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Long Live Terpenes: Embracing a New Era of Cannabis Classification

Long Live Terpenes: Embracing a New Era of Cannabis Classification

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In a world where the cannabis industry is rapidly evolving, clinging to the antiquated classifications of indica and sativa seems almost counterintuitive. For years, these classifications have served as the foundation for categorizing cannabis strains based on their perceived effects. However, as our understanding of cannabis deepens, it becomes increasingly clear that the traditional binary classifications no longer hold up under scientific scrutiny. The dawn of a new era in cannabis classification is upon us, driven by the exploration of terpenes – the aromatic compounds that hold the key to unlocking the true potential of the plant.

Drew Hull, the head of sensory at True Terpenes, offers a thought-provoking perspective on the matter. In an interview, he challenges the validity of relying on the terms “indica” and “sativa” to predict consumer outcomes. He emphasizes that these terms have lost their significance due to the extensive crossbreeding practices that have reshaped the cannabis landscape. Hull argues that these classifications lack meaning in today’s context and that a more nuanced approach is necessary to guide consumers toward their desired effects.

The historical roots of the indica and sativa classifications date back to the 18th century when early scientists attempted to categorize the cannabis plant. French biologist Jean Baptiste Lamark introduced the idea that cannabis indica was a distinct form of the plant, characterized by its short stature and thick leaves. Over time, these classifications evolved to encompass perceived effects, with indica associated with relaxation and sativa with energy. However, advancements in molecular biology shattered the notion of a clear divide between these categories, revealing that there is, in fact, only one cannabis species – cannabis sativa L.

Enter terpenes, the unsung heroes of the cannabis plant. Terpenes are aromatic compounds found in various plants, including cannabis, and they are responsible for the plant’s distinct smells and flavors. More importantly, they play a pivotal role in shaping the effects of different cannabis strains. Drew Hull aptly points out that it’s the terpene profiles, not the broad classifications, that dictate whether a strain is uplifting or sedating.

cannabis world news consumer education Long Live Terpenes graphic
Photo Credit: Tony Bowles

Dr. Ethan Russo’s pioneering work on the Entourage Effect further underscores the importance of terpenes. This concept highlights the synergistic relationship between cannabinoids and terpenes, suggesting that their combined presence results in more potent and tailored effects. With this insight, the focus has shifted from merely identifying individual cannabinoids to understanding the intricate interplay between cannabinoids and terpenes.

To redefine cannabis classification, researchers like Dr. Russo and others have proposed the concept of terpene superclasses. These groupings categorize strains based on their dominant terpenes and, consequently, their effects. Notably, True Terpenes has taken this idea a step further with Terpology®, creating customized terpene blends designed to evoke specific effects. This approach allows consumers to navigate the complex world of cannabis based on their desired outcomes rather than relying on outdated indica/sativa labels.
The journey towards a meaningful classification system doesn’t stop at terpenes alone. Drew Hull envisions a future where the unique terroir – the environmental conditions in which the plant is grown – contributes to a comprehensive classification structure.

Drawing inspiration from the world of wine, where terroir influences taste and aroma, Hull suggests incorporating global cannabis trends, like Afghani hashish and Colombian weed, to create a system that captures the essence of each strain’s origin.

As the cannabis industry inches closer to this new paradigm, education becomes paramount. Brands and producers have a responsibility to empower consumers with knowledge about terpenes and their effects. Informative labeling, detailing terpene profiles and potential effects, can empower consumers to make informed choices that align with their preferences.
In conclusion, the days of relying on the oversimplified classifications of indica and sativa are numbered. The emergence of terpene-driven classifications and the understanding of the Entourage Effect mark a significant shift in how we approach cannabis. Drew Hull’s vision of an evolved classification system, fueled by terpene superclasses and inspired by the plant’s terroir, sets the stage for a more sophisticated understanding of cannabis effects. As consumers, we’re invited to “shop with our noses,” embracing the innate wisdom of our senses to guide us toward the strains that resonate with us on a personal level. Indica and sativa may be dead, but the era of terpene exploration has only just begun.

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To delve deeper into the realm of terpenes and their effects, explore True Terpenes’ offerings and discover the future of cannabis classification at

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Feature photo credit: Jake W. – Romulan Genetics

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