How to read a cannabis product label
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How to read a cannabis product label

Jul 13, 2023

With the advent of legal cannabis, consumers have more reassurances that the product they’re buying in licensed dispensaries is high-quality, weighed correctly — and most importantly — safe.

All cannabis products sold legally through dispensaries in New Jersey and Pennsylvania come with packaging and product labels that let a buyer know what the product is, dosage amounts, quantity, potency and include storage information, expiration dates and warning labels. In New Jersey, Cannabis dispensaries are also required to provide detailed laboratory testing results to anyone who asks.

It’s a lot of information, and can be overwhelming. So, let’s breakdown the elements of a cannabis product label that are essential to know.

For new and casual cannabis consumers there are only a few parts of the label that will be relevant, especially when deciding what products to buy in the future. That’s because when ordering cannabis products online or in-stores, there are usually only going to be a couple deciding factors.

Product name





A product label will start with the name, type and weight. (Example: Tropical Banana, Fine Flower, 7G).

Name: Usually indicates what strain of cannabis the product is. Labels and packaging will also include what species of cannabis the product is, like sativa, indica or a hybrid of the two (Here’s a guide on what these terms mean).

Type: What form of cannabis the product takes (flower, extract, vape, edible, tincture).

Weight: The product’s quantity (grams, milligrams, milliliters).

A product label will display a “potency analysis” section, which shows the percentage of each cannabis compound or “cannabinoid” a product contains. The most notable cannabinoids are THC (intoxicating) and CBD (non-intoxicating), which is shown on the product label.

For THC (the most prominently displayed cannabinoid, which creates a “high”):

Flower cannabis products range from 0-30% THC

Extract, concentrate and vape cannabis products range from 40-80% or higher THC content

Edible cannabis products range from 1mg to 30mg of THC per dose (5-30% THC total per package)

Tincture cannabis products are usually under 5% THC

The label will contain up to a dozen lesser known cannabinoids They range from non-intoxicating cannabinoids, like CBG and CBN, to ones, like THCA, that only become intoxicating after they are heated.

Really only focus on THC, CBD, and THCA. Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) is an inactive cannabinoid that turns into THC once it has been exposed to intense heat, like when smoking, vaping, dabbing or cooking cannabis.

Oftentimes a product will be advertised as having a certain amount of THC on the online dispensary menu, but on the product label it reads as THCA. That’s because once the product is heated that THCA will turn into THC. (For example, a product label may read “.09% THC, 20% THCA.” Essentially, this means it contains 20% THC.)

Remember: High-THC and THCA products (15% THC or higher) will have powerful mind-altering affects and will get a consumer higher. Low-THC and high-CBD products will produce less of a head high and more physical body sensations.

The product label or packaging legally has to state the intended amount for one dose of the product. This information will either appear on the product label or on the product packaging itself.

According to Pennsylvania and New Jersey state law, this information must be included on the labels and packaging of each cannabis product:

Date the product was packaged and the expiration date

Warning labels to keep the product away from children, people who are pregnant (unless directed by their doctor and child’s pediatrician), and avoid operating vehicles or heavy machinery

Proper and safe storage information

The name, address and permit number of the grower/processor

Product labels also include a “terpene analysis” section. Terpenes are naturally-occurring compounds in cannabis that determine the color, aroma, and taste of each cannabis strain. While terpenes aren’t intoxicating on their own, they help produce some of cannabis’ therapeutic effects like pain relief, according to researchers at University of California Northridge. Think of it this way: THC is what produces a “high,” while terpenes can determine what effects a cannabis strain produces.

Note: Experienced consumers and enthusiasts use terpene analyses to help decide what kind of flavors, aromas and effects they want out of their cannabis products. While it’s helpful to know the difference of terpenes — it’s not necessary for newcomers.