In recent years, the cannabis industry has been defined primarily by THC potency, but a groundbreaking study has challenged this notion, shifting the focus to a different dimension of cannabis character: aroma.
In a recent study published in the journal Psychoactives, renowned neuroscientists, researchers, and cultivators have collaborated to understand what truly contributes to a quality cannabis experience.
Contrary to common belief, the study reveals that THC potency is not the prime factor driving consumer enjoyment; instead, it is the aroma of the cannabis flower that plays the most significant role. The Bluntness delves into the implications of this research and explores the sensory aspects of cannabis that have been overlooked in the past.
The Pleasure Test
The primary aim of the study was to identify the characteristics and features of cannabis that lead to a pleasant subjective experience. Unlike previous research, which was often limited by the use of genetically distinct cannabis or synthetic compounds, this study took a groundbreaking real-use approach. The research team gathered consumer response data from 276 participants, termed "judges," who sampled 8-10 organic craft cultivars from Oregon's Cultivation Classic cannabis competitions in 2019 and 2020.
The results were far from what many expected. Contrary to the belief that THC potency is the primary driver of consumer satisfaction, the study revealed that the aroma of the cannabis flower was the strongest contributor to subjective appeal. Cannabis flower with the most appealing aromas were also more likely to elicit the greatest subjective enjoyment.
Smelling the Experience: The Power of Aroma
The findings challenge traditional notions around cannabis preferences and lead us to question the industry's emphasis on THC potency. Instead, aroma has emerged as the king when it comes to consumer enjoyment. Consumers seeking the best experience should shop with their nose, prioritizing the fragrance of the flower over its THC content.
Jeremy Plumb, an esteemed breeder and cultivator involved in the study, emphasizes the importance of preserving and appreciating cannabis aroma. He advocates for leaning into sensory analysis throughout the cannabis cultivation and retailing process. According to Plumb, sensory science should be the driving force behind the evaluation of cannabis character, shifting away from the overemphasis on THC potency.
Implications for the Cannabis Industry
The implications of this research may be far-reaching, as it challenges the current definition of value in the cannabis market. For too long, the "potency effect of prohibition" has dominated the industry, wherein THC potency has been the primary determinant of cannabis value. By acknowledging the significance of aroma and sensory appeal, the industry has an opportunity to redefine value based on the consumer's subjective experience, ultimately leading to a more sustainable and consumer-centric market.
In most legal states consumers are confused by the plethora of information and marketing messages, including THC potency, brand names, and strain classifications that often hold little relevance to the actual consumer experience.
As a result, consumers may end up choosing products based on misleading indicators, missing out on some of the most aromatic and enjoyable cannabis options available.
The Importance of Engaging the Senses
The cannabis experience is a sensuous relationship that relies heavily on engaging the senses. Plumb emphasizes the importance of optimizing aroma preservation and presentation at every stage of the supply chain. From cultivation and drying to packaging and retailing, the industry should prioritize the sensory aspects that can elevate the consumer experience.
The current state of the industry, with its overemphasis on potency and inadequate preservation of aroma, has resulted in consumers receiving products that lack the true essence and spectrums of cannabis. Instead of encountering the enticing aroma of the flower, consumers are often met with unremarkable scents like hay or alfalfa, failing to provide the enjoyable experience they seek.
By shifting away from the potency-centric approach and embracing and including a sensory-based evaluation, the cannabis industry can better cater to consumers' preferences and foster a more educated and thus sustainable market.
As consumers, we should be encouraged to explore the full spectrum of cannabis, allowing our sense of smell, sight and taste to guide our choices.
The delightful fragrance of the flower holds the key to a truly enjoyable and fulfilling cannabis experience.
As Toucan Sam knew before we all did, “follow your nose, it always knows.”