27 March 2022 |

Terpenes Vs THC

By Matthew O'Brien

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The cannabis industry is ready for change.

Today, I will be breaking down the changes the cannabis industry could make to successfully resolve the problems we discussed in last Sunday’s send.

A Quick Recap

I highly recommend reading last Sunday’s edition of The Green Paper if you haven’t read it already, however, the following is a quick recap of the problems discussed:

Problem 1) The cannabis industry continues to misrepresent the meanings of the terms Indica, Sativa & Hybrids in 90% of cannabis retail stores in North America.

Problem 2) The cannabis industry continues to use THC as a single source of truth to quantify the quality of cannabis products in North America.

Let’s Talk Solutions 

Solution 1) Prioritize terpenes / aromas over THC.

When having conversations about the effects cannabis products produce, it’s very important to start such conversations with what we know to be true.

Candidly, there are a lot of things we don’t know about cannabis courtesy of it being a Schedule I drug, however, what we do know is that there’s a multitude of different molecules that impact the effects cannabis products produce.

One such group of molecules that appears to be having a very important impact on the effects cannabis products produce is terpenes, the compounds responsible for the smells / aromas most plants produce in the natural kingdom.

Keep It Simple

In 2021, I envisioned a world in which each consumer would analyze the various terpene profiles of products to select the right cannabis product for them.

Today, however, while we know terpenes profiles can be very helpful to ensure consumers purchase the correct cannabis products to produce their desired effect, very few consumers are using this information when purchasing products.

As such, the question then becomes – how can we change this?

It’s my perspective that the key ingredient to change the way we as an industry currently present products to consumers is to focus on accuracy & simplicity. 

The Nose Knows Best 

In order for consumers to navigate the complexity of purchasing the correct cannabis products, it’s essential to ensure that consumers can purchase products without having to analyze a multitude of different data points on each product.

Thankfully, a human nose has around 400 scent receptors, which makes us well equipped to identify the specific aromas of cannabis products that are responsible for producing the the effects we are seeking.

Personally, this means looking for dried cannabis flower with a sweet lemon smell, with an undertone of blueberries.

What Can Retailers Do?

In order to help consumers purchase products based on their aromas, cannabis retailers can categorize cannabis flower based on product aromas.

In the spirit of keeping things as simple as can be, I would strongly advocate that less is likely more ie. categorizing dried cannabis flowers into 15 different categories will likely overwhelm consumers.

Instead, cannabis retailers could categorize the dried flower they sell based on the 6 most dominant aromas of the dried flower products they stock in store.

The Biggest Barriers

One of the biggest barriers to accommodate such an approach is cannabis policy markers unwillingness to treat cannabis flower like fresh produce.

Instead of allowing consumers to purchase cannabis flower in a deli-style model, many policy makers have insisted that every product has to be pre-packaged.

Granted, certain stores allow consumers to smell products using “smell jars”, however, the reality is that the buds in these display jars very quickly lose their aromas – leaving consumers without the means to use their sense of smell.

(The Deli-style Cannabis Model)

A Tale Of Time…

Problem 2) The cannabis industry continues to use THC as a single source of truth to quantify the quality / value of cannabis products in North America.

Solution 2) Recognize that each consumer has different needs.

THC is generally a good indication of a cannabis product’s potency.

The higher the THC concentration of a product, the stronger the product will be.

That said, even this idea isn’t 100% grounded in the truth as THC is by no means the only variable that determines the strength of a cannabis product, however, let’s say for argument’s sake that THC solely determines each product’s potency.

In such a world, a consumer who is seeking to get the strongest products for the lowest price points possible would be right to focus on a product’s THC percentage.

The problem, and thus the solution is that not every consumer is seeking to purchase the highest potency products for the lowest price points possible.

Different Needs, Different Products

One of the biggest myths in the modern cannabis industry is that the strongest products are the best products—but the best for who?

As we mentioned in the previous edition of The Green Paper, the current cohort consumers purchasing legal cannabis products seem to be optimizing for high THC products at low price points.

That said, we are in the very first innings of a legal cannabis industry.

Based on every other industry I have ever examined, such a strong focus on product ingredients is merely a representation of an industry’s immaturity.

A New Leaf?

The solution to this problem is simple.

Given enough time, time itself will erase the existence of this problem as it’s simply unsustainable for producers to produce such high quality products at such low price points which is required to win consumers who purchase products using this criteria.

For many cannabis companies, it’s likely too late to mitigate the consequences of their desire to compete in this ultra competitive category of heavily commoditized cannabis products, however, this is good news.

Sometimes, to take two steps forward we have to take two steps backwards, and for the cannabis industry to become the industry it can be whereby an equal number of consumers consume cannabis as they do alcohol, such changes are a necessity.

Looking Forward 

To recap, the best solution currently available to the cannabis industry such that we can finally move past the reliance on the terms Indica vs Sativa is to allow consumers to use their sense of smell to identify the right cannabis flower.

The best available solution to address the current shortcomings of the approach the cannabis industry has adopted to quantity the quality of products is to simply acknowledge that different consumers have different preferences. 

Personally, I have fallen in love with Cann’s low dose cannabis beverages, however, in the eyes of other cannabis consumers these products are vastly over priced relative to the low quantity of THC / CBD these products contain.

In reality, both of these viewpoints are correct.

Our Take

More than any other industry, building a business in cannabis requires operators to embrace change or you run the risk of being redundant.

To succeed in cannabis today, it’s important to satisfy the needs of the current consumers who are purchasing cannabis products, however, it would be short-cited to ignore the new cohort of consumers coming online each day.