Tapping into Terpenes

Extraction Operator Evan Robinson harvests cannabis oil at an Organa Brands extraction facility in Denver. Terpenes can be extracted from cannabis oil and added to edibles, concentrates and other products. Photo by Matthew Staver

MJ businesses can harness plant-based flavor and aroma compounds to expand product opportunities, generate revenue

By Bart Schaneman

Cannabis companies that want to go beyond THC and CBD content can focus on a part of the plant that’s increasingly front-of-mind for consumers: terpenes. These plant-based chemicals can set your marijuana products apart from rivals – and bolster your bottom line.

Terpenes are the molecules in marijuana that give the plant its smell, taste and, some argue, added effects beyond just getting users high. If you’ve ever smelled or tasted pine, lemon or pepper in your cannabis, you’ve experienced some of the many different terpenes known to exist in marijuana.

Marijuana companies are becoming more aware of the revenue potential offered by terpenes. Vape cartridge companies, in particular, are incorporating the cannabis compound into their products to add flavor and natural aromas. Makers of concentrates and edibles also are adding terpenes.

Consumers, too, have a growing awareness about the effects of the whole cannabis plant. And while there is still a heavy preference toward high-potency products, growers and manufacturers now confront new marketing opportunities and products thanks to consumers becoming more savvy about the effects terpenes can deliver. They can range from a heady, inspirational pick-me-up to a calm, focused, relaxed state.

Cannabis connoisseurs also are asking more about terpenes at retail stores, causing concentrate manufacturers to offer products that include a full range of terpenes similar to those you would get from raw plant material or flower.

“There’s always going to be a consumer coming in looking for the highest potency, and we’ll have a product for them,” said Chris McElvany, co-founder of Denver-based Organa Brands, an extraction and manufacturing company that produces vaporizers. “But I want to have a product that appeals to the headier, discerning consumer.”

For instance, more and more concentrates customers are asking for strain-specific terp sauce to add to their dab rigs. And at $40-$50 per gram, the potential income for producers and retailers is substantial, given that consumers will pay more to get the added effects of terpenes.

In short, there’s a lot more going on in that terp sauce than the cannabinoids can provide on their own, and knowledgeable customers are asking for it.

Take terpene-infused beverages, for example. Prominent craft beer companies such as New Belgium in Colorado have brewed ales infused with hemp-derived terpenes – although the federal government has blown the whistle on brews containing cannabis terpenes. One company in San Diego, Two Roots Brewing, is working on several recipes that incorporate the smell and taste of cannabis, which is remarkably similar in genetic makeup to the hops used to brew beer.

In the following pages you’ll find tips and advice for how to employ and develop terpenes – and leapfrog beyond the race for the strongest cannabis products.