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.

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Taste the terpenes of your cannabis by taking a dry haul

Whether you’re a cannabis newbie, a longtime stoner, or calling yourself a cannaseur, you should be familiar with the term dry haul. If you don’t, then now is the time to get familiar with dry hauling as it allows you to taste your cannabis’ terpenes completely. So, let’s look into practicing the dry haul and […]

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Weed Wordsearch – Cannabis Terpenes

Today’s Weed Wordsearch is all about cannabis terpenes! Terpenes are organic hydrocarbons found in the essential oils of plants. Within the cannabis plant, there are many different terpenes. Each strain contains a unique blend, producing a unique aroma. Studies to discover the benefits and therapeutic value have only just begun but one thing is certain, […]

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