutes before consuming more to get a sense of how that potency affects you.
Cannabis concentrates are highly potent, containing an average of 60% to 99% THC. When sold outside of pre-filled vapes, cannabis concentrates can be consumed in larger quantities via a dab rig. Dabbing concentrates is considered an advanced consumption method, and as such, it is not recommended for beginner cannabis consumers.
Bottom line: only seasoned, highly tolerant consumers should experiment with dabbing cannabis concentrates.
The body processes THC differently when it's ingested rather than inhaled. After digestion, the liver transforms THC into 11-hydroxy-THC, a compound that's more potent, lasts longer, and has more sedating properties than THC. The effects of an edible can take anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours to kick in. Once they do, the effects can last for several hours depending on the dose and the consumer's metabolism.
So far we've been talking about THC in terms of percentages, but with cannabis edibles, the potency is measured in milligrams. For example, a tin of weed gummies at your local dispensary might have 100 mg THC per package and 5 mg THC per gummy. For beginners trying to wrap their heads around what these numbers mean, here's a quick breakdown:
- 1 - 2 mg THC: a microdose and the ideal place to start for beginners
- 2 - 5 mg THC: could be considered a microdose or low dose depending on tolerance
- 5 - 10 mg THC: the most common range for casual consumers
- 10 - 50 mg THC: considered strong and for experienced consumers
- 50 mg THC and above: considered very strong and typically reserved for medical patients and daily consumers
Bottom line: start with a dose of 2 mg THC or less if you're trying edibles for the first time and gradually increase the dose by 1 mg every 24 hours until you find the ideal dose for you.
Cannabis tinctures are made by dissolving cannabis in an alcohol or oil solution. Tinctures can be consumed sublingually (under the tongue) or mixed into a beverage or food. When consumed sublingually, the effects of a tincture kick in within 20 to 30 minutes and last two to three hours. When consumed like an edible (i.e. mixed into food or beverage), the experience is similar to that of an edible.
Ideally, tinctures are meant to be absorbed via blood vessels in the mouth. This requires dropping some tincture under the tongue, allowing the product to remain in the mouth for two to three minutes and even rubbing it in to ensure absorption. Should you swallow the tincture before it's fully absorbed, it will operate more like an edible, taking longer to kick in and providing effects for much longer as well.
Bottom line: exercise the same caution with tinctures as you would with edibles. Start with a THC dosage of 2 mg or less and gradually increase the dose by 1 mg every 24 hours until you find the ideal dose for you.
Factors that may affect your experience
Your unique endocannabinoid system (ECS). The endocannabinoid system consists of cannabinoid receptors, lipids, and enzymes that perform a large role in maintaining homeostasis, or our internal regulatory balance. All mammalian vertebrates have an endocannabinoid system that interacts with the cannabinoids we produce ourselves (endocannabinoids) and the cannabinoids found in cannabis (phytocannabinoids). How many cannabinoid receptors a person has and how their ECS operates affect how sensitive they are to THC and other cannabinoids. This is also why some cannabis consumers find success with 1 mg of THC while others require much larger doses.
How quickly you develop a tolerance. Your ideal THC dosage can change over time as you develop a tolerance for the cannabinoid. The ECS is a highly tuned instrument that responds to overstimulation by diminishing cannabinoid receptors, meaning that over time, higher doses will be required to achieve the same effect. You can keep your tolerance in check by taking tolerance breaks and being mindful of how much you consume.
Why the lowest effective dose is the best dose
"Start low and go slow" is common advice with clinical research to back it up. A 2012 study published in the Journal of Pain showed that patients with advanced cancer experienced more effective pain relief with fewer side effects by using lower doses of cannabis spray. Another study published in the Journal of Pain found that low doses of vaporized cannabis were equally effective in relieving nerve pain as higher doses and the smaller doses were less likely to have a significant impact on daily cognitive function.
While there is no known lethal dose of cannabis, it's possible to experience unwanted anxiety or paranoia by consuming too much. By starting with the lowest dose of THC possible and increasing incrementally until you find the sweet spot for you, you can avoid unintended consequences.