Want to take your weed-snob knowledge to the next level? Under president Max Montrose and CEO Jim Nathanson, the Trichome Institute offers a series of cannabis courses, culminating with the "weed sommelier," or interpening, class.
In his interpening — technically "interpreting terpenes" — class, Montrose regularly guides cannabis enthusiasts through the ins and outs of cannabis. For four solid hours, everyone from managers of dispensaries to growers, budtenders and owners learns how to pick up a plant and detect everything they need to know about the cannabis from its smell, bud structure and leaves. If you pay attention and pass a test at the end of the class, you'll win official certification as a weed sommelier.
Montrose is one of the biggest weed nerds you'll ever have the pleasure to meet. He has grown cannabis in every way imaginable and has authored three books on the subject, including a variety of course materials that are available nationwide. He has the scientific research to back up his instruction, including this major takeaway: If the weed looks bad, it is bad.
Here are ten more awesome things you'll learn at weed sommelier class.
10. Weed does have a shelf life.
The three things that degrade cannabis are heat, light and time. Montrose says that weed will in fact go bad, which explains the stale taste and lessened THC effect you'll find with some buds that have been on the shelf for too long. The best time to smoke cannabis is between two weeks and three months after harvest; after several months, the amount of terpenes in your cannabis will have been reduced by as much as 53 percent. "It's based on chemistry, and we proved it," Montrose notes.
9. Jar rot is real.
"In this class, we are weed sommeliers," Montrose says. "So we can identify molds and why they exist." If cannabis isn't cured properly and contains a small amount of moisture when it is placed in a sealed container, it has the potential to begin rotting because of the lack of air circulation. But dispensaries in Colorado are required by the Marijuana Enforcement Division to pre-package their product, which means it is often sealed weeks before sale — without an air flow. Jar rot is the same fast-growing white mold that will appear on strawberries left in the fridge too long.
8. Your body doesn't absorb all of the THC percentage on the cannabis label.
The lungs are one of the strongest filtration systems in the body, along with the liver: THC passes through both when we are smoking or imbibing cannabis. This means that the THC percentage you see on any given package of weed won't be the amount that you absorb. That is, unless you're putting cannabis in your body rectally or transdermally, bypassing any filtration system.
7. Cannabinoids are the size of the engine, while terpenes are what steer the car.
"Cannabinoids have less to do with the type of high, where as Terpenes determine that high," says Montrose. Terpenes are the chemicals that emits smell. There are many types of terpenes— mono, seques, di, tetra, terpene, etc. The terpenes are also a factor in determining the make and smell of the bud, which often inspire a strain's name. The terpene D-Lemonene will give the strain a citrus smell, while Mycrene will give the strain a skunky and earthy smell; Linilool and Carophyllene produce smells of deep chocolate and lavender.
6. A lot of bugs, bacteria and molds are only apparent on the microscopic level.
Luckily, our class wasn't tested on anything microscopic. Unluckily, as Montrose says, "You guys have smoked more bugs than you think." Most dispensaries have magnifying glasses, sure, but do they have microscopes? Without those, you might not be aware of a strain's flaws — and the Trichome Institute has found that the majority of problems with cannabis can only be seen on this level. According to Montrose, the Trichome Institute is the only place in town testing for spider mites and microscopic ailments on the plant.
Continue reading for five more awesome things we learned at interpening class.
5 . We love bad-smelling weed because of chemistry.
The chemical reaction that our brain has to a strain as pungent as a skunk, or one labeled "cat piss," is no accident. Chemistry at work in our bodies draws us to that terrible smell. "Smells are beyond our consciousness," says Montrose. "It's a chemical signal to keep you safe; your body is reacting to something before your brain knows why."
4. Powdery mildew is lactos- intolerant.
The class is full of interesting tidbits, including the fact that powdery mildew, one of the most common forms of mildew seen on cannabis plants, is allergic to milk. So instead of dousing it with pesticides, Montrose has a home remedy: "Shot glass of whole, organic milk, a gallon of water and a squirt of lemon."
3. You smell indica and sativa at different places in your nose.
The type of cannabis is easily detectable because of where you smell it in your nose. Sativa will produce a smell felt higher up in the sinus cavity and temples; indica is going to be smelled predominantly on the bottom of your nose, or even lower. "The strongest indica I have ever come across in my life, I seemed to be smelling it six inches below the bottom of my nose, even, it just felt so low," Montrose says.
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2. There are some strains that just defy nature and logic.
While the Trichome Institute's "Weed Wheel" and interpening process are accurate for the majority of strains, Montrose points out that there are exceptions to the rule. One is Girl Scout Cookies, a strain that's highly popular in Colorado and hails from northern California. According to Montrose, "Girl Scout Cookies grows and acts like both variety types of cannabis. It grows like a Sativa with tight leaf fingers and very long node spacing on the branches; yet it grows a tight dense nug like a golf ball that Indica produces with a feeling that is both stoned and high."
1. Dabs can be super bad for you.
The Trichome Institute holds an entire class on the dangers of dabbing, an under-researched aspect of cannabis. I would have said that it was entirely un-researched, but then I learned what the Trichome Institute is doing. Essentially, it's been found that when you concentrate cannabis, you are not only concentrating the THC, but everything else in the cannabis, too. That means if there is a trace amount of pesticides in cannabis, those pesticides will become concentrated, too. For example, if cannabis holds four times the legal limit of pesticides in parts per million, for example, it will become ten times that when concentrated, giving the cannabis nearly forty times the legal limit of pesticides. This creates a poison, not far off from "smoking glue," says Montrose, who advises that if you must dab, do so with a glass-on-glass piece and live resin. "Trust me, I piss off a lot of stoners," he adds. "But then there are a lot of people who come back and are so thankful. I had a student tell me, 'You saved my life. Thank you for giving me that option.'"
Learn more about the Trichome Institute and find out about its upcoming courses here.