Just say 'know': how do cannabinoid concentrations influence users' estimates of cannabis potency and the amount they roll in joints?

Tom P Freeman, Celia J A Morgan, Chandni Hindocha, Gráinne Schafer, Ravi K Das, H Valerie Curran

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

104 Citations (SciVal)


AIMS: (1) To determine whether measured concentrations of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) in individuals' own cannabis predict their estimates of drug potency and actual titration; and (2) to ascertain if these effects are influenced by frequency of use and cannabis type.

DESIGN: Cross-sectional, naturalistic.

SETTING: Participants' own homes.

PARTICIPANTS: A total of 247 cannabis users in the United Kingdom: 152 'recreational' (1-24 days/month) and 95 'daily' (≥25 days/month).

METHODS: Participants rated their own cannabis for its potency (1-10) and type ('resin', 'herbal', 'skunk') before smoking it in front of the researcher. The amount of cannabis (g) used in their joints was recorded and an additional sample was analysed for THC and CBD concentrations (%).

FINDINGS: THC concentrations were related negatively to the amount of cannabis used [unstandardized regression coefficient: b = -0.009, 95% confidence interval (CI) = -0.017, -0.002]. Potency estimates were predicted by increasing THC (b = 0.055, 95% CI = 0.020, 0.090) and decreasing CBD (b = -0.160, 95% CI = -0.284, -0.062), and both of these associations were mediated by cannabis type (THC: b = 0.018, 95% CI = 0.006, 0.037; CBD: b = -0.105, 95% CI = -0.198, -0.028). Potency estimates were more reflective of THC as frequency of use increased (b = 0.004, 95% CI = 0.001, 0.007) and were 7.3 times more so in daily (partial r = 0.381) than recreational users (r = 0.052).

CONCLUSIONS: When using their own cannabis in a naturalistic setting, people titrate the amount they roll in joints according to concentrations of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) but not cannabidiol (CBD). Recreational users thus show poor understanding of cannabis potency.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1686-1694
Number of pages9
Issue number10
Early online date4 Jun 2014
Publication statusPublished - 27 Aug 2014


  • Adolescent
  • Cannabidiol/analysis
  • Cannabis/chemistry
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Dronabinol/analysis
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Marijuana Smoking
  • United Kingdom
  • Young Adult


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