When one walks into a dispensary and orders for fresh Jack Herer or Pink Kush, they anticipate a certain kind of experience from each plant. If they have purchased these plants before, they are likely to be drawing from their past experiences. When it’s the first purchase, most consumers will be looking at the product label to determine the experience to anticipate.
If the budtender were to be asked one question, it would be, is it an indica or sativa? Or, in some cases, how much tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) or cannabidiol (CBD) the product contains? But does this say anything about the high that users are likely to experience from the product? According to Terpli CEO Peter Kasper, this is highly unlikely. The loose classification of cannabis varieties (sativa/indica) frustrates our understanding of cannabis.
Mace Media spoke to Peter to gain insights into what Terpli is doing to help consumers better grasp the effects to anticipate from cannabis varieties before they purchase them. We drew some powerful insights from our conversation.
Mace Media: Can you tell us about yourself and your background?
Peter: I’m very quantitative in nature and background. My background is in Applied Mathematics and Finance and I worked as a senior financial analyst for several years. Along that process, I explored the potential for an MBA and took time to figure out what I was interested in and passionate about personally. That always came back to cannabis. Cannabis has always been a theme in my life, through the communities I’m immersed in and the events I attend.
And this is what led me to pursue my MBA at USC Marshall. Along that pathway, I had the chance to immerse myself in all facets of the cannabis space in California, from local meetup groups to various events. I’m passionate about why I feel the way I do when I consume cannabis and how that’s also different and personal on an individual basis.
I realized there was a significant issue that existed in the industry. Consumers often lack adequate information that is needed to make an accurate decision on a cannabis purchase. The current system of indica versus sativa  or the obsession with THC percent is lopsided. This system didn’t make sense to me, and as I started to collect more and more lab tests, I better understood the value and the impact that terpenes have over a user’s experience. I knew that I could use this information to improve my ability to make a better selection or a better purchase.
Mace Media: What don’t consumers understand about the effects to anticipate from different cannabis varieties?
Peter: What surprised me as I started exploring the space and educating myself about what’s available on the market is the inconsistency in the messaging around products. I would pick two indicas and compare their effects or pick two products that had identical THC percentages and compare their effects. And each time, dramatically different results came about from it. This made me understand that those are no longer relevant markers or cues to determine what outcome you expect from a product. It felt like this glass wall had just shattered around me.
It became clear that there was a division between what the average consumer understood and saw at a surface level and what the operators in the space knew. There’s no streamlined education and information to support the entire market on what matters about this plant and how you can use this type of information to make decisions around buying products, bringing products to market, or even stocking the right products on your shelves.
Mace Media: If it is neither indica, sativa, or the THC concentration, what should consumers be focused on?
Peter: The terpene profile.
Look at it this way. If you’re driving a car, how fast you go will be due to the THC. But the terpenes will modulate how that feels inside — going 60 mph in a 1990 Honda Accord will feel a lot different than going 60 mph in a 2020 Tesla.
The cannabis plant has over 200 terpenes that produce different aromas that scare away predators and help us differentiate between different varieties. These aromatic oils work in synergy with other bioactive compounds (cannabinoids and flavonoids) to produce a robust and sustained therapeutic effect.
All elements come together to form a euphony of recreational and medical effects. This synergistic relationship is the entourage effect.
Mace Media: What does Terpli do?
Peter: Terpli interprets batch-specific certificates of analysis to analyze the actual chemistry behind each product via the full cannabinoid and terpene profile. We use an algorithm to analyze the sample, submitted reviews, and research information to interpret what a user might expect from a particular product in their hand.
Terpli has designed a unique and personalized mobile app that offers users specific insights into effects they can anticipate from a cannabis variety based on the terpene profile and what other users have experienced from the plant.
The app allows users to look up a particular product from a represented brand via its product name, orby typing in the batch ID from the packaging label, which is run through an algorithm that curates specific effects and outcomes that a user might experience based on the cannabinoid and terpene profile. We work with brands and retailers to provide discounts that act as incentives for our users to write genuine reviews of the products on the platform and help with the high cost of cannabis goods.
Mace Media: What’s the feedback from the market about what you’re doing?
Peter: It’s been positive. I’ve gotten overwhelming amounts of feedback from retailers and brands trying to move away from this obsession with THC percent.
Mace Media: What are your thoughts on the future of the industry?
Peter: I think as increasingly more information is generated and shared across markets, we’ll start to see more centralization of this disparate kind of ecosystem, especially as consumers become more educated, and as data becomes more critical when it comes to leveraging it for one’s business strategy.
But ultimately, I see a future within the space that’s much more driven by terpenes versus anything else, especially as it relates to the personalization of cannabis – because cannabis is personal.