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Chemovars of Cannabis - 3rd Annual Terp Fest

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Saturday July 15th, I had the opportunity to go see my cannabis hero Dr. Ethan Russo at the 3rd annual Terpene Festival presented by the Center for the Study of Cannabis and Social Policy. Dr. Russo worked for a pharmaceutical company GW Pharmaceutical that has a cannabis derived medicine called Sativex that is available in 28 countries around the world for pain relief. Dr. Russo is now working for his own company called Phytecs which is focused on creating drugs that target the endocannabinoid system. Since leaving GW Pharmaceuticals Dr. Russo has been on the lecture circuit sharing his amazing knowledge with people that are interested, patients and the cannabis industry alike. 

It was very interesting to hear him speak about how we can home in and specifically recommend things based on their cannabinoid and terpene profiles. Terpenes and Cannabinoids act as the plants immune system, protecting the plant from environmental hazards like bugs, molds, mildew or to attract pollinators. Very interestingly he mentioned that plants in poor soil might produce more terpenes than plants in an ideal situation citing the struggle promotes the plant to work harder to protect itself than a pampered plant. It was mentioned that ingesting cannabis is dramatically different than smoking and may not as good of a method for distinguishing variances in plants, because the terpenes may not be activated through ingestion the way they are through inhalation. Low heat vaporization of a small amount of cannabis is ideal for most people. Cannabis seems to have different effects when used in a small “micro dose” versus a large high potency dose. This gives credence to the phrase start low and go slow.

Another point that Dr. Russo made was that strains really aren’t a thing. What I mean by this is that the word strain refers to bacteria. What we really have is chemovars or chemical variances. THC and CBD are the same in cannabis that is uplifting as it is in cannabis that is mellow and relaxing. The difference between Grand Daddy Purple “Indica” and Durban Poison “Sativa” is the varying levels of terpenes in the plant. Grand Daddy Purple is high in terpenes like Linalool which is found in lavender, and Myrcene which is found in hops, both things we think of as relaxing and even sedating. While Durban Poison is high in terpenes Beta Caryophyllene which is found in black pepper and Limonene which is found in citrus, things we regard as more uplifting and invigorating. Beta Caryophyllene acts as a cannabinoid by stimulating the CB2 receptors in much the same way as CBD. This gives it anti-inflammatory benefits and makes Durban Poison and the chemovars derived from it such as Girl Scout Cookies and Cherry Pie potentially beneficial for pain relief.

The major takeaway from the event is we need more testing and breeding from growers. Growers should be including expanded cannabinoid and terpene profiles on their products so we as Medical Consultants and Budtenders can better educate and find the best product for an individual not based on bud tender sampling but based on the facts. Breeding more diversity will ensure that there is a product available on the market that can benefit everyone. It was a great experience to meet someone in person that I’ve spent so much time studying and researching and it just further motivated me to learn as much about cannabis as I can to provide the best experience and most help to our customers as possible.