One of the biggest benefits of the medical cannabis world is reliability. You can trust that dispensaries will be there, and you can trust that you're getting what they say you're getting. Except when you can't.
As much as they'd like to, dispensary operators can't always know what they're selling. I'm sorry, guys. I know you want to, and you certainly intend to, but I don't think you can prove undeniably that what you sell as OG Kush is actually OG Kush.
Maybe 11 years ago, some grower who knew your grower's cousin in Mendocino wanted to sell OG Kush. So he took a crop of Fuckety-Fuck Kush, and he changed the name. It looked and smelled like OG Kush, so he sold it as OG Kush, and your grower's cousin bought a few clones. Then your grower got some clones from his cousin, and he started growing OG Kush, and maybe he passed along a few clones, and the truth was lost to history. I'm not blaming you or your grower or your grower's cousin. I'm blaming history and reality.
But those days might soon come to an end, because terpene profiles could offer chemical fingerprints of cannabis.
Terpenes are organic compounds found throughout the plant world. They occur in essential oils, so they make pine smell like pine, roses smell like roses and delicious, anxiety-reducing indica smell like heaven. Each plant has its own terpene profile, and there are about 200 of them in cannabis, so ideally this could lead to strain identification by labs.
Terpenes are also pretty important to people. Vitamin A is a terpene, for example. Research is showing that some terpenes moderate the effects of THC and can enhance the effectiveness of other cannabinoids. Various terpenes have shown promise against anxiety, cancer, depression and inflammation.
Myrcene, a terpene also found in mangos, enhances the effects of THC, which explains the theory that drinking mango nectar before smoking can boost your high, a common goal for sativa smokers. Limonene induces relaxation, a common effect sought after in indica strains. Alpha-pinene is a bronchodilator and promotes alertness. In the cannabis world, the science is still developing, and the exact interactions and influences among cannabinoids and terpenes are not well understood.
Most dispensaries already hire labs to test meds for cannabinoids, such as CBD, CBN and THC. Now labs are starting to offer terpene profiles, which are much more specific, and which some believe can be used to keep the cannabis industry honest and the public satisfied and properly medicated.
Terpene profiles were pioneered in 2011 in, where else, Cali. Using gas chromatography, the Werc Shop in L.A. started looking for more than three dozen terpenes in cannabis. So far, they've profiled more than 2,000 strains. At least one lab is offering terpene profiles in Arizona, so ask your dispensary if they have them.
Although you can see terpene profiles for some strains in local dispensaries, the profiles don't offer any guarantee that a strain is what the label says. There are many thousands of strains out there to profile, and there are new ones every day, so that will likely take a couple of years of data collection. For now, the profiles are useful in finding the best strains for your ailment.
So you can't bust your pot dealer for changing a strain name just yet, but it's fun to watch the cannabis industry grow and mature. Doubt about strain identifications is rampant in the nation's cannabis world. It's good to see dispensaries finding a way to eliminate it.