The 3rd Annual Terpestival held in Seattle, Washington July 15th, 2017 brought together the expertise and insights of leaders within the cannabis industry focusing on Terpenes, the flavor and fragrance components. Terpenes are aromatic compounds common to many other plants we encounter daily, such as: lavender, rosemary, peppermint, pine and thyme. The event was held by The Center for Study of Cannabis & Social Policy (CASP) and gathered industry experts such as naturopathic doctor Dr. Michelle Sexton, Benjamin Cassiday of True Terpenes and keynote speaker Dr. Ethan Russo, Medical Director at PHYTECS.
Terpenes: More than a pretty smell
As usual, the biggest reason for attending the event was the incredible quality of scientific and industry information shared at the panels. What makes the Terpestival unique is it’s laser focus of Terpenes and their relationship to the cannabinoids of the cannabis plant; making up the unique effects and smell/tastes associated with different ‘strains’ or more accurately, ‘chemovars‘ of cannabis.
As more research is being conducted, we are discovering that terpenes, their relationship with cannabinoids and the resultant ‘entourage effect’, are actually responsible for more than just the smell and taste. It also affects the physiological experience based on it’s ratios and composition within the chemovar.
Science leading to commercial opportunities
An interesting fact presented by Dr. Ethan Russo, which has major commercial significance, is that the different terpenes have the same molecular make up but with different sized chains to form the different categories of terpenes; monoterpenes, sesquiterpenes, diterpenes, sesterterpenes, triterpenes, and tetraterpenes. Some of the most recognizable terpenes like linool (lavendar) and limonene (citrus) are MONOTERPENES…meaning they are the smallest sized, the quickest to react and be lost with poor handling/storage.
So when vape cartridge producers are creating their products for the market, where flavor and taste is increasingly being demanded by the consumer, this understanding of which burn off first, which are heavier chain terpenes and thus ‘burn off slower’, can/will have incredible impact on product development.
This COULD possibly lead to a solution for one of the biggest complaints about vape pens; they burn off monoterpenes early leading to the loss of desirable flavors half-way and almost non-existant by the end of the cartridge. Combine that lesson with the understanding that the type and amount of terpenes present affect the experience and physiological reactions and you could see a vape cartridge that customizes the experience and benefits from beginning to end.
Benjamin Cassiday, COO of True Terpenes which specializes in providing isolated terpenes derived from natural plant sources to commercial clients, spoke about what this increased understanding of terpenes means commercially. Benjamin stated that his clientele are increasingly experimenting with different blends of terpenes not only for flavors and smells, but for specific experiences and effects; ie: sleep, anxiety and pain relief.
“…Cannabinoids are the steak. Terpenes are the steak sauce.” – Dr. Michelle Sexton
Leading the cannabis consumer by the nose
The Terpestival not only brings focus to the role of terpenes in the cannabis plant but it also opens the door to a different way to identify and categorize cannabis that is more understandable to the common consumer. It helps people new to cannabis have a form of measurement that they are familiar and more confident with; smell and taste.
Using this criteria to help people categorize cannabis in a way that makes sense to them should be the ultimate goal because it leads to greater understanding and confidence in identifying what they like or want. It also gives those in the industry a less arbitrary way to categorize cannabis because its based on distinct chemical compositions. (made more possible with more scientific studies)
The use of Sativa, Indica and Hybrid is no longer a sufficient way to categorize cannabis in a way that communicates specific experiences and effects in a clinical and/or commercial way. It was sufficient when cannabis was an underground industry but now that its mainstream, it needs to be changed. An analogy mentioned at one of the great panels at this event was that “…cannabinoids are the steak. Terpenes are the steak sauce.” Even this concept is easier to communicate than the concept of ratios of terpenoids and cannabinoid components in a specific chemovar of cannabis.
If you missed this event, make sure you watch for next year or for any event that puts forth a better, more clinical and consumer relevant way to categorize cannabis. Events that specialize such as The Terpestival create an opportunity for the new cannabis user to better understand the nuances of cannabis. This leads to more informed demands for specific cannabis products for specific uses.
Check the website for a list of the 2017 winners of the competition portion of the 3rd Annual Terpestival.