Cannabis Education 2020: what is interpening and why should you care?

Because before you pull out your credit card, you want to know you’re dealing with someone who knows their stuff


The Trichome Institute has trained thousands of students throughout North America. Through its courses, budding interpeners have learned how to evaluate aromatics and predict the psychotropic effects of different strains. Photo by AHPhotoswpg/iStock/Getty Images Plus


When you’re dining out, how do you know you can place your trust in the person recommending that you pair your Canneloni alla Napoletana with that bottle of Mastroberardino Fiano di Avellino Radici?

It certainly helps knowing that the person doing the recommending is a trained and certified sommelier. It’s the same with just about everything else: before you pull out your credit card, you want some assurance that you’re dealing with someone who knows their stuff.

In the world of wine, the North American Sommelier Association oversees certification on this continent. For those specializing in beer, there’s the Cicerone Certification Program.

As for the ever-expanding field of cannabis? Well, the budtender at your local dispensary has smoked a lot of weed, right? So she must know what she’s talking about.

She probably does. But does she possess enough knowledge to call herself an interpener?

Filling a niche

“There are all these different industries that have their level of expertise that is defined, and it’s based off of proving yourself through education and certification,” Brandon Allen tells CannCentral.

Allen is the Director of Research and Development at the Denver, Colorado–based Trichome Institute.

“In the cannabis industry, in the world of certifications that are out there, now compared to even a couple of years ago, there’s a couple extra dozen companies that are offering some form of certification,” Allen says in a telephone interview. “Some are on the responsible-vendor side—in order to be a budtender, it’s even mandated by the state.”

What doesn’t exist, though, is one authoritative body responsible for the training and certification of cannabis experts. This is a niche that Allen says he and his colleagues at the Trichome Institute would like to fill.

Proving it

“What we’re actually trying to do is be a certifying body that says ‘If you’re going to call yourself a cannabis expert, prove it,'” he says. “There’s a lot of different ways. There are plenty of chefs out there who have never taken a lick of education but they’re some of the best chefs in the world.”

Allen knows whereof he speaks. He’s a chef himself, having trained in Culinary Arts at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh.

“If you want to call yourself a cannabis sommelier, or a guru, or a ganjasaurus—you know, all these different names that are out there—that’s fine,” he continues. “But if you’re going to call yourself an interpener, it’s something that we hold at a higher level, and that’s why we made up the word.”

That word is a portmanteau of interpreter and terpenes—the latter referring to the aromatic compounds found in cannabis plants.

The Trichome Institute has trained thousands of students throughout North America. Through its courses, budding interpeners have learned how to evaluate aromatics and predict the psychotropic effects of different strains.

“I can see flower in someone’s hand from across the room, and I can tell you what side of the spectrum that that’s gonna land on, from sedative to stimulating,” Allen claims.

An eye-opener

Trichome students also learn to recognize what the institute calls “unacceptable physical characteristics”. This, Allen suggests, can be quite an eye-opener.

“Once you know that there’s bugs and mold and mildew and feces and pesticides, and all these terrible things in cannabis flower that’s sitting on shelves in dispensaries, you can’t un-know that,” he says.

Allen acknowledges that not everyone gets the point of certification. He says he sometimes encounters professionals within the cannabis industry who are quite vocal in their opposition to the idea.

“There are some people who hear what it is and they say ‘Absolutely not. I’m gonna fight that because I disagree,’” he says. “And they don’t give the course a chance. And it’s funny, because they are the people who end up becoming our biggest advocates once they actually dig in.

“The thing about interpening is that there’s objective and there’s subjective; there’s science and then there’s theory that goes into it,” Allen notes. “We know that it’s true and we know that what it provides the consumer is incredibly valuable. And our students who take the course, they end up feeling the same, which is really cool.”

The Trichome Institute’s Professional Interpening course is entirely online. Students can take it on their own schedule, but must complete it within six months of registration. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the advanced course—which was to have included immersive hands-on training in California—has been put on hold until harvest season in 2021.

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