DOPE: Everyone’s talking about terpenes, and Blue River is the first company offering “terps” purely derived from cannabis. What can you tell us about terpenes?
Tony Verzura: When you look at terpenes themselves, they’re ambiguously found in nature in all things. Hops has a lot of the same terpenes as cannabis. Scientists have noticed that terpenes will either turn on or turn off CB2 receptors in the brain, kind of like how CBD works. The way I explain it is that cannabinoids are the actors and terpenes are the script. Or, it’s the difference between Bob Dylan’s music as a folk singer and Bob Dylan when he cranked up that electric guitar. It’s all music, but the terpenes change the feel, like Spinal Tap turning their amps up to 11. If you think about an old-school equalizer on a stereo, that’s what terpenes are doing, turning up the bass, reducing the treble and so on.
DOPE: The incredible flavor of your terpenes is widely acknowledged, but they certainly aren’t cheap. Which are your favorites, and what do you say to people who complain about the price tag?
Verzura: Jack Frost produces some amazing terpenes that almost turn into a cologne. The Lemon Pie was so screaming loud that it seemed almost artificial to me. Sour Tangie is also that way. People are always saying, “Oh, that can’t be from cannabis.”
The price comes down to two things. The terpene content is based on the trichome, the size of the head, and the genetics. I extract from flowers. So, show me a flower that has more than three percent terpenes and I can offer a better price. I use whole buds, and the price of flower fluctuates. So, if I get a pound of Lemon Tree, I’ll get a really good yield but it’s also really expensive. It might even be $15 or $20 per drop, when we’re trying to keep it around $10 per drop. The best source material we’ve found in terms of balancing cost and quality is really high-quality outdoor cannabis.
DOPE: You’re also behind the Prana line of bio medicinal capsules, sublingual drops, and topicals. What was your inspiration for Prana?
Verzura: The word prana is sanskrit for “universal breath,” and I felt like we needed to create a medicine that was a part of us spiritually. Something that we could work with physically in our bodies to be more rooted in nature. Wellness — and the spiritual connection we all have from using cannabis — needs to be emphasized.
We offer four different Prana formulations that combine varying ratios of THC and CBD — in both activated and non-activated forms — along with CBN. We also use arnica, juniper berry, lavender, eucalyptus, and Roman chamomile. It’s all essential oil-based. The other ingredients I start with are rosin and plant fats, often almond oil.
Through our Advanced Cannabis Therapies program, called ACT Now, Prana offers free nursing support if you have cancer, epilepsy, autism, dependency, or special needs. And that’s built into the price of these products, for free. You can go to a HIPA-compliant electronic health records service with your own nurse, and we’re going to help you out and build a program for you. It makes it easy to track patient data, so if something works we know about it, and if something doesn’t work we have a way to fix it.
DOPE: What can you tell us about some of the other projects you’re working on?
Verzura: Behind all of the work that I do is a question: How do I get the most use out of this plant while creating the medicine? Bubbleman is the one who said to me, “You know what you should do? You should be focusing your energy on terpenes. Figure out how to get the terpenes out of the plant without chemicals.” If you can preserve the terpenes, then take out the full spectrum of cannabinoids and put them back together later, you can create incredibly powerful medicine.
With that in mind, I’m proud to announce that Bubbleman has signed on with United Cannabis to be his U.S. brand ambassador. We’ve already started producing Bubbleman medicine in Colorado and California, and we’re also hopefully going to be in Oregon and Washington. For the Bubbleman brand, anything that’s full melt, rosin, dry sift, terp rosin, combinations of terpenes with hash, solventless sap. I’m supposed to find the best place to start, find the best farmers who want to supply materials for his brand, and put it all together. All of this has already started happening at Harborside.
What I think I’m going to create next is a pairing chart, like they have with food and wine. We’re trying to get the flower, the concentrate, the terpenes — the whole product line made from a single strain. That’s what 2016 is going to be about: showcasing the genetics and the grower. All the rest of the products come out amazing when the flowers are grown right. Quality in, quality out. If you grew great resin, it’s going to make a great extract.