You’ve likely heard of a wine sommelier, but what about a cannabis sommelier?

It’s a real thing.

They’re people who have learned how to determine different strains of cannabis, which is taught at the Trichome Institute in Denver. The institute teaches people about pot, and has a class that can help you learn the different types of marijuana -- based on its appearance and smell.

“I decided to start an education and information company that was founded and based in legitimate information,” said Max Montrose, the president of Trichome Institute. “We ensure that all the curriculum in our text books are reviewed and approved by some of the highest authorities in cannabis law, science and medicine.”

The class isn’t aimed at helping you pair the best kind of pot with your dinner, although that may be a bonus. Instead, the institute teaches people how different strains of cannabis can affect someone. Unlike wine sommeliers, it’s not just about taste. People learn the difference between sedative strains and stimulating strains of marijuana through smell and by observing visual characteristics of different buds.

The types of marijuana, though, vary by business because the marijuana just recently came off of the black market. Montrose also wants to eliminate discrepancies in the industry.

“All of these strains that people go shopping for are completely inaccurate and inconsistent, because when you buy a merlot, you get a merlot. But when you shop and try to buy 'blue dream,' you have a nine out of 10 chance you’re not going to actually purchase 'blue dream,' so that’s what we call the strain name dilemma, and so that’s problematic.”

Educating staff at various businesses about the different kinds of marijuana is critical to changing the way those businesses operate, Montrose says. According to him, Trichome, which is certified by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the Marijuana Enforcement Division, is the only agency in the industry to offer curriculum like this. Physicians and scientists even review the classes.

“We have a number of education programs, one of which is industry specific, another is cannabis sales and training that is product specific, like how these products are made, and how they affect people and who they are best used for,” says Montrose.

(Courtesy: Trichome)
(Courtesy: Trichome)

But the main goal behind the cannabis sommelier class, which the Trichome Institute calls “Interpening,” is to determine how different strains of cannabis affect people.

“We can’t rely on the strain name because they’re just made up and because there are so many people who are untrained in our industry. Our class teaches people really fascinating techniques to use human senses to decipher the difference between what strains of cannabis the dispensary produces sedative effects versus stimulating effects,” Montrose says.

Students have come from across the country, and the type of person who studies there varies greatly. Lawyers, scientists, doctors, and even soccer moms have taken the class.

“The weirdest one is the people who don’t use cannabis and aren’t in the industry and just are fascinated by the concept of interpening methodology, so they come to class.”

During a typical class, Montrose and the staff bring out around a hundred samples of cannabis to demonstrate visually and olfactory types of quality cannabis, and really poor quality cannabis. At the end of the class, the student is tested to see if they can determine the quality of the drug.

“You have to be trained, licensed and certified to paint fingernails and to cut hair in the state of Colorado, but you don’t have to be trained, licensed or certified to pretend you’re a pharmacist, helping patients with medicines or have any training or licensing to work on the retail side, selling psycho actives to the public without really knowing how they work. We do have training programs for this problem, but it’s a nationwide industry issue that education and information and certification doesn’t exist in this space,” Montrose said.