In California, where The Werc Shop is based, Raber wants to see stricter statewide regulations that would require companies to include not only the THC and CBD percentage of their products, but the terpenes and cutting agents included as well.
So if a cannabinoid — like THC, for example — is your acceleration, then terpenes are your steering wheel. Instead of falling for what Raber calls the "name game" of increasingly bizarre labels for new strains, the chemist suggest "trusting your nose".
Terpenes are oils found in all plant life — Raber calls them the "fundamental building blocks" for flora to communicate with the world around it, from attracting insects to releasing scents.
According to Raber, recreational users aren’t just looking to get high, but are seeking specific effects "based on these molecules being present".
Predictability is something that Raber wants to see more in the cannabis industry — sure, you may be able to finally get the precise kind of high you were looking for, but can you recreate that?
"Different terpene mixtures will define what makes different cultivar strains of cannabis," Raber said.
Since vegetable glycerin is "more like water," according to Raber, it’s unlikely you’d find it in a weed vape.
While nicotine is more water soluble, Raber says, cannabinoids and terpenes are oil soluble.
Raber has a PhD in Chemistry from the University of Southern California and founded The Werc Shop, one of the first research laboratories testing cannabis.
"It’s unfair to tell an insomniac an ‘indica-like’ plant is going to give you a sedative effect and you’ll be able to sleep better, when in fact it may not," Raber said.
PEG and PG aren’t great for you either; As Rolling Stone pointed out in an investigation on vape pen safety, "A study from 2010 showed inhaling propylene glycol can exacerbate asthma and allergies, and multiple studies have shown that propylene glycol and polyethylene glycol break down into carcinogens formaldehyde and acetaldehyde — especially when vaped at high temperatures".
Just avoid cutting agents at all costs — Raber suggest looking for cartridges that use terpene-based fillers, both for a better high and healthier lungs.
"The people have spoken, all over the place, that we want to know more about this plant, we want access to this plant," Raber said, referencing the push for nationwide legalization.
Raber reasons that a pod with 80 percent THC that includes 10 percent terpenes will be "much stronger" than anything that measures 90 percent or more THC.
Although some brands boast pods that clock in at 90 percent THC, Raber warns against consuming products like that.