Cannabis plants contain various terpenes, which are responsible for imparting the distinct aromas and flavors that make different cannabis varieties unique. Terpenes are also thought to be an important source of the distinctive psychological and medical effects of different cannabis varieties. Some varieties can be strikingly unique, and often generate high levels of specific market demand. Truly special plants can be valuable and iconic. They can be trademarked, licensed, and even, in some cases, patented.

Much of the cannabis market has begun to rely on concentrates and extracts. These are often composed primarily of THC, because the suite of other molecules (primarily terpenes) that gave the original flower its character has been removed. But isolated THC is known to be less effective medically (and less pleasant in general).

An important goal for the entire industry is “strain-specific” oils.  Some processors have been striving to create whole-plant extracts that reproduce the terpene profile of the flower they were drawn from. But most of the current extraction methods utilized for making cannabis extracts and concentrates are incapable of producing an extract that retains the original cannabis plant terpene profile because many terpenes are lost during the extraction process.

Another approach to re-creating the profile of individual cannabis varieties is to first use rigorous chemical analysis to define the different terpenes in the plant itself prior to extraction. Non-cannabis plant-derived natural terpenes can then be blended with the extract in order to reproduce the characteristics of the original plant. This approach can preserve the unique benefits of individual cannabis varieties while creating a level of product consistency and reproducibility that can’t be achieved with typical extraction methods.

Learning Objectives

  1. Participants will understand what really distinguishes different cannabis varieties from each other.
  2. Participants will understand the importance of the many other compounds in cannabis besides THC.
  3. Participants will be able to evaluate the potential hazards and challenges associated with the manufacturing of terpenes.
  4. Participants will understand how GCMS can assist in identifying, matching, and validating terpene profiles.