The current model for purchasing cannabis leaves a lot to be desired for the consumer. If you’ve ever shopped in a dispensary yourself, you’ve experienced firsthand that there are limited tools available that connect you, the consumer, with the type of cannabis you hope to purchase that day. One option available to cannabis enthusiasts are various cannabis directory apps (Eaze, Amaze, Emjay, the list goes on) that offer limited data points such as cultivar information and delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) percentage. Or you can put your trust in the budtenders on staff for the day: “How are we doing today? Are you looking for an indica, sativa, or hybrid?”
While courteous, the approach is often too broad and non-specific to be helpful to the consumer. Both systems depend on indicators that are unreliable in promising a desired outcome — while brand, cultivar name, THC amount, indica vs. sativa, and price points are commonly used metrics to categorize products, they are barely enough to help a consumer personalize their experience.
Herein lies the issue: we can have wonderful service, educated budtenders, and welcoming dispensaries, but if the indicators we are all using to determine the value of a cannabis product are misleading, then this shaky system is destined to fail. Where we are now, the customer journey for cannabis consumers is subpar, often far less informative than many of its competing industries, and to put it lightly — consumers deserve better.
1. Cultivar Names
So, how can we do better? Let’s start by looking at cultivar names. At this point in the game, cultivar names no longer accurately reflect genetics. The California cannabis industry does not require brands to label their products with the original name of the plant, so brands in essence have creative freedom to name their products in ways that align with their ethos. While there’s nothing notably wrong with that, we can no longer apply the same trust in a name as we did before. To add to that, plenty of brands white label products, meaning brands and plant names are not inextricably tied to the cultivator. Looking even closer, we would see how much cannabis products vary just batch to batch.  There is no guarantee that cultivators can replicate the same results with each harvest. In short, naming freedoms are welcome in the cannabis industry, but should not be used as concrete indicators. What can we use then? Well, just hold on to that question for now.
2. THC %
The second part of our dilemma lies within the cannabis industry’s obsession with THC percentages. THC has long been perceived as the metric for potency and quality in the cannabis space, often leading to absurd pricing for products boasting anything over 30%, and limited shelving for products below 20% THC. Until there are other means to evaluate and diagnose products (for example, a comprehensive display of all cannabinoids and terpenes found in whatever product a consumer is looking at) brands and retailers will continue to face incredible pressure to cater to consumers that believe THC percentage is the end-all-be-all for cannabis. (Fun fact: cannabis brands are allowed a 10% margin-of-error on their edible products.)
3. Limited Brand & Manufacturer Info
The third problematic indicator that consumers deal with is limited visibility into brands and their claimed processes. Claiming you have the most ‘fire’ bud on shelves isn’t going to cut it anymore. With an over-saturated market of brands and insanely high turnover on retail shelves, consumers are struggling to identify and connect with cannabis brands, putting more pressure than ever to optimize a company’s brand voice and their messaging to these consumers. For this reason, transparency is more important than ever before to cannabis consumers. They want to know where the cannabis was grown or produced — was it sun grown, indoor, mixed light? Was it well taken care of and/or sustainably grown? Is it free of harmful pesticides, and has it passed all necessary examinations?
4. Package Date & Poor Shelving
The fourth part of the dilemma is the packaging date and the poor shelving conditions for products. Poor storage and shelving conditions can dramatically affect cannabis products.  Terpenes and cannabinoids degrade quickly under harmful or unstable conditions — something as simple as light exposure can damage cannabis products and spur degradation. After three months of storage, the chemical composition can change dramatically, and uneducated consumers may not understand how much their cannabis will change through improper storage and care for their product.
And finally, the infamous but not-so-useful labels of indica, sativa, and hybrid. As cannabis science continues to reveal the components truly at play when it comes to your high and your experience, this same science clashes with the legacy labels that the market has invented over time. Common examples would include indica as a downer, sativa as an upper, with hybrids arbitrarily falling somewhere in-between. To move away from this, consumers desperately need to turn to terpenes and cannabinoids. They need to educate themselves on the cannabis plant and what really empowers it. Cannabis consumers have to understand that it is largely the synergy of terpenes and cannabinoids that create the ensemble of effects, and their respective modulation of THC’s psychoactive properties.
Plant names that don’t mean much, THC percentages that are being misreported, nearly invisible brand and manufacturer data, outdated products, and misleading legacy labels — to say the least, the dilemma being presented is a complicated mess, and the longer we take to resolve it the more convoluted it will become. In order to resolve many of the problems presented, I’ve been building my own version of what this solution might look like: a cannabis data start-up formed in the beginning of 2021 that I have aptly named “Terpli.” So, what is Terpli, how did it come to be, and what does it want to achieve?
The core ambition that drives Terpli is the desire to simplify an already overwhelming cannabis experience and to raise the standard of transparency for cannabis consumers and the overall market. For consumers, Terpli provides genuine insight on the chemical profiles of their cannabis products — it helps them differentiate between misleading labels. Understanding that the chemical profile of a claimed and marketed ‘sativa’ might actually be better suited for sleep, or that a claimed ‘indica’ is better for day-time focus, is information that consumers deserve and need. By looking up products from any of our partnered brands, like Pure Beauty or Papa’s Select, Terpli provides people with the ability to better learn what role terpenes and cannabinoids are playing in their consumer experience. Our hope is to become a guide for cannabis consumers, helping them navigate the space’s complexities with simple, straight-forward definitions, community reviews, and digestible effects to distinguish between products.
Terpli’s upsides aren’t simply limited to consumers — everyone benefits. By tying together user experiences and product data, Terpli hopes to help brands better market their products based on what the chemistry is actually saying. Given the limited marketing channels in the cannabis space, and the propensity for Leafly and Weedmaps to charge an arm-and-a-leg for simple advertising, Terpli will help brands connect with their customers more intimately through in-app advertising services uniquely catered to their chemical habits, going as far as offering a match engine for any single cannabis product in their database (+5,000 COAs and growing). Brands will finally receive the insight and the opportunity that they need to make better products. And as for retailers, dispensaries will actually know what products to put on their shelves, and they will also better understand what makes those products so well received. Our hope is to put the days of six-month old cannabis behind us.
To learn more about Terpli and it’s exciting future, please visit www.terpli.io, or download the app on the App Store or Google play (available September 2021).
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