Most cannabis consumers take a whiff of the bud jar before buying flowers. But what exactly are they smelling? And why?

The answer — whether these shoppers know it or not — is terpenes.

As marijuana becomes more mainstream, awareness of terpenes is becoming so common that it’s now a category in many cannabis competitions. And as our collective knowledge of the plant grows, more people are subscribing to the idea that terpenes — much like essential oils — play a role that goes far beyond smell.

The science and insider lingo can get pretty thick here. But you don’t have to be a cannabis sommelier to get in on the terpene talk.

The Cannifornian discussed the basics of terpenes with John Bailey of DaVinci Vaporizers, a Las Vegas-based company that makes some of the most popular high-end dry herb vaporizers.

Cannifornian: What are terpenes?

Bailey: Simply put, terpenes are aroma profiles derived from naturally produced oils from resin glands of the cannabis flower. Terpenes can be found in various other fruits, plants and common legal herbs.

John Bailey has more than 10 years of experience in business management, marketing and now cannabis education. (Courtesy of John Bailey)

Cannifornian: Why do terpenes matter? Do they actually change how cannabis strains affect consumers?

Bailey: They matter because as we start to further research and expand our knowledge of cannabis, we are finding they may have a great role in understanding medicinal benefits and potency. Not only do terpenes enhance flavor, but also contribute to the effects of cannabis and have been known to increase THC absorption therefore enhancing your high, while others are what gives certain sativas that alertness.

Cannifornian: Do you think growers and manufacturers should test for terpenes and include that information on product labels?

Bailey: Yes, absolutely. The more information we can reference and guide to customers the better — and what better trusted source than straight from the originator?

Cannifornian: What should consumers look for when buying products with terpenes in mind?

Bailey: Consumers should look to leverage the knowledge of budtenders while identifying commonalities in the relief from each strain. They should try to become more familiar with pungent, piney, citrus and earthy, and then correlate this when purchasing from dispensaries.

Cannifornian: Do you have a favorite terpene that you personally always look out for?

Bailey: Given that I tend to drift towards mood uplifting and energetic strains, I’m a personal fan of strains heavy in limonene, like Tangy and Durban Poison. These strains tend to have a citrusy aroma and are subtly sweet.

Cannifornian: What’s your view on inserting terpenes from marijuana into non-cannabis products, such as beer?

Bailey: Beer brewers have been inserting terpenes into beer for a long time for flavor profiles. Just think about all of the popular beers that contain orange peel, coriander and other herbs.

I think the difference will be that the terpenes are going to be marketed as derived from cannabis instead of other plants.

Personally, I’m all for maximizing the benefits of the plant. But with anything that people are putting into their body, I caution each to do their research on the effects prior to consumption.

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