Pubdate: Thu, 09 Feb 2012
Source: Sacramento News & Review (CA)
Copyright: 2012 Chico Community Publishing, Inc.
Author: David Downs


 From Harborside to Halent Labs, Experts Now Know Way More About What 
Makes Bud Reek

Sacramento cannabis enthusiasts have yet another thing to be snobs 
about in 2012: terpenes, the building blocks that make up the unique 
smell of cannabis, which are beginning to waft into the mainstream.

Drug companies are researching the therapeutic properties of these 
simple organic molecules, and at least two California 
medical-cannabis labs have begun testing for their presence in dispensary weed.

According to Donald Land, a UC Davis chemistry professor who 
cofounded Halent Laboratories, which tests for terpenes and conducts 
occasional smelling classes, "Terpenes are a set of relatively simple 
organic molecules that are present in all living organisms." He noted 
that most of the flavors and aromas of plants comes from terpenes.

"The name terpene is derived from the main ingredient in a certain 
type of pine pitch called turpentine," Land explained. "That piney 
smell that comes along with turpentine comes from terpenes. There are 
lots of others."

Herbalists have recognized the power of terpenes for decades. 
"Cannabis and other plants share a lot of the same terpenes, so 
terpenes have been legal for many decades," Land said. "There's been 
quite a bit of research on them in the U.S. and abroad, including 
many well-documented medicinal effects."

Rick Pfrommer, manager at Harborside Health Center in Oakland, said 
that as head buyer for the popular dispensary, he has smelled 
countless numbers of bags and glass jars full of the sticky ick, and 
that a lot of the odors he detects aren't actually coming from the weed.

"You can smell everything from bat guano to heavy salt-hydroponic 
fertilizers," Pfrommer said during an interview inside Harborside's 
buyer's room. The space is dominated by an examination counter, 
shelves of pot-strain reference books and expensive computers. 
Pfrommer has been selling ganja for about 25 years.

Pfrommer insists that if one boasts an acute sense of smell, you can 
smell chlorophyll in a bud that hasn't been cured well, and even 
molds. "Once you've smelled multiple thousands of samples of 
cannabis," he explained, "when something is off, it's apparent that 
it's off, like, as soon as you crack the bag open."

Like a wine sommelier or a buyer for a boutique coffee roaster, 
Pfrommer smells each potential new addition to Harborside's menu 
using a specific ritual. First, he pops open a glass jar of coffee 
beans and takes a big sniff. Like ginger before sushi, coffee beans 
reset the palate, he said. Then he takes a big whiff from a sample 
cannabis bag, fishes out a single nug, cracks it open, and inhales deeply.

"All you really want to smell is the terpenes," he said.

According to a literature review by the medical-cannabis journal 
O'Shaughnessy's: "Limonene (also found in lemon) is an antidepressant 
and immune-stimulant in humans; alpha-pinene (also found in pine 
needles) is an anti-inflammatory, a bronchodilator, and a 
wide-spectrum antibiotic; nerolidol (also found in oranges) is a 
sedative; linalool (also found in lavender) has an anti-anxiety 
effect; and myrcene (also found in hops) is a sedative, a muscle 
relaxant, a sleep aid, and an anti-inflammatory."

Trainers teach drug dogs to hunt for beta-caryophyllene, a terpene in 
cannabis that also is an anti-inflammatory. Terpenes are also the 
chemical precursors to the euphoric ingredient in pot, 
tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, making them a proxy for potency.

Researchers like Ethan Russo, senior medical director at GW 
Pharmaceuticals, believe that terpenes contribute to the "entourage 
effect" that lies at the core of medical cannabis's efficacy in 
treating nausea, inflammation, chronic pain and more. GW 
Pharmaceuticals has started growing terpene-only pot-sans THC-to 
better investigate the effects of terpenes, O'Shaughnessy's reported.

And, unlike the THC pill Marinol, new prescription throat spray 
Sativex contains THC, its therapeutic peer CBD, and terpenes.

Terpenes also enable pot snobs to make outlandish yet credible claims 
that they smell chocolate, mango, diesel or lavender in their bag. 
The five to 10 main terpenes in cannabis have about 25 more rare 
peers, but cannabis has been found to contain more than 200 different 
types of them. The combinations are infinite.

Cannabis lab data from Halent and The Werc Shop near Los Angeles is 
helping to elevate breeding to a science. It's also giving patients a 
first-ever ingredients list for that dubious doobie, said Jeffrey 
Rabe, director of The Werc Shop.

Pfrommer envisions legal OG Kush deodorizers or Agent Orange floor 
cleaners. "I think, along with CBD, terpenes are one of the two most 
exciting things going on in cannabis," Pfrommer said. "We're just 
scratching the surface now."

And sniffing.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom