Trying cannabis again? Here’s what you need to know

Thinking about trying cannabis again? A lot has changed in terms of potency. In this photo a registered medical marijuana patient looks at products at the Rise cannabis store in Mundelein, Ill. (Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press files)

If you’re among many in the 45+ demo who’ve considered revisiting cannabis after many years sipping chablis or your local brew, you’re not alone.

With legalization, people who may have consumed in their youth, but gave it up in favour of legal products, are coming back to give cannabis another try.

But with so many new products on the market and the strength of those products a far cry from what they likely experienced decades earlier, checking in with a knowledgeable budtender, and reading the labels, are good first steps.


Today’s cannabis can be a lot more potent than strains of the past, bringing some surprises for people waiting to try it again.

Looking back to the 1960s, cannabis typically only had around two per cent THC – the main psychoactive compound that gives you the “high.” This would be the case for the next two decades, reaching about three per cent in the ’80s. From there, THC levels climbed steadily with a percentage of more than 10 per cent reached for the first time in the 2000s.

Currently the average is even higher, and it’s not uncommon to find cannabis above 20 per cent at your local dispensary. Right now the strain of cannabis with the highest amount of THC sits at 34 per cent.

Why the increase?

Many factors have contributed to the rise in THC content over the years.

Heading back to the ’60s again, cannabis was often very unrefined. Ideally you only want to smoke the flower of the cannabis plant, but often what you’d buy then would include leaves, seeds, and an abundance of stems.

How and where cannabis is grown also contributes to its strength. While much cannabis has been imported from places with poor conditions, today, legal growers are taking advantage of better soil conditions, light, temperature and humidity.

Growers have also been selectively breeding to develop cannabis with higher amounts of THC or combining strains to create brand new strains of cannabis.

Start low, go slow

If you choose to consume cannabis, how much you consume and how quickly you consume can influence whether you experience adverse effects, Health Canada notes. “Take your time to understand how your body reacts to cannabis as everyone’s response is different. Until then, start low and go slow to minimize health risks and the risks of overconsumption.”

You’ll also want to start with a low amount of THC and wait to feel the effects before taking more – the concentration of THC is on the label, so choose products with a low amount of THC and an equal or higher amount of CBD.

And remember, certain cannabis extracts, such as hash, kief, wax or shatter contain a high concentration of THC. New or occasional users are best to avoid these to minimize the likelihood of greater levels of impairment and adverse effects.


  • Look for products containing 2.5 mg of THC or less
  • Effects are felt within 30 minutes to two hours and it can take up to four hours to feel the full effects

Smoking or vaping:

  • Start with one or two puffs of a vape or joint with 10 per cent (100 mg/g) or less THC
  • Effects can be felt in seconds to minutes and it can take up to 30 minutes to feel the full effects.