A Guide to Reading Cannabis Labels

If you’ve ever wondered, “What the heck are all of these numbers for?” after looking at a cannabis labels…

As with food, personal care products and anything else you put on and into your body, it’s important to understand what’s in your cannabis flower or product. So let’s break down what is typically listed on a cannabis product label and why the information matters to you.



Because cannabis is federally illegal, packaging and labeling requirements are established by governing bodies in each individual state. In California for example, regulations are set by the Department of Public Health while in Oregon the responsibility lies with the Oregon Liquor Control Commission.

While the specific requirements where you live may not be exactly the same as mine, much of the same information is required and you’re likely to see the following on product packaging:

Product and Brand Identity

This reflects what the product is (infused cookies, gummies, brownie, etc.) and the brand behind it (such as Kiva, Dosist or Beboe, for example).


The strain could simply be listed as indica, sativa or hybrid, or a specific strain like ACDC, Gorilla Glue or Trainwreck.

Ingredients List


The list of ingredients that are in your product, like cannabis oil in a vape cartridge or cocoa butter, nuts and cannabis in an edible.

Net weight/volume

This is the weight or liquid measurement of the product without the packaging.

Harvest, Manufacture and Expiration Dates

These reflect when the flower was cultivated or harvested, when the product was manufactured, and by when it expires or is best consumed, respectively.

Government Warnings

There are a number of government warnings listed on cannabis packaging, including safety warnings (“For Medicinal Use Only”, “Keep Out of Reach of Children and Animals”), allergy statements (“Contains soy and almonds”), and other messaging required by the designated governing body.

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Not so different from the packaging we encounter every day in the grocery store or pharmacy, right? Where the confusion lies however is rarely with the more general information outlined above – it’s with product potency.

Flower Potency

Not all marijuana is created equal. Some of the hundreds of strains available on the market have a higher THC content than others. Think of it like walking into a liquor store. It is common knowledge by now that whiskey has a higher alcohol content than beer. These two products must be enjoyed in very different ways, or else the effects can be severe. Weed, while much safer than alcohol, is not much different. Most strains have anywhere between 5-25 percent THC. The lower the number, the less stoned effects can be expected. Most customers reach for the strain with the highest THC level that they can get. But without the proper tolerance, they have the potential to drive people over the edge of comfortability. For beginners, starting slow is recommended.


Some pot products display THC:CBD ratio. This aspect of pot labeling is easier to translate than it sounds. Here’s the rub: The higher the THC content, the stronger the buzz.

A Few Other Things

These things are not often listed on dispensary labels, but they might be. If you visit a testing lab website, you may also find results of these tests listed.

  • Residual solvents (used in the making of BHO, Rick Simpson Oil, and other concentrates)
  • Terpenes (flavor and aroma compounds that add depth to a high and have additional medical benefits)
  • Mycotoxin (A substance produced by fungus)



Cannabis product labels can be pretty difficult to understand unless you’re a highly experienced cannassueur or a scientist.

There’s no standard for cannabis labeling, which means consumers must educate themselves about the information in order to decide what’s most important to them. As legalization broadens however, so does a focus on transparency within the industry, and hopefully we can look forward to labels containing simpler, easier to understand information in the future.

As is probably obvious at this point, there’s more to your bud than you might expect. Learning to read cannabis labels is as important as understanding labels at the grocery store. To ensure that you’re getting a safe product that will give you the effects you like best, take a peak at testing results before you purchase.

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