Ask any experienced medical cannabis grower or processor to describe its products and you are likely to get some evasive answers. Why? It is not that growers and processors are trying to hide anything from the law. In three dozen states and the District of Columbia, medical cannabis is completely legal. Growers and processors are somewhat secretive about the exact formulas of their products because they all want their own brand advantage.
How do they create their formulas? By doing different things with THC, CBD, and terpenes. These three compounds are effectively the ‘secret ingredients’ of medical marijuana. By manipulating them, growers and processors can come up with a variety of products with different profiles and uses.
THC is perhaps the most well-known cannabinoid. It is that which gives marijuana its ability to make one high. As a cannabinoid, it activates receptors in the human endocannabinoid system. With receptors activated and THC being absorbed, users feel the euphoric experience THC is known to produce.
Medical cannabis proponents say that THC has defined medical benefits. For example, a significant majority of patients who use medical cannabis do so to manage chronic pain. Medical cannabis strains containing controlled levels of THC are ideal for managing pain in some patients.
Note that maximum dose THC products are not appropriate for every medical condition for which medical cannabis is prescribed. Some patients do better with a lower THC amount; still others don’t utilize THC at all. They are better served by CBD.
The other well-known cannabinoid in the medical marijuana space is known as cannabidiol (CBD). This particular substance activates some of the same receptors activated by THC. However, their influence on those receptors is different. As such, CBD does not create the same euphoric feelings.
Note that most of the time, growers and processors are referring to industrial hemp when they talk about producing CBD products. Likewise, THC is almost always associated with marijuana. Remember that both hemp and marijuana are cannabis plants.
Also note that industrial hemp is legal in all fifty state and is not limited only to medical use. Where it is cultivated and processed for medical purposes, businesses must be licensed by their respective states to do so.
Cannabis Products and Terpenes
The least understood of the three types of compounds are terpenes. Naturally produced by most plants, there are some 30,000 compounds that qualify as terpenes. They are odiferous and easily recognized by their individual odor profiles. For example, virtually anyone could smell the difference between limonene and pinene. The former is commonly found in citrus trees, like lemon, while the latter is associated with conifers.
Beehive Farmacy, a Utah medical marijuana dispensary with locations in Salt Lake City and Brigham City, explains that cultivators and processors are starting to home in on terpene profiles. As the thinking goes, terpenes might enhance the effects of medical cannabis products in some cases. By experimenting with different terpene profiles, processors can create more specific products with more targeted uses.
A Balancing Act
Cultivators and processors alike have a difficult balancing act relating to THC, CBD, and terpenes. Most of the challenge relates to THC specifically. This is due to state laws which limit the amount of THC a medical cannabis product can contain.
Processors on the medical side of things experiment with different levels of THC and a variety of terpene profiles. On the non-medical side, they can focus more on terpene profiles because they do not have to worry so much about THC. At any rate, the three compounds are the secret ingredients in their products.