Stop Putting Cannabis in a Box
Last week I had pretty much the most informative hour I’ve spent talking with someone since joining the cannabis industry. Rachel Miller, a scientist who heads up sales in Washington for Bloom, debunked all the things I thought I knew about cannabis. Read our interview to learn the proper way to hit a vape pen and why you should be caring less about sativa and indica classifications.
So - I’d love to understand a little bit about your relationship with Cannabis.
Rachel: I’ve loved cannabis since I was 15. I’m fascinated with cannabis - specifically the science and neuropharmacological side. I’m a huge nerd! In college I studied neurobiology and behavior - but what I did was my own kind of sub-studies of cannabis. I probably did a total of 15 projects on cannabis and its effects on the brain - no matter what class it was, everything I could make about cannabis I did.
Did you study the Endocannabinoid System?
Rachel: Yes! The endocannabinoid system is specifically where I did most of my write ups. There’s a lot on the endocannabinoid system, and that’s where I started realizing that all of the “information” that I’ve been told over the years, you know from Sativa, and Indica, from body high and head high, was all bullshit.
Really? Wait, so do you believe in the idea of sativa and indica as classifications?
Rachel: No I don’t. They’re phenotypes - observable characteristics of the plant. The chemicals of the plant are what act in our body and its physical characteristics, as far as science has shown up until now, has nothing to do with its chemical makeup. It’s like saying because I have brown hair I have a hilarious personality. There’s no correlation between the color of my hair and my personality traits. It’s the same thing with cannabis. There is no scientifically founded correlation between the sativa/indica classifications and the actual high you get from the plant. We have to look at the chemotype, not phenotype, to understand the high.
So when you’re talking about chemotypes you’re talking about percentages of the cannabinoids in the strain like THC, CBD, etc etc.
Rachel: Not just cannabinoids. What I care about are what cannabinoids are there and what terpenes and terpenoids are. And we can detect these just by our nose. By smelling. I love that! That is even a bigger part of the story than cannabinoids.
Rachel: Exactly. Terpenes and terpenoids. So these are flavor compounds - organic compounds found in plants that make them smell the way they do - from the apples we eat to flowers, and of course, cannabis.
Our sense of smell really does affect mood, right? Like essential oils - lavender for calming...
Rachel: Exactly that’s a perfect example. The other day I was at a vendor day and this woman says: “Oh! This smells like my lavender oil,” and I said good nose because linalool is one of the dominant terpenes in this strain as it also is in lavender oil. And she responded “oh well I use that to go to sleep! Does that mean that this cartridge would make me go to sleep?” And I said that’s a great hypothesis - you should test it. That right there is a perfect example of somebody that is going to learn how cannabis helps them based on the chemotype.
If I can summarize what you’re talking about - with all of these strains out there - they have different terpene profiles, and different levels of all the different cannabinoids. And someone coming in and trying to learn what makes them feel how and what they should use in certain situations is really just a matter of going in and testing them on their own, and analyzing like ok I smoke Gorilla Glue - how do I feel right now? And if I like that then I should look for strains with similar profiles.
Rachel: Correct, exactly. That’s a really good way. I actually have running notes that I do on my phone for myself where I will write down the strain, grower, and the major aromas. And then I mark two other main factors: set and setting. By set I mean - so right now I’m calm. I’m in an interview, I’m calm, I’m kind of relaxed. That’s my set. My setting is: I’m alone in my apartment. I’m not in a social environment. I’m on a video call. That’s my setting. Understanding those two variables are hugely important, because they can affect the high as much as the chemotype. If I’m already sleepy and home alone getting ready for bed and I smoke pot, I’m most likely going to pass out. On the other end, if I’m about to go for a run and my body is starting to get ready by getting amped up and then I smoke the same strain, it could be a very energetic high.
It’s incredibly complex.
Rachel: And that’s exactly what I try to get through to people.
It just shows the importance of people educating themselves otherwise you have to depend on the information at the store.
Rachel: And you’re told something and accept it right?
Rachel: It’s awesome that somebody wants to be able to say “I know this strain”. But if I’m a smart user I won’t be asking the budtender which strain will make me sleepy - I’ll be asking the budtender which strains are the most floral, because I’ve learned that floral strains make me sleepy. Cannabis is so complex and it’s a beautiful complexity it really is. People are wanting to put it in a box. Stop putting it in the boxes of sativa, indica, and whatever. Stop putting it in the boxes of head high, body high. Get rid of the boxes and open up the opportunities of what cannabis can be. Learn how a specific strain affects you and then if you like that effect, go towards strains that have similar chemotypes, not phenotypes.
Talking about the importance of terpenes, what are your thoughts on the Bloom products and the focus on terpenes in their oils?
Rachel: So that’s what I love about it. The fact that we do that. Vape oil is really interesting in the context of this conversation because the base we use is a distillate, and when you process cannabis to a distillate, you’re left with only cannabinoids, and those have no phenotypic character, which immediately blows the sativa/indica conversation out the window. From there we reintroduce the specific terpene profile of the strain, which keeps it consistent batch to batch. If our King Louis XIII affects you as desired, you can expect that experience every time. This way, you can rely on Bloom Vape products for the flavor, the effects and understanding the chemotype of the strain. Bloom is an ideal educational tool as well as just a high quality product to consume for your cannabis needs.
And now we have the new vape pen. I was reading about it though that the battery too burns the oil differently because the oil is more delicate.
Rachel: So that’s the thing about distillate - it’s very, very thick. My overdone phrase I tell people is: “low and slow is the way to go.” Everytime, vendors and customers remember it. I have people come into vendor day and they’re like “low and slow girl” and I’m like “I know, keep it going!” It works. Because it’s so viscous, it’s like honey. How do you heat honey? You don’t heat it on high temp really fast. You heat it on low temperature very slowly over time. So the lower the temperature and the slower you pull on the cartridge, the harder the hit, the tastier the hit and the better the hit you’re going to get.
Yea I’m not a big vaper but i’ve been trying to learn more since I’ve been in CA just trying to learn about all of the things.
Rachel: I always make sure to say that vaping is not smoking. It’s not the same high because it’s not the same heating method. You’re going at a lower temperature than a flame, and that tends to mean less oxidation, less degradation, which can mean the high is not going to feel as heavy as when you burn it. And when you consume it as an edible that’s also a different high - because then it’s converted into delta-11 in our liver and has a slightly different affinity for our receptors. It’s just - they’re all different. It’s about learning what cannabis can do for you and what form of it works best for your needs and desires.
That’s super interesting. Personally I still love smoking a joint but this makes total sense.
Rachel: Totally. I’ll burn a bowl - bongs are my absolute favorite. Even if it’s harsh I’m still gonna be ripping that bong. Hahahahaha.
Rachel: It’s not going to stop me. It’s cannabis! Gotta love it.
Interview by Meg Minuskin