This article is presented by True Terpenes, a provider of high-quality terpene isolates and blends that are crafted in accordance with cGMP, ISO 9001, and FSSC 22000 standards.
Terpenes, the chemical compounds that are largely responsible for the flavor and smell of cannabis, are having a bit of a moment these days. Cannabis chemists and consumers alike are learning more every day about the effect these aromatic chemicals have on not just the character, but also the effects of cannabis strains.
While terpenes play a particular role in cannabis chemistry, these compounds aren’t unique to the plant. Indeed, terpenes are found throughout the plant kingdom. And since evolution conserves energy where it can, terpenes that are found in one plant are molecularly identical to the same terpene from a different source—that is, a linalool terpene is a linalool terpene, whether it’s harvested from lavender flowers or cannabis buds.
Testing Terpenes Today
That identical molecular makeup allows the team at True Terpenes to use isolated botanical terpenes to recreate the flavors of cannabis strains without using the cannabis plant. Crafted from botanical sources, True Terpenes provides both isolated terpenes and terpene blends to clients from cannabis vape cart manufacturers to ice cream shops.
“People are learning a lot about terpenes these days, but they’ve actually been familiar with them all their lives,” says True Terpenes marketing manager Benjamin Disinger. “When you peel an orange or smell a rose, those are terpenes in action.”
While botanical terpenes are chemically identical to terpenes extracted from cannabis, they are derived from plants that are easier to distill at scale. That’s because extractors have plenty of botanical options to draw terpenes from, so they can choose the plant that provides the purest terpene product from the start. That saves producers time by reducing how many distillations they have to perform to wind up with a product that’s ready for consumption.
Ready for consumption, though, remains a slightly foggy term when it comes to the terpene industry. Despite the prevalence of terpenes in nature and commercial products alike, there’s currently no regulation around the isolation and production of these compounds. What pesticides were applied to the plants that terpenes were extracted from? What residual solvents were used in the extraction process? What’s an acceptable level of heavy metals in a finished terpene isolate?
In many jurisdictions, these are questions that do not have solid answers yet. But when they’re added to a product, everything that is in a terpene isolate or blend will come with it. For cannabis companies looking to add flavors and aromas to products like vape carts, it’s imperative that they have confidence in what’s in their terpene blend and know that it won’t bring about any surprises when their final product goes out for testing.
“States are determining their own safety standards in the cannabis industry,” says Disinger. “In Colorado and California, those standards are very strict, while some states have pretty much no regulation at all. For companies like ours that operate across state borders, it’s imperative that we not only meet the strictest safety standards, but hold ourselves to even higher ones to prepare for the future.”
Staying Ahead of the Curve
That’s why the True Terpenes employs a team of compliance officers who are dedicated to keeping tabs on developing regulations around terpenes and ensuring the company’s practices aren’t just up to snuff, but ahead of the curve.
“We do everything in the name of consumer safety,” says Alesya Bradley, quality and regulatory manager for True Terpenes. “With the cannabis industry maturing every day, we ensure that our products not only adhere to the most stringent quality and safety standards available, but exceed them. People deserve to know what they’re putting into their bodies.”
While it remains unclear how government agencies will regulate the growing terpenes industry, it’s a matter of when new rules will roll out, not if. In the interest of being prepared for new regulations coming down the road, True Terpenes’ team has developed its own set of stringent quality and safety standards in the meantime.
Their in-house standard, True Grade, was developed by monitoring regulations surrounding terpenes and cannabis products at a state level as they come online—and then working to surpass those requirements.
Making True Grade
“True Grade was born out of necessity. Every state has their own differing standards and regulations when it comes to cannabis. What is a legal, allowable threshold for pesticides in one state, for instance, may not meet the standards in another,” says Bradley. “And these regulations are moving targets. What is acceptable today might not be acceptable tomorrow.”
To create True Grade, Bradley and her team compared each state’s regulations against each other, selecting the strictest facets from every category. The result is an aggregate of the toughest regulations found across the country.
To ensure all their products live up to the True Grade standard, the True Terpenes team tests their products for contaminants like heavy metals and pesticides left behind from the soil, and residual solvents left behind from the extraction process. They also test the naturally unstable terpenes with distillate against separation, cloudiness, and color change.
By developing—and continuing to update—their own set of in-house standards, the True Terpenes compliance team aims to provide customers with terpene isolates and blends that are safe and dependable, and protect manufacturers using their terpenes from potential recalls or other headaches that could arise alongside new terpene and cannabis regulations.
More than that, they’re hoping that developing a stringent set of standards on their own will help to shape the conversation around terpene regulations moving forward.
“With terpenes being adopted more widely every day, we want to make sure we’re being proactive,” says Disinger. “We’re hopeful that True Grade can be a standard for the rest of the industry to follow.”