This may come to a surprise to you, but cannabis is made up of more than just THC. If you’ve bought flower at an adult use recreational dispensary, you may have noticed a little breakdown of contents on the side. That is the COA or certificate of analysis. The COA contains all sorts of valuable information including THC percentages, natural terpenes produced as well as other useful information. Keep reading to learn more about the information listed on most COAs to help you better understand what you are smoking. So, kick back in the cut, fire one up, and let’s learn about some weed stuff. 

What is Required Information on COAs? 

The following information is required to be included on COAs in Illinois cannabis dispensary products.  

  • Strain Name, so you know what you are buying.  
  • The date the COA was created.  
  • The Biotrack ID number which is just a way of tracking a plant from seed to sale for the state.  
  • The cannabinoid breakdown; it shows you the cannabinoid compounds found in the flower such as Delta 9 THC, THCa, etc. 

Indica or Sativa 

Unless you are buying flower on name value alone, you probably already know this information. Briefly explained, indica is more relaxing and sativa is more stimulating.  

THC (Delta 9) 

Delta 9 THC, sometimes listed as just THC, surprisingly makes up very little of the total THC percentage even though it is the compound taxed under the Illinois Cannabis Control Act of 2021. Delta 9 THC is generally between .01% and 2% in cannabis. Delta 9 THC makes up less than 10% of the total THC count, most of the total THC percentage is made up of THCa. 


THCa is the true unsung hero of cannabis. Most people consider Delta 9 THC the real THC when THCa makes up most of what gets them high. THCa converts to Delta 9 THC when heated. If you are smoking solely to get high, then the THCa percentage will be the most important number on the COA. THCa percentages generally range between 15% and 30%. That makes up over 90% of the total THC count found in typical cannabis. Total THC percentage can be calculated in many ways as there is no agreed upon structure nationally. Most commonly it is calculated by simply adding THCa to Delta 9 THC. A more accurate calculation can be found by using the following formula Delta 9 THC + THCa x .877= Total THC percentage. 

Other Compounds 

The COA may contain information on other compounds found in the plant like CBD, CBG, or CBN. These compounds, though not psychoactive, can provide an array of therapeutic benefits. These compounds generally don’t get higher than a few percent. 


Terpenes give your cannabis its scent and flavor as well as providing therapeutic effects. There are many terpenes found in cannabis but the most common are Myrcene and Limonene. Each terpene can affect the taste and overall high of your weed. If you’d like to learn more, check out:  “what are terpenes” 

 Other Information 

The rest of the information isn’t overly important but good to take note of. Things that must be included: the harvest date, date packaged, and use by date. Of this information the use by date is most important. No one likes smoking old weed! 


The more information the better. After all, knowledge is power! Knowing the information on your COA will help you find the perfect strain for you. You’ll find terpenes you like and terpenes you don’t. You’ll be able to dial in your dosage and realize your limitations by understanding the THC and other compounds in the plant. Being able to read a COA can make life much easier on a canna-consumer and we hope this article was beneficial. But don’t worry, if you get confused or overwhelmed, our RiverBluff budtenders are here to help!