As marijuana becomes more widespread and legalized, those interested in cannabis consumption may find themselves at a loss when it comes to what is written on product labels.
Not to mention the plethora of different products to try, such as yummy CBD oil or THC gummies. Admittedly, it can all be quite confusing, and with so many acronyms, percentages, and various cannabis strains, finding the best product to fit your wants and needs may seem impossible.
Some parts of the label you may already understand, but other aspects of the label, such as “TAC”, may be less familiar. You may just give up, showing up to your local dispensary with the full intention of buying whatever sounds good, or whatever has a high THC or CBD content.
However, taking time to properly educate yourself on the contents of your products will save you a lot of time, hassle, and perhaps even unpleasant experiences.
What Can I Find On A Product Label?
Since the legalization of marijuana is still relatively new in some places and is in the process of becoming more widespread, standards and laws for what is required to be printed on product labels are different everywhere.
These discrepancies can make learning the meaning of the information on cannabis product labels difficult, but not impossible. The basic information you will likely see on a product label include the following:
- Name of strain
- Where the product was tested
- Date of testing
- Class of indica/sativa
- Important legal information
In addition to this simple product information, the dispensary will more than likely make other information available, as well. This may be things such as the THC or CBD content, which will be listed in either percentages or milligrams depending on the product type.
Sometimes you will see other percentages listed, perhaps one labeled “TAC”, to which you may not give much thought. However, being aware of what exactly the TAC of your product is can be imperative when you desire certain potential effects from your products.
What Is TAC, Exactly?
TAC is the acronym for “Total Active Cannabinoids'', an important piece of information when it comes to the chemical makeup of your specific product. The total active cannabinoids of a product is usually just another piece of information, among many more, listed on the product label.
In order to fully understand total active cannabinoids, we must first explore what defines a cannabinoid. If you are at all familiar with marijuana, you probably know more about cannabinoids than you may realize. Cannabinoids are the chemical components in the cannabis plant that gives it it’s medicinal or psychoactive effects.
Since the regulation of marijuana is still considerably young, studies on the different cannabinoids and their effects are quite limited. However, scientists believe that these cannabinoids can interact both with each other and against each other to create various types of effects, a theory known as the “entourage effect”.
These chemical compounds bind with our body’s cannabinoid receptors, each type bonding to a different receptor and therefore providing us with the various effects. Our bodies produce these cannabinoids naturally on some levels. The internal natural process yields compounds called “endocannabinoids”.
In their original form, cannabinoids are an acidic compound secreted by the cannabis plant. The exact number of cannabinoid acids is unknown, but current knowledge estimates there may be as few as 64 or as many as 113 different cannabinoid compounds. THCA and CBDA are just two examples of the many cannabinoid acids that can be present in cannabis. Here are some of the most common:
- CBGA (Cannabigerolic acid)
- THCA (Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid)
- CBDA (Cannabidiolic acid)
- CBCA (Cannabichromenenic acid)
- CBGVA (Cannabigerovarinic acid)
- THCVA (Tetrahydrocanabivarinic acid)
- CBDVA (Cannabidivarinic acid)
- CBCVA (Cannabichromevarinic acid)
In order to create the compounds we know with all their different medicinal and psychoactive properties, the plant is typically heated by the consumer. Heat can be applied to the product and consumed in numerous ways, whether it be smoking it through a pipe or innhalation through a vape device.
This heat decarboxylates the natural acids in order to create the desired compounds, nutrilizing the original acidic compounds. We are left with the cannabinoid compound free of acid, which are known by these acronyms and various effects:
- CBC (Cannabichromene): Known to have pain relieving effects
- CBCV (Cannabichromevarin): Thought to have similar effects to CBD
- CBD (Cannabidiol): Known to relieve pain, may possibly reduce anxiety and depression, may improve cancer symtoms, may reduce acne, among several other positive effects
- CBDV (Cannabidivarin): Similar in effectiveness to CBD
- CBG (Cannabigerol): May improve eye health and inflammation
- CBGV (Cannabigerivarin): May provide anti-inflammatory and pain combating properties. May also help improve skin health.
- THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol): The only known psychoactive cannabinoid and has been proven to improve pain, insomnia, and anxiety
- THCV (Tetrahydrocannabivarin): Known to relieve stress and anxiety
The total active cannabinoids is the sum of all the cannabinoids that are active at the time of testing. This is not the final percentage of cannabinoids available for use, but instead is the packaged amount prior to any decarboxylation (heating) and tells the consumer all the cannabinoids present in their product.
There may also be another percentage labeled as “total cannabinoids”, which is the total amount of cannabinoids available for use in the whole product, rather than just the TAC amount that is active at the time of testing.
Total cannabinoid percentage tells the consumer the total potential potency the product has once it is heated, or decarboxylated, for consumption. The total active cannabinoid percentage is similar, but does not tell the consumer what percent of their product is cannabinoid compounds.
How is TAC Different Than THC or CBD Percentage?
Many cannabis users may only pay attention to the THC or CBD content, but those who really know their weed are aware these compounds are not the only valuable aspect to their products. It is important to know that the total active cannabinoid number is not the same as THC or CBD percentage.
TAC refers to the number of these cannabinoids that are active when the product is tested prior to consumption and includes cannabinoids such as THC and CBD, among all the other active cannabinoids, in its total percentage.
You may wonder why the TAC percentage is one number, but the cannabinoids and even cannabinoid acids listed have another percentage. Let’s use a simple example, imagine a label with the following information listed:
- THCA: 10%
- THC: 3%
- CBDA: 1%
- CBD: 0.5%
- Total Active Cannabinoids (TAC): 3.5%
- Total Cannabinoids: 14.5%
Here, we have a total THC content of 13%, but only 3% is active THC at the time of testing, making up 3% of the TAC. There is another 10% in the form of THCA, which is not active at the time of testing, but it will be available for use once the product is heated and this number is shown in the total cannabinoid percentage.
The total CBD content is 1.5%, but only 0.5% is active at the time of testing, making up the other 0.5% of the TAC. The other 1% will become active when heated and is reflected in the total cannabinoid percentage.
However, this example is oversimplified. When it comes to the actual labels you’ll be reading, there may be some discrepancies in the math of the percentages. But don’t worry, no one is ripping you off! This is because when the compounds are heated, they become lighter.
For example, THC is about 88% of the weight of the original THCA compound, so this should be reflected on a product label. Additionally, on an actual product, the percentage of total active cannabinoids will include all cannabinoids active in the product, not just THC and CBD.
Furthermore, it is important to know that while a product lists a total cannabinoid percentage, this is only a potential potency. This is because the chemical processes, such as converting THCA into THC, is not completely efficient.
At high temperatures, THC can become CBN (cannabinol), thus losing its psychoactive effects. This chemical change can also occur as the product ages. This chemical change is not necessarily bad, but is just another thing to be aware of when consuming marijuana products.
What Makes Up the Rest of the Product?
You’re probably wondering if cannabinoids are only a certain percentage of your product, what makes up the rest? In addition to cannabinoids, marijuana also has flavonoids, terpenes, and many other chemical compounds. Altogether, there are about 400 different compounds present in the cannabis plant.
However, the other chemicals are present at very low levels in comparison with cannabinoids, especially the THC and CBD cannabinoids. Flavonoids are compounds found not only in cannabis, but in fruit and vegetables as well. This chemical compound is partially responsible for color, but is also known to have some healing properties as it contains antioxidants.
The possible benefits of flavanoid include anti-inflammation and improved immune system function. Terpenes are perhaps the most interesting component of cannabis besides cannabinoids. Terpenes come from the same gland that cannabinoids do, but are responsible for the taste and aroma of the plant.
These aroma and flavor profiles can be important in identifying strain and may even provide some mood-altering effects. Interestingly, terpenes are produced by the plant to ward off potential predators. If you’re worried about what is in your product, it is likely a lab report can be made available to you, whether it be through online sources or through your dispensary.
Good quality manufacturers will have lab reports for their products on their websites. This can be important for some users hoping to achieve certain effects and not others, and is just good standard practice for cannabis product manufacturers.
Why Does TAC Matter?
Marijuana has a complex chemical composition with its total active cannabinoids making up only a portion of these compounds. A product with a higher percentage of cannabinoids in their chemical makeup will offer more potential for having various effects. Knowing these percentages is vital when getting what you want from a product.
If you prefer a higher potential for strong potency, or perhaps you prefer a weaker potency, taking a look at numbers such as the TAC and total cannabinoid percentage is an important key to finding the product that is right for you.
In addition to this, knowing what percent of the TAC and total cannabinoids is THC/TCHA or CBD/CBDA, or even other cannabinoids, will give you a good idea of the type of effects the product may have.Since TAC encompasses the information for all the various cannabinoids present in a product, you can choose a product based on what we know about the entourage theory.
If you are unaware of the TAC percentage and included cannabinoids, you may get undesired effects. This is especially important if you plan to use marijuana for its medicinal properties rather than its psychoactive properties, or are prone to anxiety when consuming cannabis.
When Can TAC Mean Something Else?
As if all the acronyms related to marijuana weren’t confusing enough already, TAC can also stand for something completely different, yet just as important for consumers. In some cases, when you hear or see “TAC”, it may be referring to the “total aerobic count”, one of the many tests performed on a marijuana manufacturer’s product.
Total aerobic count measures the amount of microbes found on the product, which is used to determine if the grower has good sanitary practice. This test is also performed on food products as well, however, with marijuana the results can be a bit ambiguous in meaning.
In most places, products must pass this test with a safe microbe level before they will be sold in dispensaries. In order to differentiate total aerobic count from total active cannabinoids, simply look at the units. If you see a number followed by “CFU/g”, meaning colony-forming unit per gram, this is the total aerobic count and not the total active cannabinoid number.
The good news is, when the total aerobic count information is provided on a label, it will likely not have a specific number, but rather a rating based on a color system, such as gold for good quality.
Wrapping it Up
The total active cannabinoids won’t be present on all cannabis products since some of them, such as oils, have already been heated and, therefore, all cannabinoids are already available for use.
Furthermore, you may not always find total active cannabinoids on a product label, but the total cannabinoid percentage can be another beneficial piece of information in deducing a product’s chemical makeup.
When it comes to picking out what cannabis product is right for you, knowing exactly how to read the labels is an important first step. While there is nothing wrong with experimenting, you can save yourself a lot of time and money if you at least know what certain products are likely to provide you based on their chemical makeup and other label information.
Learning what the TAC, or total active cannabinoid, means is just one step to being proficient in reading marijuana product labels. As marijuana and cannabis products become more regulated worldwide, information on the topic will become more easily accessible.
We already do this label studying with things such as our food’s nutrition information and the specs on our tech devices, so why not also learn how to read our cannabis product labels, as well?
Good products, such as our delicious CBD tinctures, will have easy-to-read informative labels for consumers. While it may seem daunting at first, these labels are truly meant to ease rather than complicate the buying process for cannabis users.