With all this talk of weed being the new wine, you're probably wondering how long it'll be before you're sitting in a dank lounge somewhere, sniffing a bowl of high-grade cannabis and desperately searching for something intelligent to say to your more cultured pothead companion.

Sure, you can mumble about how you're sooooo high, or comment on how many THC crystals you think you see on the outside of the bud. But if you really want to sound like you know what you're talking about, you're going to need to mention terpenes.


Terpenes are a type of organic compound known for their strong smell. Lots of plants produce them, and lots of other products contain them, including perfumes, aromatherapies, beer and food.

We hardly mention the word when discussing any of these other things, but marijuana connoisseurs are most interested in talking about terpenes. Especially when it comes to the cannabis concentrate known as wax, which can lose some of its terpenes in the purging process.

Mason Cain, the founder of L.A.-based wax company Prime Extracts, says that his product is purified to a precise point to encourage the ideal terpene profile. “If you over purge, you remove the flavor and the terps,” Cain says.

But not every wax company believes in letting the plant's inherent terpenes sing out.

Top L.A.-based wax makers Clear Concentrates actually purify their wax so intensely that the terpenes disappear. So they add some back in — and not always to taste like cannabis. Popular flavors of “The Clear” include Pineapple Cheese Cake and Sour Berry.

“People like the funky weird flavors more than they do the regular flavors,” says Chris, The Clear's head scientist. “If the Strawberry Cough doesn’t taste enough like strawberry, they get upset.”

Chris also says he thinks terpenes are overemphasized among so-called marijuana devotees, and that there are a host of other subtle factors that affect pot products' taste and smell.

Of course, to truly sound like a pro, you’d need to know the names of the individual terpene compounds, what smells and tastes they produce, and which strains you can find them in. But if you’re just looking to keep up, all you need to do is talk about how you can taste or smell the terps, and marvel at how delicious and fragrant they are. You'll immediately be recognized as kindred spirit and welcomed into whatever cannabis community you're trying to get in with. Even if those people have no idea what they’re talking about, either. 

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