What's Driving the Demand for High THC Cannabis?

How the downregulation of our CB1 receptors may be responsible for the ever-increasing demand for high-THC cannabis.

Welcome to Four PM, where we grow, harvest, and deliver the freshest cannabis industry insights direct to your inbox! 👋🏼


For the past several years, I’ve been asking myself a question: Why does the cannabis industry continue to fixate on high THC products?

An argument could be made that many cannabis retailers don’t have the means to educate every single customer on the merits of looking beyond this one metric; and to be clear, not every cannabis consumer is seeking this kind of information.

This makes sense, given the perception that THC percentages are a valid shorthand for how potent a product may be. But I have come to believe that there’s an even more important factor at play that currently receives little, if any, attention.

Understanding Why People Consume Cannabis

A research paper published by Jeffrey Graham during his tenure at NorCal Cannabis uncovered what many cannabis users already know to be true: cannabis is primarily used as a wellness/medicine, in spite of the recreational stoner image it tends to invoke in the general public.

As we can see from this research, 2 of the top three most common reasons people consume cannabis today is to help with sleep and pain.

If you're using cannabis for pain management OR to help you get a better night’s sleep, you're likely to consume cannabis on a regular basis.

The Downregulation of Cannabinoid Receptors

If you do consume cannabis daily, you will within a very short period of time build up what we currently refer to as a “tolerance” to cannabis.

For many people who use cannabis for medical purposes, building up a tolerance to THC is often viewed as a good thing, as it reduces the likelihood of having an adverse reaction like paranoia; however, a tolerance does come at a cost.

Whenever we introduce substances into our bloodstream, the human body works toward reobtaining a state of balance, or homeostasis.

When we consume cannabis, THC stimulates neurons containing CB1 receptors; but THC is so much stronger than the chemicals our bodies produce naturally, namely anandamide and 2-AG, that THC over-stimulates these receptors, resulting in a rapid response by our bodies to regain balance.

How Is This Balance Reobtained?

Neurons immediately react to THC’s over-stimulation by reducing the number of available CB1 receptors.

This occurs through a variety of mechanisms, including pulling CB1 receptors inside the cell so that they are no longer available to be stimulated. This reduction of receptors is called downregulation.

By downregulating CB1 receptors, neurons partially regain some balance. And this process continues until balance is re-established. If you consume cannabis daily, however, you're likely not giving your body sufficient time to complete this reset.

The Need for Higher THC Products

If you use cannabis daily, and you don't have the means to take tolerance breaks by virtue of the reasons you choose to use cannabis, then one of the very few options available to you is to increase the strength of the products you use.

This is my current hypothesis as to why consumers commonly seek out the highest THC products, as they perceive that the only way they can obtain the results they seek is to increase the strength of the products they are consuming.

I’m not commenting on whether I view this as the optimal strategy to achieve this outcome, but I do see the downregulation of CB1 receptors as one of the primary driving forces behind the current focus on “high THC” cannabis products.


Did you gain value from reading this edition of Four PM?

This Newsletter is Brought to You By…

Looking for the best software application to produce high-quality cannabis?

Elevated Signals is that company.

With a long list of happy customers ranging from craft cultivators such as Habitat and Gnomestar to cannabis giants Pure Sunfarms and Decibel, Elevated Signals is the leading cannabis production software provider.

I’m not saying using Elevated Signals guarantees that you’ll produce high-quality cannabis, but there's no denying the strong correlation.

Check out Elevated Signals today, and tell them Matt from Four PM sent you to access special referral rates. 🚀

Check Out Elevated Signals