In conversation with WeedMD’s Head of Cultivation, Curtis Wallace and Communications Manager (and resident terpene hunter), Victoria Dekker. With the debut of WeedMD’s newest cultivar Black Sugar Rose, total terpenes are now listed on its adult-use brand Color Cannabis, currently available in Ontario.
WeedMD: Can you tell us about terpenes in cannabis?
Curtis: Terpenes are natural organic compounds that exist in all plants found in nature, including cannabis. They play a key role in aroma and flavour of individual cultivars and, when consumed in combination with cannabinoids, produce unique effects (widely known as the ‘entourage effect’).
Over 100 have been identified in cannabis, though myrcene, limonene, pinene, caryophyllene and linalool are among those most commonly found terpenes. What is really encouraging is that we are also starting to see more terpene studies* arise as a result of all the interest this subject is getting.
WeedMD: Why was the decision made to display total terpenes on Color’s packaging?
Curtis: Cannabis aficionados, as well as people who are new to cannabis are constantly looking for more information. Just like people who are really into food or wine, you instantly feel more connected to what you’re consuming when you know more. And the more knowledge you have, the more refined your tastes become.
All product images and labels are provided for information and illustrative purposes only, and do not represent the actual cannabis product, product label or its appearance.
For as long as anyone can remember, THC has been regarded in the consumer world as the key to quality and potency. We know that’s far from the truth. In 2020, no cannabis company would ever say “this product contains THC and CBD” without disclosing how much. We now share full visibility on total terpenes, just like cannabinoids. Consumers and patients that are purchasing Color and Starseed flower will value this new data point. From our perspective, a flower’s total terpene percentage is another number that matters, and knowledge is power.
WeedMD: What can you share about the terpenes in WeedMD flower?
Curtis: Those of us who work in cultivation at our Strathroy, Ontario facility are really spoiled – each room is incredibly fragrant and fresh. Live cannabis smells quite a bit different than what many cannabis consumers are used to. Some strains, like Pedro’s Sweet Sativa, Mango Haze and Blueberry Segal are incredibly fruit-forward, where our newest cultivar, Black Sugar Rose, is incredibly sweet and flowery.
We do all we can to preserve these aromas and package all dried flower in nitrogen-flushed pouches to help reduce the effects of oxidization on terpenes. I want everyone who opens a pouch of Color Cannabis or Starseed flower to feel like they’re standing with me in a grow room.
WeedMD: How did you come to learn about terpenes and their role in cannabis?
Victoria: I really started paying attention to the aroma of cannabis in about 2015. I started working in cannabis media that year and began doing a lot of research on the plant. I was a patient too, with the luxury to pick and choose my medications with visibility on cannabinoids and terpenes.
Learning more about my medication – at that time, the notion that terpenes simply exist in cannabis and impact effect – was a game-changer for me. The idea that there was more to cannabis than cannabinoids alone and I could explore the vastness of this plant, only limited by the analytical information available, sent me down a lifelong aroma rabbit hole. Terpene visibility on my medication became really important to me.
WeedMD: How did you start using what you learned about terpenes in your consumption?
Victoria: I started consuming a wide variety of flower and kept a strain diary. Cannabinoid percentages, known terps, consumption method and resulting effect – I documented all of it.
Over time, I started to identify patterns. The more attuned I became, the more I came to understand that, where effect is concerned, the sativa/indica distinction isn’t really relevant. Sometimes, an indica would lift me up, but a sativa would make me feel like curling up on the couch. I realized the key to anticipate effect, was through visibility of a flower’s dominant terpenes. Through talking with countless patients and consumers over the years, it became clear to me that cannabis is a highly individual-specific plant and terpenes impacts each of us differently. Doing your own research is imperative.
WeedMD: What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned about terpenes?
Victoria: Because I work in cannabis, I’ve been really fortunate to have access to isolated terpenes over the years. I found that each common cannabis terpene smells really unique. From the delicate floral notes of linalool, to the peppery musk of caryophyllene, I found the most common terps actually smell quite distinct by comparison. When many are present in a plant, the aroma profile becomes something different all together. It’s fascinating, when you think about it – each cultivar is different!
Fun fact: science also tells us that scent is the strongest sense tied to memory. High pinene strains, for example – with fresh, piney and woodsy scents – always transport me back to Christmas morning. We always have a fresh, live Christmas tree in my house.
WeedMD: Our teams recently began posting analytical results of total terpenes on dried flower packaging. Can you explain the difference between a plant’s terpene profile and total terpenes?
Curtis: Over the years, we’ve carefully selected strains based on various factors including terpene profiles. A cultivar’s terpene profile is predominantly responsible for its unique aroma, but studies* suggest total terpene percentage dictates the intensity of aroma and potential to modify the effects of cannabinoids.
For comparison’s sake, let’s say you wanted to order a cocktail. The cocktail’s ingredients are listed on the menu – soda, spirits, citrus and bitters.
In this case, citrus and bitters – lemon juice and herbal bitter notes – are our terpenes. The information provided is a decent representation of a plant’s terpene profile. So you may be aware of the ingredients, but the precise percentages of each in relation to the entire drink are unclear.
Now let’s say the bartender hands you the cocktail recipe, outlining the precise measurement of each ingredient (let’s say a half-ounce of lemon juice and a teaspoon of a bitter). Now you know what’s in the drink, and exactly how much. This is, roughly, what we achieve by providing visibility on total terpenes.
Reference: “Terpenes/Terpenoids in Cannabis: Are they important?“