The Art and Science of Cannabis Blends

By Ngaio Bealum
Jul 30, 2020
Photo by Ngaio Bealum

The search for the perfect high is a never-ending quest. Cannabis breeders all over the world are constantly creating new strains designed to create super specific effects. But there may be a different way to go about it. Premade Cannabis blends are a new trend just starting to hit the marketplace. Instead of using just one strain, companies are mixing a few strains together and selling them in a joint, er, preroll.

Blends have been around for a while, but we didn’t call them blends. It was more like the Outkast song: “If you smoke a dime, then I’ll smoke a dime”. This was back when cannabis was still weed, strains were known but not that important, and folks would chip in on a blunt. A nug here, a nug there, pretty soon there’s a fat blunt going around and everyone is nice and faded. Sometimes, instead of mixing them all together, we would roll one up but keep the different strains in separate sections, and see if we could notice when the flavor changed. Good times.

These new blends are different, and way less random. The new style is more like how winemakers create blends with an eye on a certain profile, and not just stoner happenstance. Some, like “Mingle” from Lola Lola are designed to ease social anxiety and keep the party going. Others, like “Night Cap” from Perfect Blends, are made to help you get a good night’s sleep.

Both brands offer prerolls, and Perfect Blends also sells a preground mixture for those who prefer a pipe or a vaporizer to a joint. Both have simple straightforward packaging. The target market seems to be people who may not know much about the names of cannabis strains — really, who can keep up? — but are looking for very specific effects.

Make me giggle

I talked to Michael Backes, the Chief Product Officer at Perfect about the process of creating a nice blend. First, a little background: I have known Michael for more than ten years. He is an author, a cannabis activist, and probably the most science-minded weed nerd I have ever met.

He told me he first got into blending strains when his friends and clients would ask him for weed to create effects, like the giggles or the sudden urge to clean the house. (He used to run the Cornerstone dispensary in L.A. where they were well known for high quality small batch boutique cannabis) So he made some doobies and handed them out.

The response was incredible. But, he told me, there was just one small problem: “It was all the placebo effect. I took my prerolls to the lab and had them tested, and the lab results didn’t match what I was hearing from my friends.”

It seems that the terpenes – the odiferous chemicals in the cannabis plant that some say help create certain effects, like the giggles, or horniness – had mostly evaporated from his product by the time people used it. So he came up with a few solutions.

I’m paraphrasing, because he actually said something like “Grinding the cannabis atomized the monoterpenes, destroying the volatile chemicals necessary to produce the desired effects. We found when we stored our product at room temperature, half of the myrcene had evaporated by the time it got to the consumer.”

He got clever. Instead of using only cannabis flower, he infused his mixture with high terpene cannabis resin, using “a proprietary trick to maximize terpene stability.” Then he put everything in the fridge, since cold helps keep terpenes intact. In fact, the Perfect Blends brand is shipped cold, and he recommends that people keep their weed in the fridge, since heat and light will cause all the good chemicals to degrade. He told me he was pleased with the results. And so are his customers.

The other option

But listen, you don’t have to buy a blend from the club. You can make your own at home. Try mixing some OG Kush with some Diesel for a quick and easy Homemade Headband. Or perhaps a high CBD strain with something containing a bunch of pinene, for a “active but not anxious” effect.

If you do start making your own blends, Michael has two recommendations: use a blade grinder or trimming scissors to preserve as many terpenes as you can, and smoke it as soon as you roll it. Who knows? You just may create your new favorite smoke without having to spend months grafting and hybridizing in your grow room. Just before he got off of the phone, I asked him how he figured out which strains to use. “I blend by science”, he said.

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