MJ Unpacked
terpene-forward edibles and artificial intelligence

Wana is using AI to harness the power of terpenes and create better edibles

Wana Brands is using artificial intelligence to create edibles that produce a specific effect when consumed.

The Boulder-based edible manufacturer is working with terpene research company Abstrax Tech and artificial intelligence (AI) development company Effects Lab by Budboard to develop terpene blends for specific effects. Wana will be combining these cutting-edge terpene formulas with THC, CBD, and minor cannabinoids to create edibles that better induce sleep, relieve anxiety, or elevate mood.

Wana recognized that when extraction companies moved away from full-spectrum raw crude extracts into distillates, terpenes — the compounds that give cannabis its scent and flavor — were stripped out of the final product. The lack of terpenes also impacted the entourage effect — the combined effect of different compounds found in cannabis that work together to produce a greater effect than if working alone — so the company began to experiment with terpene formulas. 

“Vape pens and edibles were just offering one experience — a high from THC,” said Mike Hennesy. While working as vice president of innovation at Wana Brands, Hennesy directed the development of the company’s unique, proprietary terpene blends and created their online training program in the science of the endocannabinoid system. 

The effort to add terpenes back into distillate began with company representatives visiting retail stores to talk to budtenders and customers about what their favorite strains are and, with the help of its terpene research partner, analyzing the data to determine the dominant and trace terpenes found in various strains. 

It’s now replicating the blends of terpenes, THC, and CBD found in those strains and reintroducing them into the distillates it uses to make all of its edible products.

“The future of cannabis, in my opinion, is the use cases,” said Hennesy, who graduated with an MS in Cannabis Science and Therapeutics from the University of Maryland. “We know it has a wide variety of uses and benefits. Some find it focusing and energizing; others find that it helps them to sleep. You have to figure out what works best for you, and we’re interested in homing in on the specific effects individuals are looking for. They can find a Wana product specific for their use case, whether it’s sleep or less anxiety.”

To further refine its products, Wana is relying on Effects Lab by Bud Board to develop future terpene blends.

Budboard co-founder Joshua Mallett developed an AI algorithm that tracks trends from cannabis users entering the effects of a particular strain into an app. The algorithm can analyze what concentration of terpenes helps with sleep, anxiety, or any other condition people use cannabis for. 

We already know that different terpenes deliver different effects–for example, that limonene is a mood elevator and that humulene can help suppress the appetite and reduce inflammation. Wana can further our understanding by harnessing the data generated by the AI algorithm to create new blends of terpenes that are backed up by user-supported experiences, Hennesy said. 

“The future of cannabis is more effect-specific products,” Hennesy said. 

Want to learn more? Hennesy will be participating in “The Next Generation of Cannabis Innovations and Compounds” panel at MJ Unpacked, which premiers Oct. 21-22 at The Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas.

MJ Unpacked is the first cannabis event of its kind, designed to help cannabis retailers, THC CPG brands, and accredited investors connect, collaborate, and access capital. The event will feature panel discussions among industry leaders; conference sessions that address retail and brand pain points; mixers for brands and retailers; investor pitches; bars and live music; and a concert benefiting restorative justice in cannabis.

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