Pot Odor Does Not Justify Probable Cause for Vehicle Searches, Minnesota Court Affirms

If Minnesota police search a vehicle solely based upon the smell of pot, they can’t justify searching a vehicle, even if there is evidence found of other alleged crimes. Even after appealing a lower court decision to suppress the evidence—twice—the Minnesota Supreme Court agreed, and the dismissal of his charges stands.

In a ruling filed regarding a case the State of Minnesota Court of Appeals on Sept. 13, the Minnesota Supreme Court affirmed that cannabis odor does not constitute probable cause to search a vehicle under the state’s automobile exception to the warrant requirement.

The case has been ongoing for two years. On July 5, 2021, just before 10 p.m., a Litchfield police officer stopped a car for an obscure local law: the light bar mounted on the vehicle’s grill had more auxiliary driving lights than are permitted under Minnesota law. The officer asked the driver, Adam Lloyd Torgerson, for his license and registration. Torgerson, his wife, and his child were present in the vehicle. The officer stated that he smelled pot and asked Torgerson if there was any reason for the odor, which he initially denied. But cops found a lot more than just pot.

A backup officer was called in. The couple denied possessing any pot, but Torgerson admitted to smoking weed in the past. The second officer stated that the weed odor gave them probable cause to search the vehicle and ordered them to exit the vehicle. The first officer searched the vehicle and found a film canister, three pipes, and a small plastic bag in the center console. The plastic bag contained a white powder and the film canister contained meth, which was confirmed in a field test.

Torgenson was charged with possession of meth pipe in the presence of a minor and fifth-degree possession of a controlled substance after the unwarranted search of Torgerson’s vehicle. 

Police Aren’t Allowed to Do That, Multiple Courts Rule

But the search had one major problem—cops weren’t searching for a meth pipe. They only searched his car because they could smell pot, and the meth and paraphernalia were a surprise for everyone. Still, they had no grounds to search the vehicle. The man’s charges were later dismissed after the district court determined the odor of cannabis alone was insufficient basis for probable cause to search the vehicle, regardless of whatever other drug paraphernalia they found. 

The state appealed the case, but the Minnesota Court of Appeals affirmed the district court’s decision. The case was appealed a second time, this time to the Minnesota Supreme Court, which agreed with the lower court’s ruling. 

 “This search was justified only by the odor of marijuana emanating from the vehicle,” the Minnesota Supreme Court decision reads. “Torgerson moved to suppress the evidence found during the search, arguing that the odor of marijuana, alone, is insufficient to create the requisite probable cause to search a vehicle under the automobile exception to the warrant requirement. The district court granted Torgerson’s motion, suppressed the evidence, and dismissed the complaint. The State appealed. The court of appeals affirmed the district court’s suppression order. Because we conclude that the odor of marijuana emanating from a vehicle, alone, is insufficient to create the requisite probable cause to search a vehicle under the automobile exception to the warrant requirement, we affirm.”

It amounts to basic human rights that apply—regardless of whether or not a person is addicted to drugs.

Other States do Precisely the Same Regarding Pot Odor as Probably Cause

An Illinois judge ruled in 2021 that the odor of cannabis is not sufficient grounds for police to search a vehicle without a warrant during a traffic stop.

Daniel J. Dalton, Associate Judge of the 14th Judicial Circuit, issued a ruling in response to a motion to suppress evidence in the case of Vincent Molina, a medical cannabis patient arrested for cannabis possession last year.

In that case, Molina was arrested despite the decriminalization of small amounts of cannabis in Illinois in 2019 with the passage of the Illinois Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act. 

In some states, the issue of probable cause and cannabis was defined through bills.

Last April, the Maryland House of Delegates approved a bill that reduces the penalties for public cannabis consumption and bars police from using the odor of cannabis as the basis for the search of an individual or auto. Under Maryland’s House Bill 1071, law enforcement officers would be prohibited from using the odor of raw or burnt cannabis as probable cause to search a person or vehicle. 

The rulings represent the rights of citizens when they are pulled over by police, even if there are hard drugs involved.

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Dallas Restaurant Warns Customers: ‘If You Have The Smell of Marijuana, We Will Not Serve You’

Tex-Mex restaurant E-Bar has been the talk of the town for its anti-stoner policy that is spelled out in a sign posted on its window: “If You Have The Smell Of Marijuana On You We Will Not Serve You.” (“Marijuana” is underlined for good measure.)

The signage has drawn recent attention, including in a story published Wednesday by The Dallas Observer.

But the owner of the restaurant, Ernie Quinlantan, told the publication that the policy has actually been enforced for five years. The Observer noted that sometimes “when the windows are cleaned, the sign gets taken down, then is put back up in a place that is not quite so obvious.”

“People reeking of marijuana, it just ruins everybody’s experience around them, you can’t possibly have a great meal with someone who has that much odor,” Quinlantan told the Observer.

Quinlantan also downplayed the significance of the rule, saying that most customers are unbothered.

“Some people have something to say, it depends on the person, but most of the time it’s not an issue,” Quinlantan said.

The rule has not gone over well on social media, however. E-Bar’s Instagram account is filled with announcements, including multiple posts reminding customers to wear a mask at the restaurant. Another proudly displays an award naming E-Bar the best Tex-Mex restaurant in Dallas three years ago. 

But the comment sections of many of the account’s posts have been littered with sarcastic remarks and outright anger directed at the rule.

“Congrats on being the only [Tex Mex] restaurant to monetize the Latino culture while also diminishing it by supporting stigmas rooted in associating cannabis with the Latino community by calling it marijuana,” wrote one Instagram user. “Do you think none of your staff or family consume cannabis?”

“Do you have a list of smell restrictions?” snarked another commenter “Also, is the person smelling customers certified by the SCA (Sniffers Commission of America)?”

Recreational cannabis is illegal in the Lone Star State, of course, but change could be afoot.

Last November, voters in five Texas cities approved ballot measures to decriminalize pot. In one of those cities, Denton, officials ignored the will of the electorate and voted in June “against adopting the ordinance that would have decriminalized marijuana.”

Polls show that a majority of Texans are in favor of lifting the prohibition on marijuana use. 

A Dallas Morning News/University of Texas at Tyler Poll last August found that 55% of registered voters in Texas support the legalization of adult-use cannabis. 

Thirty-four percent said they “strongly” support the legalization of recreational cannabis for adults, and 21% said simply that they support the change, according to the poll.

Fourteen percent said they were simply opposed, with 21% saying they were “strongly” opposed. Another 9% said they neither supported nor opposed the idea.

So far, the legalization effort has not gained much traction among Texas lawmakers in Austin. But the legislature has taken steps to broaden the state’s medical cannabis program.

In April, members of the state House of Representatives signed off on a bill that would allow physicians to recommend medical cannabis as an option for chronic pain treatment rather than opioids.

“Passage of this legislation will provide qualified patients with a state-sanctioned option to access a therapy that has proven to offer significant benefits,” the NORML chapter of Texas said at the time. “Medical cannabis is an objectively safer alternative to the array of pharmaceutical drugs that it could potentially replace. I urge my fellow Texans to voice their support for this important legislation and to reach out to their Senators to encourage their backing as it moves through the legislative process.”

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Beyond the Terpenes: Volatile Compounds in Cannabis

As judges for the Emerald Cup for nineteen years, Nikki and I have had the unique privilege of sampling several thousand cannabis flowers from the world’s premier cannabis cultivation counties in California. One year, we sampled over 600 entries in the space of a month. These bouts of concentrated sniffing have shown me that there’s an enormous range of smells, aromas, fragrances and stinks that cannabis flowers can present.

Identifying Aromas

In the early days of the Cup, most entries were OG’s, diesels and “chemies” or solvents. Soon, entries with floral smells were entered and then some “blueberries.”  For convenience’s sake, the judges began to organize the hundreds of glass jars on the table into rough categories—at first, mostly gasses or florals.

One year, “In the Pines,” with its refreshing new pineapple smell, swept the competition away. A few years later, the tangy and citrusy smells arrived; after that came the cakes and desserts. Many of the same aromas were sensed on numerous samples, but some fragrances were very rare.

Over the years as judges and connoisseurs, we have experienced cannabis flowers smelling like burnt rubber, tar, chlorine, sour milk, baby poop, garlic, roast beef, roast chicken, mothballs, banana, strawberry, airplane glue, diesel, kerosene, gasoline, pine sol, citri-sol, guava, vinyl, new car smell, fresh mown grass, fresh air, jasmine, gardenias, honeysuckle, apple pie, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, lemon, tangerine, grapefruit, orange, pineapple…the list goes on.

Here are the aroma notes Nikki and I have for several random flower entries in the 2023 Emerald Cup:

  • Entry # 1: canned pineapple, Hyacinth, shoe polish, smokey leather
  • Entry # 2: watermelon, cherry, redwoods, honey, hyacinth, sage
  • Entry # 4: modeling clay, orange juice with fish in it, formaldehyde
  • Entry # 7: tar, mango, Doug fir forest, Fabreeze, thyme, eucalyptus

In time, it became clear that in order to judge such a large number of flower entries, we needed some way to categorize the multiplicity of aromas into distinct groups of smell in order to compare a given bud against other buds with the same or very similar smells. This enabled us to determine the best entry in that aroma category. But what should the categories be and how could they be measured?

Swami exploring the aromas with Tim Blake, founder of the Emerald Cup.

THC Potency Isn’t Everything

In 2010, the Emerald Cup began testing the entries for cannabinoids at SC Labs in Santa Cruz, with the seemingly surprising result that the winner did not have the highest THC. Every year since then, the winner of the Cup has never had the highest THC.

Soon, many cannabis labs were testing for the most dominant terpenes, as well as for cannabinoid ratios, on the assumption that the smell of the highest measured terpene would define the nose.

After ten years of testing over 200,000 samples, SC Labs performed a meta-analysis of their data. This revealed that about 40% of the tested flowers were myrcene dominant, followed by about 28% beta-caryophyllene, then terpinolene, pinene and limonene measuring between 12% to 10%, and ocimene measured dominant in about 1% of samples.

This was new and valuable information, bringing a whole new dimension of scientific understanding of what came to be called the entourage effect. Credit to Alec Dixon and Josh Wurzer at SC Labs for analyzing all the data and to Mark Lewis of Napro Labs for creating Phytofacts.

Volatile compounds in cannabis
Alec Dixon from SC Labs shows the terpene key.

Understanding Terpenes

Beginning in 2021, the Emerald Cup entries, after testing by SC Labs, were organized according to Phytofacts’ six categories based on their dominant terpene. Using the percentages of nine primary and secondary terpenes in cannabis, the entries were divided into six categories: OGs and Gas Class; Tropical and Floral Class; Jacks and Haze Class; Sweets and Dreams Class; Desserts Class; and finally, the Exotics Class.

As a result, all the judges’ awareness of terpenes and their combinations was greatly advanced.

For the Emerald Cup in 2022, SC Labs measured the two highest terpenes, and in 2023—in some cases—they measured the highest three. As the judges learned more about these aroma classes and worked through the hundreds of anonymous entries in numbered glass jars, it became evident to the sophisticated and finely tuned noses of the flower judges that all the different smells couldn’t be explained by the dominant terpenes alone.

Some entry samples listed in the “OGs and Gas” class based on their dominant measured percentage of terpenes, actually had a floral or fruity “nose,” dry hit and flavor. Similarly, samples placed as “Desserts” were found to be gassy, or sometimes even floral. Many were clearly a mixture of several aroma classes.

Then there are always the savory smells: grilled or smoked meat, garlic, onion, burnt or tar aromas. What terpenes could they be? And where did the earthy smells come from: leather, oak and maple wood, or cedar, mushroom, forest duff, chocolate, coffee. None of these could be assigned to the classes based on the dominant terpene.

Even many fruity fragrances—strawberry, banana, and pineapple—it turns out, aren’t created by terpenes. In fact, they are created by esters.

We talk about terpenes because they clearly make up perhaps 40 to 50& of a cannabis flower’s aromas, but also because they are what the labs test for. Many other volatile organic compounds are produced by the plant but are not tested.

Where, then, do all of these various aromas and flavors come from?

Volatile compounds in cannabis
Nikki exploring the volatile compounds in cannabis during Emerald Cup judging.

Taking It Further: The Aromatics of Cannabis

The aromas that all plants produce are for the purpose of attracting, repelling or signaling other organisms. These are called volatile organic compounds, or as I like to call them, “The Aromatics”. The particular fragrance produced by any plant is rarely from only one volatile compound or even one type of aromatic.

When Kev Jodhry, previously an Emerald Cup judge, organized the Golden Tarp Awards 2014, he decided to divide the entries into four distinct “categories of perception”: Floral, Fruit, Earth and Fuel. He says that this way of organizing the contest came from years of growing, breeding, selling and smelling cannabis, through which he began to recognize patterns of aromas and flavors. When this scheme was challenged by Dr. John Abrams of UCLA and the Clinical Endocannabinoid System Consortium (CESC), Jodhry sent him all the test lab data from the contest, and the scientist realized that the lab data supported the four categories of perception. That is, the “nose” of a cannabis flower—the aroma and flavor profile produced by the volatile compounds in cannabis—produced measurably different brain wave graphs in human lab testing, depending on which of the four smell categories were dominant in the sample.

Recently, a book was recommended to me by Aaron Varney, a fellow teacher in the Ganjier Training Program: Nose Dive by Harold McGee. In simple but scientific language, McGee explains which volatile organic compounds produce which aromas. In numerous charts he lists the component volatile smells of animals (cats, dogs) and humans (toe jam, urine, excrement, sweat), insect smells, barnyard smells, thousands of plant smells: fruits, flowers, mosses and trees and tree resins, spices, grasses, roots various gasses, solvents, alcohols, acids, nitrogen and sulfur volatiles, hydrocarbons, aldehydes, butane, hexane octane rubber, tar and so much more.

Cannabis plants can produce many of these volatile organic compounds, such as alcohols, acids, phenols, esters, thiols, benzenoids and sulfidic sulfides—all of which have a smell. It only takes a trace amount of these other compounds when combined with the terpenes to completely change the nose of the bud even though the cultivars may have the same dominant terpenes.

It would be reasonable to assume, then, that the numerous different volatile compounds in cannabis cultivars—not just terpenes—form many different aroma profiles to produce the total smell of the flower. And that these different volatile compounds would produce different mental states. This is the basis of aroma therapy. This is why we say: The nose knows!

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Study: Terpene Levels in Cannabis Affect Patient Outcomes

A new study from researchers at the University of New Mexico found that, for medical cannabis patients seeking the most effective symptom relief, it all comes down to the terpene levels.

The research, published in the Journal of Cannabis Research, found that “[s]ymptom relief was greatest after consumption of plant variants with slightly higher than average levels of the terpenes myrcene and terpinolene and non-detectable levels of CBD.”

“In contrast, chemovars with any detectable levels of CBD (e.g., MC61 and MC62) provided the least relief, the fewest positive side effects, and the most negative and context-specific side effects. These findings are consistent with previous research showing that naturally abundant CBD in Cannabis flower may act as an inhibitor of optimal treatment for certain health conditions such as gastrointestinal pain,” the authors wrote

In their conclusion, they wrote that their “findings provide ‘proof-of-concept’ that a simple, yet comprehensive chemovar indexing system can be used to identify systematic differences in clinically relevant patient health outcomes and other common experiences across Cannabis flower products, irrespective of the product’s commercial or strain name.” 

“This study was limited by self-selection into cannabis and app use and a lack of user-specific information. Further research using this chemovar indexing system should assess how distinct combinations of phytochemicals interact with user-level characteristics to produce general and individualized Cannabis consumption experiences and health outcomes, ideally using randomized methods to assess differences in effects across chemovars,” they wrote. 

Terpenes are defined as “the primary constituents of essential oils and are responsible for the aroma characteristics of cannabis.” 

“Together with the cannabinoids, terpenes illustrate synergic and/or entourage effect and their interactions have only been speculated in for the last few decades,” read a 2020 study published at the National Library of Medicine

“Hundreds of terpenes are identified that allude to cannabis sensory attributes, contributing largely to the consumer’s experiences and market price. They also enhance many therapeutic benefits, especially as aromatherapy.”

As NORML noted in its own write-up about the study from the researchers at the University of New Mexico, preclinical data “demonstrates that select terpenes can modulate cannabinoid activity to produce enhanced therapeutic effects.”

NORML cited a case report “published late last year reported that an autistic patient responded more favorably to cannabis extracts containing select terpenes as compared to extracts without them.”

Participants in the study from the University of New Mexico self-administered the cannabis, and reported their results on a software program. 

“The initial dataset consisted of 252,344 sessions recorded by 13,771 users between June 6, 2016 and March 11, 2021,” the authors wrote. 

“Only the sessions using flower products (60.4% of total sessions) were included in the dataset, and 6.7% of the flower sessions included laboratory-provided information on the product’s terpene levels. Recorded potency levels for labeled THC, THCa, THCv, and THCva were aggregated (THC family), as were levels of CBD and CBDa (CBD family). To avoid confounding from user entry error, cutoff thresholds for cannabinoids and terpenes were selected based on the biological limitations of the Cannabis plant (Reimann-Philipp et al. 2020). The cutoff thresholds for reasonably labeled cannabinoid family levels were set at 35.0%/dry wt., and the cutoff for each of the 20 terpenes was set at 3.0%/dry wt. Sessions reporting levels that were higher than these cutoffs were excluded from the final analyses. Each product is unique at the user level, i.e., if two users were to purchase the same product, it would appear in the data as two separate products.”

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I Just Moved in With My Partner; How Can I Still Smoke Without Stinking up the Place?

For nearly the last quarter century, American couples have been moving in together at higher rates. In 2019, the Pew Research Center analyzed data from the National Survey of Family Growth, concluding that the rate of U.S. couples cohabitating increased from 3% to 7% between 1995 and 2019. 

Whether planning to marry or for other reasons, millions of couples live together in America. It’s a rather significant milestone that takes people by surprise. Challenges come in many forms, from communication changes to financial worries to losing personal space. Differences in opinion and living habits are sure to rear their head early and potentially often. One significant sticking point can be pot use, specifically its dank, lingering aroma.

I recently moved in with my girlfriend after a year and some change of dating. The stress of moving in together has undoubtedly been real. Thankfully, pot smoke hasn’t been a terrible issue, but it has been one we’ve discussed a few times over the past few months. Coming from my last apartment, where my dog and I ran the place and smoke dominated the bedroom and bathroom, my girlfriend had minor concerns about the smell of the new place. 

I agreed with her for a few reasons: As a mostly vape and edible consumer, heavy pot smells were something she didn’t dislike but didn’t regularly surround herself with. Additionally, our new nine-unit Brooklyn building had at least one set of kids aged five or under. The last thing I wanted to do was cause some situation between the parents and me over the smell. That concern may seem over the top to some, but hey, this neighborhood is Park Slope adjacent. That’s where Williamsburg’s aging hipsters go when they want to become bougie-rich Brooklyn parents with opinions nobody asked for. 

I had a few options to test out and possibly collab for the perfect solution. My top choice was the balcony. While an ideal outdoor option, I did run into two potential pitfalls. The neighbor I share a balcony with sleeps with their window open, and I don’t know how 420-friendly they are at this point. Also, it’s cold as hell in New York in the winter. Not like a Midwest cold, but it’s still brutal until at least mid-March.

Without wanting to get off on the wrong foot with my neighbors, and more so not piss off my partner, I turned to a few classic options to varying success:

  • Smokeless options: Weed tech is a beautiful thing. Today, we can enjoy weed in numerous odorless forms, from vapes to edibles to distillates to topicals. To some extent, oil and flower vapes work for me, and I enjoy high-dose edibles to end the night. But I have to admit that smoking flower is still my preferred option. The others are fine but don’t make me feel as satisfied as flower does. 
  • Smoke Outside: Aside from days when the New York weather is unbearable, smoking outside may be the best option. As part of New York’s legalization bill, adults can consume cannabis anywhere cigarette smoking is allowed. This option could get riskier depending on how the law is in your state or city. 
  • Opening the Windows and Doors: A little fresh air is always good for you and any dank parts of the apartment. Kind of like the balcony, this option can make the place colder than you’re comfortable with. I typically do this when my girlfriend is out, but if she’s cool with it, I’ll close the door in the living room and open the balcony door while I re-watch the hit TV show Oz. 
  • Odor Killers Of Many Kinds: Our place is fragrant as all get out. From incense to candles to Palo Santo and more, we burn a bunch of stuff to make the home smell pleasing. I also use plenty of them to mask weed smells. I also use an air purifier. 

But two options stand out above the rest. Ozium is by far the best at killing odors and sanitizing air. They make some intense aromas to choose from. Still, the original should do fine at covering up weed smoke smells and other aggressive odors. 

You could also turn to the spice rack. Reach for a pan, lightly oil it and toss in a hefty dose of fresh, minced or powdered garlic. Set the pan to around medium heat and let the garlic warm up. In no time, that pot smell will be masked by waves of garlicky goodness. This is also my preferred choice for masking odors when decarbing flower. I love this approach for many reasons but beware. With a house full of garlic, your partner may expect you to have a fire meal to accompany the aroma. 

How Could Someone Hate The Smell of Pot?

The rationales can range from understandable to frustrating. They include:

  • Medical: Cannabis smoke has been linked to some adverse medical reactions, affecting people with lung, airway, and other issues. People suffering from various conditions, including bronchitis to cancer, may be negatively affected by the aroma or presence of smoke.
  • Lingering Stigmas: A tainted view on pot remains across age groups, particularly in older and more conservative communities. These groups often still hear cannabis prohibition from leaders in law enforcement, religion and other influential sources. It’s certainly less likely that you’ll hear someone calling pot the Devil’s Lettuce or a gateway drug these days. However, many young and old still have much concern and uncertainty over the plant and its effects.
  • Personal Preference: Some people don’t like the smell of weed. That’s fine, though frustratingly baffling at times to enthusiasts. It’s like how my best buddy Greg thinks chocolate and peanut butter are a revolting flavor pairing. He’s stone cold wrong with that atrocious opinion, but I still like him and his terrible palate. Kidding aside, many Americans and Canadians continue to dislike the aroma as of just a few years ago. Respect their choices, especially when living with them.

Expecting parents need to be particularly aware: Sensitivity to cannabis and other intense aromas is common during pregnancy due to a regularly heightened sense of smell.

“Just recently, my wife stopped liking the smell when she got pregnant,” said Kevin Amaya, a consumer responding via Instagram DM. Amaya, whose baby is due in August, now smokes outside and showers after.

In another DM response, Gerald Moore Jr. said his wife became sensitive to various smells during her first pregnancy, pot included. He said he now goes to his garage, deck, or shed to smoke.

Moore has taken up alternative consumption options as well. “I’ve also been smoking less and consuming in more alternative discrete ways,” including edibles, pills, vapes, tinctures, and patches.

Making It Work

Every relationship is different, but making a relationship work comes down to communication, compromise, and mutual comfort. 

My girlfriend and I are only two months into living with each other, so I’m no expert. Plenty of other relationship hurdles will come up in time, and weed smoke could be a part of the conversation again. Hopefully not, but that is the reality. I’m not terribly concerned because my girlfriend is open to pot, and the conversations have always been respectful and light. 

One way we’ve helped ease her further into that comfort is through education. Answering her questions and explaining aspects of weed that excite and intrigue me helped fuel conversations. Over time, she’s sampled various types of cannabis at her leisure. 

In turn, I need to keep an open mind to her thoughts and feelings about the smell. I have to respect our space and not fill the place with pot odors whenever possible. With hope, by spring, when it’s warm, I’ll be able to get a good read on the neighbors and mostly smoke out on our balcony. 

Other couples may run into more complicated conversations about pot and the smell. You two probably should’ve hashed these issues out before moving in, but hey, you’re here now. The topic could get sticky for some. 

Be prepared for the worst possible outcomes: You may have to give up cannabis indoors or possibly altogether. For many, myself included, that’d be a deal breaker—just as pot smells could be a deal breaker for your significant other. This possible impasse could lead to your time as a couple ending. But in most cases, you won’t need to reach an “It’s me or the weed” scenario. Just talk it out and find a solution that works best for you. 

With plenty of options, find what makes both of you happy. As long as you two go to bed happy each night, all should be well regarding your relationship and weed. 

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The Nose Knows! Study Shows Aroma Drives Cannabis Consumer Appeal

While it’s not uncommon for consumers to immediately go for the strain with the highest THC test results, a new study finds that aroma is the driving force behind the cannabis consumer experience.

The study, “The Nose Knows: Aroma, but Not THC Mediates the Subjective Effects of Smoked and Vaporized Cannabis Flower,” published November 8 in the journal Psychoactives, is the result of years of work led by the research team, including breeder and cultivator Jeremy Plumb and neurologist and medical researcher Ethan Russo, M.D.

The study’s purpose is “to objectively identify features of cannabis that contribute to its appealing subjective effects,” applying scientific methods to understand what the consumer actually enjoys about the cannabis they purchase.

Researchers gathered consumer response data from 276 “judges” given eight to 10 samples from a selection of 278 Oregon-grown, organic craft cultivars. The study confirmed that the “strongest contribution to subjective appeal… was pleasant subjective aroma.” THC potency was not identified by the study as an indicator of enjoyment. In fact, the study concluded that “impairment and enjoyment are unrelated phenomena.”

The paper describes a challenge to the sustainable growth of the cannabis industry and consumer health: the “potency effect of prohibition.” This phenomenon essentially means that more intense law enforcement increases the potency of prohibited substances. Following decades of criminalization, this means the market value of cannabis is largely determined by THC potency.

“In many ways consumers and patients have been effectively blinded from discovering their own relationship with the particular cannabis character they prefer at any given time,” Plumb said.

While there are surely consumers that simply want the strains with the highest THC possible, there is much more beneath the surface. In the same way most would agree Everclear isn’t the best alcohol just because it has the highest ABV, cannabis consumers are moving away from the idea that high THC denotes quality flower, or a quality experience.

It’s worth taking a look at the entire picture: ALL of the cannabinoids (not just THC), the growers and cultivation methods, the specific strain/crosses and terpenes, of course. Terpenes are the naturally occurring chemical compounds found in plants, like cannabis, responsible for the aromas, flavors, and colors.

Specific terpenes not only influence the aroma and taste of the flower, but they also have specific effects. And the phrase “the nose knows” is nothing new: If you like the smell of the bud, odds are, you’ll probably enjoy the way it makes you feel.

In the study discussion, researchers address other recent findings, showing that the frequent use of potent THC products can enhance risks for negative outcomes, alongside the wholesale buying “floor,” where retailers refuse to stock shelves with products with low-THC products; the result, they say, narrows consumer purchase choices to the most potent products.

The researchers say that perceived consumer demand for high-THC products underlies this trend, making the study’s contrary findings all the more critical.

“We find ourselves in a young market that still defines wholesale value primarily by THC potency, or hyped brand names, or a variety of other less relevant non-qualitative considerations,” Plumb said, pointing to producers who “shop” labs for high potency and the incentives for labs to inflate results. Whether or not consumers actually enjoy higher-THC products, Plumb said this focus leads them to believe high THC automatically indicates quality.  

“Cultivators, patients and consumers all miss out on capturing some of the most aromatic and enjoyable cannabis as a result. Instead, we are left selecting for the least enjoyable features as an industry on the whole,” Plumb said.

Researchers also observed a negative correlation between the amount of cannabis consumed and subjective appeal, meaning that folks who consumed more cannabis overall didn’t enjoy the experience as much. Similarly, they observed a negative relationship between subjective appeal and use frequency; essentially, people who used cannabis less often enjoyed it more. 

Plumb said that the study’s findings should “signal to the world” that cannabis aroma is the most important element for folks looking to increase their cannabis experience, and that sensory science is the “most meaningful” evaluator of cannabis character.

In the study conclusion, authors say the results support the notion that aroma is the primary criterion consumers use to assess a product’s quality. They add that it points to the need for regulations allowing consumers to smell flower before buying, the need to de-emphasize the market value of high-THC products and to diversify the regulated retail marketplace to include more flower options with 0.3-19% THC. 

Promoting these practices, authors say, would have important harm reduction and public health implications, working to minimize THC as the primary driver of market demand and reducing risks associated with THC overconsumption.

“It’s a sensuous relationship, really,” Plumb said. “It relies on the senses being engaged. If we have built an industry that isn’t designed to optimize presentation and preservation of aroma at every step in the chain, from drying, packing, shipping, wholesaling and retailing, to the point where instead, the consumer mostly gets something that smells like hay, alfalfa, anaerobic, or inert, we have failed the task. We built it wrong. Start over.”

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Maryland Court: Cops Can Stop, Question Someone Who Smells of Pot

Officers in Maryland may stop and question an individual who smells of cannabis, a court ruled last week.

In a divided ruling, the state’s Court of Appeals said “the drug’s aroma provides police with ‘reasonable suspicion’ that the person may have 10 grams or more, thus permitting the officers to conduct a brief ‘investigatory’ stop,” the Daily Record reported.

But the ruling does not give law enforcement carte blanche in those circumstances. According to the outlet, those officers “must end the stop if they do not quickly obtain information that gives them probable cause to believe the person has at least 10 grams or has committed another criminal offense.”

And the Daily Record noted that, despite the ruling, “possession of less than 10 grams of the drug is not a crime in the state.”

The ruling stems from a case involving a 15-year-old who was found to have a handgun in his possession. Officers found the weapon on the juvenile’s waist after conducting a frisk that was prompted by the odor of cannabis.

Last year, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals––an intermediate appellate court––took up the case and ruled that the smell of weed does not justify a cop to conduct a search, citing the decriminalization of possessing 10 grams or less of cannabis in Maryland.

“Because possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana is no longer a crime, the suspicion required to support a stop for the crime of possession of marijuana, therefore, is that the person is in possession of more than 10 grams of marijuana,” Judge Kathryn Grill Graeff wrote in her opinion, as quoted by local news outlet WTOP. “And because the ‘odor of marijuana alone does not indicate the quantity, if any, of marijuana in someone’s possession,’ [citing a previous case], it cannot, by itself, provide reasonable suspicion that the person is in possession of a criminal amount of marijuana or otherwise involved in criminal activity.”

But last week’s ruling from the state’s Court of Appeals undoes that opinion.

In a 4-3 decision, the majority “public interest in investigating and prosecuting criminal offenses, balanced against an individual’s freedom of movement and reasonable expectation of privacy in their person, leads us to conclude that the odor of marijuana by itself justifies a brief investigatory detention,” according to the Daily Record.

“Given the important governmental interest in detecting, preventing, and prosecuting crime, the Fourth Amendment allows a brief seizure, based on reasonable suspicion, to attempt to determine if criminal activity is afoot,” Judge Jonathan Biran wrote in the majority opinion, as quoted by the Daily Record. “An officer who lacks probable cause to arrest is not required ‘to simply shrug his shoulders and allow a crime to occur or a criminal to escape.’”

Judge Michele D. Hotten, writing for the minority, said that the “smell of odor on a person, alone, makes it impossible for law enforcement to determine whether the person has engaged in a wholly innocent activity, a civil offense, or a crime.”

“While reasonable suspicion is a relatively low barrier, law enforcement may not rely on a hunch that a person may possess 10 grams of (marijuana) odor in a non-medicinal capacity to form a basis of reasonable suspicion,” Hotten wrote in the dissenting opinion, according to the Daily Record.

Another judge in the majority addressed the particulars of the stop involving the 15-year-old, saying that the “officer in this case was justified in stopping [the juvenile] because police were responding to a call that a males [sic] were smoking a controlled dangerous substance in the basement of an apartment complex, which would indicate an amount of marijuana of at least 10 grams,” according to the Daily Record.

The post Maryland Court: Cops Can Stop, Question Someone Who Smells of Pot appeared first on High Times.

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