Less is more: how to properly dose cannabis

Less is more: how to properly dose cannabis
Luke Sumpter

Although the trend in cannabis breeding suggests consumer obsession with super-high levels of THC, in actuality, most of us seek something a little more mild. Here's how to properly dose cannabis to get the most from THC, without becoming overwhelmed.

We’ve all been there; after enjoying what you thought would be a relaxing or relieving smoke (if you’re a medical cannabis user), you suddenly feel anxious, nauseous, dizzy, or even extremely paranoid.

Cannabis today can easily contain 20, and in rare cases even 30% THC. Given its potency, users have become extremely careful of dosing, opting for smaller, more controlled doses to avoid the negative effects produced by high doses of THC.


During the 90s, a really interesting phenomenon took over the cannabis world as it seems that once breeders learned that THC was the main psychoactive substance in cannabis, everyone set out to do one thing: create ultra-powerful strains with the highest THC content possible.

In a famous skit, Louis CK sums up the trend in cannabis breeding perfectly:

“I’m standing in a parking lot with these kids and we’re smoking a joint. And I’m taking huge hits because I had no idea. I had no idea they’d been working on this shit like it’s the cure for cancer,” he says.

“When I was a kid, you could just smoke a joint for a while. Now you take 2 hits and you go insane. It’s not doable anymore.”

According to the US National Institute on Drug Abuse, the potency of cannabis has increased from around 4% in the 1980s to 15% (as of 2012).

But here’s what’s interesting; most cannabis users, both recreational and especially medical users, aren’t looking for super-strong strains that’ll leave them knocked out on the couch.

If you regularly use cannabis, chances are you know what it’s like to “green out.” Just like with alcohol, tobacco, or any other substance, taking too much THC can produce all kinds of negative effects, including anxiety, paranoia, profuse sweating, nausea, and even vomiting.

The fact that over-consuming THC can produce negative effects means cannabis users should look for balanced strains. While you might still be looking for strains that produce powerful, long-lasting effects, you also want the ones that are manageable and enjoyable. After all, no one likes getting too stoned, ending up paranoid on the couch, or having to leave a party just because their weed was too strong.

Nonetheless, most of the strains you’ll find at coffeeshops, dispensaries, cannabis clubs, or even on the street tend to boast particularly strong levels of THC.

In the last decade though, other cannabinoids (like CBD) have been getting more attention because of their medical properties and more and more strains are being created with high amounts of CBD as well as other cannabinoids like THCV and CBDV.

Getting stoned is no longer the most important goal of using cannabis, as many people are turning to marijuana for its medical benefits.



You’ve likely heard of the concept of microdosing. This is one of the latest trends in the cannabis world, and really serves as the best way to moderate the effects of super-strong cannabis with high THC levels.

The concept of microdosing cannabis is simple; rather than sitting down to smoke an entire joint by yourself, try to consume smaller amounts, let the effects kick in, and then follow up with another “microdose” if need be.

Microdosing is the best way to really control the effects cannabis has on your body. Remember, like most other recreational substances, cannabis has a biphasic effect. In smaller doses, it can leave you feeling relaxed, focussed, and clear-headed. In higher doses, however, it can make you groggy, sleepy, anxious, etc.

For some people, it allows them to reap the health benefits of cannabis without having to deal with a strong psychedelic buzz (this is true for a lot of medical users who might use cannabis during the day to relieve symptoms while at work, for example).

For recreational users, on the other hand, microdosing lets them achieve just the right kind of high. While it might take a bit longer to get to that high, microdosing takes care of the chance of getting too “stoned” and feeling like you’re about to melt and sink through the floorboards.



So, how do you measure out a microdose? According to many, 5mg of THC is the ideal starting point for microdosing. Some users (like these moms who use microdose daily) even drive down the size of their dose to 2.5mg.

The easiest way to get such a precise dose is to use edibles that clearly label the exact amount of THC they contain. For example, if you picked up a THC-infused chocolate bar from your local dispensary, all you have to do is divide a serving up until you get the right amount for your dose.

When dabbing or vaping concentrates, you’d do something similar. If you’re lucky enough to be able to buy cannabis concentrates legally with proper labeling, take the total amount of THC in the concentrate and divide it until you get a dose of 2.5–5mg.

Unfortunately, if you smoke dry cannabis flower in a pipe or joint, measuring a dose is much more difficult. However, here is a basic formula to help you pay more attention to your cannabis dose when smoking.

Let’s say your weed contains roughly 10% THC. This means that 1g of dried flower would contain roughly 100mg. Hence, you could measure out roughly 0.2–0.5g of dry flower to roll a joint which would contain roughly 20–50mg of THC. You’d then light up, take a few hits, let the effects settle in, and then take it from there. If you need more, simply take another few hits. If not, put the joint aside and smoke it later.


Unfortunately, we’re not all lucky enough to live in areas where cannabis is sold legally and clearly labeled. In fact, it’s far more likely you live in an area where cannabis is still illegal and you have literally no idea how much THC (or other cannabinoids) it contains.

If that’s the case for you, it’s literally impossible to measure out a precise dose of cannabis. But don’t stress, you can still give microdosing a shot. All you need to do is take it slow and steady.

Next time you sit down to smoke or vape, start by using slightly less cannabis than you would usually. Then, take a few hits from your pipe/joint/vape and stop. Wait roughly 15 minutes, assess how you feel, and adjust your dose as needed.

The same goes for edibles. Start with ¼ or ½ of a serving and wait roughly 45 minutes to see how it affects you. Keep in mind that edibles can take much longer to kick in, simply because they have to pass through the digestive tract in order for the THC to be absorbed into your body.

Luke Sumpter
Luke Sumpter

Luke has worked as a cannabis journalist and health science researcher for the past seven years. Over this time, he’s developed an advanced understanding of endocannabinoid system science, cannabis phytochemistry, and cultivation techniques.