THC: How High Can We Go?

Every year for the past three years, High Times has held Cannabis Cups in both the US and the Netherlands. We’ve been to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Denver, Detroit and Amsterdam. Next year, we may add even more.

At each Cup, we test anywhere from 100 to 160 flower entries and give samples to our partner labs to test for various cannabinoids, terpenoids, pesticides and molds. We test approximately 600 to 700 strains each year. The results are stored in our Scorebook database. That’s over 1,800 strains tested already, and our database gets larger every year. To compile both of the Strongest Strains lists in this article, we ran database queries for THC values.

As we approach what appears to be the limit of THC that a cannabis flower can produce in terms of THC, the natural question to ask is: How much higher can we go? So we polled some of the foremost experts in the field. Here is one telling quote from Dr. Donald Land, Chief Scientific Consultant, Steep Hill Halent Lab.

“To be sure, one must first question the validity of the [high] test results. The cannabis-testing industry is littered with labs that are not qualified to provide accurate results — or, worse, that intentionally manipulate results to appear higher than they truly are. Some labs simply add THC-A and THC values together because it gives artificially high values. Some high numbers are undoubtedly the result of such inappropriate manipulations.

“That being said, trichomes are secretory glands, not unlike salivary glands or mammary glands in mammals. When trichomes produce trichomes, they are secreted into the trichome heads and are not circulating or affecting the rest of the plant’s biochemistry. I predict — now that we have better, more accurate testing — that diligent breeders will achieve even higher THC production in the future. From the range of values observed at our lab, values of THC-A in the low to mid-30 percent range and THC values in the mid- to high 20 percent range are possible, but relatively rare at present.”

While this might seem disheartening at first, we were relieved by Dr. Land’s conclusion: “possible, but relatively rare at present.” Our results show that THC values in the mid- to high 20 percent range are very possible.

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