This Startup Says It’s Making Odorless Weed
A Canadian company announced last week that cannabis without the smell could be coming soon to dispensaries. Ontario-based CannabCo Pharmaceutical Corp. has partnered with an undisclosed tech company to make “Purecann,” a nearly odorless variety of marijuana.
It would spark up relatively the same as the juicy, green buds at your local pot shop, only its smell would be “virtually undetectable” in its container and even when torched with a lighter, according to the company.
When CannabCo president and CEO Mark Pellicane first witnessed the tech, according to a press release, he immediately saw dollar signs. “A woman can carry cannabis in her purse without having the odour concentrated or leaking out in her handbag,” Pellicane said. “A number of users, and people that are around cannabis smokers, complain about the smell especially in enclosed areas, condos, and apartments, and this technology addresses those concerns.”
In an email to Motherboard, Pellicane said this move is about offering cannabis users more options. “Since legalization in Canada, I often smell cannabis on the street and I smile thinking how far the industry has come in a relatively short period of time and experience the excitement of how much farther we will go,” Pellicane said. “I’ve always been an advocate of free choice, and now cannabis users, both medical and recreational, have another choice.”
But what is weed without the dank? The distinct whiff familiar to marijuana comes from terpenes, a class of essential oils made by plants, according to Peter Grinspoon, a doctor at Massachusetts General Hospital and a board member of the advocacy group Doctors For Cannabis Regulation.
For example, limonene is a terpene that gives lemons, oranges and some varieties of cannabis a citrus fragrance. Sure, it’s possible to wash or remove terpenes from nugs, but terpenes also contribute to flavor, so Purecann would presumably taste pretty bland. Pellicane confirmed that in the process, terpenes are affected, but said the tech itself is proprietary.
“Terpenes are such an important part of the enjoyment recreationally, as well as the medicinal properties,” Grinspoon told Motherboard. “Why would you take away the odor?”
While research is still inconclusive, some studies suggest that terpenes can contribute to the medicinal properties of marijuana. Linalool, for example, is a terpene found in some types of weed, but is best known for giving lavender its signature stink. In rodents, linalool shows potential as an antidepressant, anti-convulsant, anti-inflammatory and anti-anxiety medication.
“It’s clear that the terpenes contribute to some of the medicinal qualities [of marijuana],” Grinspoon said. He added that it’s impossible to make smoke completely odorless because using heat to combust plant matter will still create an aroma.
“It seems like a gimmick to me,” Grinspoon said. “As a doctor, we never recommend people smoke anyways. We recommend using a vape or a tincture or something, because we don’t want to cause irritation of the lungs.” (Grinspoon has recently cautioned against using vapes until a rash of injuries associated with using e-cigs containing marijuana extracts is addressed.)
CannabCo claims its scentless chronic can also reduce the harsh burn of taking a bong rip, which would make it easier for first-time stoners to enjoy taking a hit. But Grinspoon says there’s not a lot of evidence behind this claim.
“How would they know that?” Grinspoon asked. “I mean, you couldn’t do a randomized placebo-controlled trial because people would taste the difference.”
Pellicane emphasized that CannabCo isn’t making a medical claim here, at least not without more data yet, but employees and customers reported less harshness and less coughing when they tried it. “This was evident throughout the development of the tech, and from personal interaction and observation from medical users,” Pellicane said.
Overall, this product seems aimed at addressing stigma associated with smoking pot. Removing some of the motivations for enjoying cannabis so the neighbors don’t complain or your in-laws don’t notice when you slip away at a family reunion may not be the greatest incentive for smoking odorless pot.
“I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge a stigma exists … against cannabis users, but we don’t feel it’s warranted, don’t acknowledge it, and certainly don’t address it,” Pellicane said. “We’re here to offer cannabis users a choice and contribute positively to the cannabis market and culture.”
He said Purecann is also about respect. “Cannabis is great, but there are human beings around us that do not, or cannot tolerate the smell. Children living in an apartment with neighbors that smoke down the hall, or at a public park where kids are playing,” Pellicane said. “I know people personally that get nauseous or a headache around the odor. What is the harm in using cannabis and respecting others that do not want the odour when the situation requires it? It’s about respecting others as well.”
“There’s so much enthusiasm about cannabis and there’s so many people trying to make money off cannabis,” Grinspoon said. “The two overlap, but this enthusiasm engenders a lot of good ideas and a lot of bad ideas. I think we just have to critically look at each idea that comes up and say does this really help anything?”
Troy Farah is an independent journalist from Southwest California. His reporting on drug policy and science has appeared in WIRED, The Guardian, Undark, Discover Magazine, VICE and more. He co-hosts the drug policy podcast Narcotica. Follow him on Twitter.
Get a personalized roundup of VICE’s best stories in your inbox.
By signing up to the VICE newsletter you agree to receive electronic communications from VICE that may sometimes include advertisements or sponsored content.
A Canadian company says it's trying to make weed less dank.
The Fragrance of Marijuana Before and After Consumption
Marijuana is the dried leaves and flowers of the cannabis plant. Cannabis has psychoactive and medicinal properties because of its chemical makeup.
Marijuana can be rolled up in a handmade cigarette (a joint), in a cigar, or in a pipe (a bong). It can be used for pain relief, to treat anxiety, or for recreation.
In many states, the sale and use of marijuana without a prescription is still illegal.
You can usually tell if someone has been smoking marijuana by detecting the scent of piney, slightly skunky grass that smoked cannabis leaves behind.
But figuring out for sure if what you’re smelling is weed can be a little difficult if you aren’t attuned to the scent. Various strains of marijuana can smell different from each other, making it even more complicated.
This article will cover what marijuana smells like in different stages of its use and consumption, as well as some differences between strains.
The strongest factor in the way marijuana smells is the age of the cannabis plant when it’s harvested. Cannabis that’s harvested earlier in its life cycles has a milder, less skunky scent.
It’s also less powerful when you smoke it. Cannabis that grows older before it’s picked and dried will have a stronger odor.
Organic compounds called terpenes are found in all plants, including cannabis. Myrcene (mango), pinene (pine), and limonene (lemon) are terpenes found in some strains of cannabis.
Terpenes change the scent of marijuana. For example, cannabis strains with pinene will smell more like pine.
Marijuana plants smell similar during the growing process and when they’re harvested and dried. They give off a slightly weedy, piney “skunk” scent that gets stronger as the plant grows older.
When cannabis flowers and blooms, the scent becomes powerful.
Indica vs. sativa
For decades, botanists and marijuana connoisseurs claimed that indica and sativa are different species with distinctly different effects on the body. Indica strain smells more acrid, while sativa smells more spicy or sweet.
But it would appear, at least to some experts, that there’s no way to smell the difference between indica and sativa definitively. Part of the reason is that there’s a lot of crossbreeding between these two particular strains.
However, one small study did find that participants who had purchased weed within the prior several months were able to smell the difference between several different strains of marijuana.
Marijuana consumers describe the scent of the plant as earthy, herbal, and woody. Sometimes the plant scent carries notes of lemon, apple, diesel, or plum.
Dried marijuana smells a lot stronger than some other dried plants.
When you’re smoking marijuana, the natural scent of the cannabis scent is amplified by the smoke it creates. Fire, smoke itself, ash, and the smell of rolling paper add additional layers to the scent.
When a person is smoking cannabis, notes of lemongrass, pine, fire, and wood may stand out. The distinct “skunk” smell of marijuana is often reported.
Learn about what gives marijuana its distinctly "skunky," strong odor, and how marijuana smells in plant form, when it's smoked, and more.