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.
Is Odorless Weed the Next Trending Marijuana Product?
Friday April 17, 2020
Y ou can imagine the commercial now for odorless weed: “Has this ever happened to you?” asks the narrator in their knowing tone. In black and white you see the countless methods that innovative stoners have come up with over the years for concealing that distinctive smell of pot. One lights a stick of incense but that classic technique just makes them cough and wave their hand across their face. Another takes a hit off their pipe and blows it out an open window where a box fan is running, only to have their neighbors walking by outside glare at them. A third fumbles wildly as they try to rubber band a dryer sheet to a cardboard toilet paper tube for a sploof while their partner rolls their eyes impatiently. A fourth drops their glass jar of weed trying to get it open and it shatters at their feet, the buds now covered in shards.
Each one turns to the camera with a resigned shrug, fed up with their struggle to conceal that dank, unmistakable smell of cannabis. There has to be a better way! “Well, now there is!” the announcer would crow triumphantly, “with new, odorless marijuana!”
Is Odorless Marijuana the Next Trend?
While recreational cannabis has a long way to go before we see the first commercials for cannabis in any form, odorless weed is indeed coming soon. At least, according to the Canadian startup CannabCo Pharmaceutical Corporation it is. The Ontario-based company has partnered with an as-yet-unnamed tech company to create Purecann, a new strain of marijuana that supposedly doesn’t raise a dank, skunky stank whether it’s a fresh leafy bud or a dense cloud of smoke.
The CEO of CannabCo, Mark Pellicane, believes the new technology will transform a consumer’s experience with weed. According to a press release.
“Imagine someone going outside for a break during the day, having their afternoon cannabis and coming back without any odor attached to their clothing or coat. A woman can carry cannabis in her purse without having the odor concentrated or leaking out in her handbag. 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.”
Stated Benefits of Odorless Weed:
- Virtually undetectable odor of dry product during storage
- Greatly reduced cannabis odor (virtually undetectable) during combustion
- Reduces harshness resulting in a very smooth smoke on combustion
- May be used to produce a “connoisseur” product for a unique market segment
- Less residual heavy feeling “day after effect” associated with smoking cannabis
According to the same press release, the benefits of odorless marijuana don’t stop with non-dankened purses and happier partners/landlords in your living arrangement (see above). But how does this all work? Let’s take a closer look into what the process of creating odorless bud might entail.
How Does Odorless Marijuana Work?
While the technology is still proprietary and thus a closely held secret, we can assume that the basics involve removing or otherwise altering the terpenes in the flower. This may indeed lower the intensity of the perfumes wafting off the buds or lingering in the smoke. However, as many in the cannabis industry and culture are asking, how does that affect the overall experience?
As many marijuana consumers well know, terpenes play an irreplaceable and necessary part in how cannabinoids interact with the brain. Specific terpenes such as linalool, humulene, and pinene are known to cause specific effects in their consumer. Combinations of these terpenes with the cannabinoids – known as the entourage effect – are what gives weed its unique effects both recreationally and as medicine. Removing or otherwise altering the terpene profile may make the weed smell less noticeable in a room or on your clothes, but it will also make it less effective in your body, which is the main point of consuming cannabis for most people.
Also, while odorless weed may have little to no smell as a fresh bud, it’s hard to imagine that one can erase entirely the smell of anything that’s burning. Smoke has a way of being noticed and it’s not just terpenes contained in that cloud of burnt carbon. However Purecann’s CEO imagines it, once you step inside after a quick toke break, you’ll still need to cover or explain away the smell of burnt plant matter. Right?
What’s Next for Marijuana Products
While the future of weed remains ever changing, one can’t help but wonder just how big an impact odorless weed will make. A less harsh lungful of smoke is definitely a selling point for beginners, but it’s not as though that issue lasts for long with most pot smokers. Similarly, a dank aroma on your clothes, in your pockets, or on the street may retain some social stigma, but it really all depends on where you are or where you’re working.
If you’re using it medicinally in a workplace that is harsher on cannabis use, Purecann could be one option. However, if you’re using marijuana as medicine, you’re most likely going to require its full terpene profile for full effect. Similarly, if you’re a recreational user stealth smoking at your place of business or a social function while you’re not supposed to be, Purecann could be part of your arsenal. However, you’ve also probably figured out plenty of ways to cover that smell by now without sacrificing the full flavor or effects. Edibles are always an option and a dry herb vape will allow you to experience the full cannabinoid and terpene profile of your flower without the odor as well.
With any new type of product on the market, there will be companies trying to innovate and carve out a niche for themselves. If Purecann is indeed able to produce an odorless bud that is less harsh on the throat and free of the “weed hangover” that some consumers experience the next day – and all without any loss of quality, taste, or effect – then they will most likely find a wide opening in the cannabis market to grow into. However, if Purecann can’t find a way to match the taste and effects of dank weed, consumers will probably stay away. All the good stuff is in that odor.
What are your thoughts on an odorless cannabis product coming to market? Does it appeal to you? Why or why not? Share your comments and discuss with others in the comment below.
With many of us stuck quarantined indoors, you may be wondering how to consume cannabis under the radar. A new company claims to have made the first odorless weed product on the market. But without marijuana's trademark smell and terpenes, can this odorless cannabis compare to the real thing?