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What California’s DCC Regulation Changes Mean for Terpenes

How do licensed producers in California navigate DCC regulation changes regarding inhaled flavorings?

The California DCC changed regulations this week to limit the components that may be included in cannabis products intended for inhalation. Terpenes must now be naturally occurring and must contribute to the flavor and aroma of cannabis. What’s more, these changes, which went into effect on November 7th, include no grace period for compliance. 

A lack of grace period for new regulations is problematic even when the changes benefit everyone involved. However, California businesses are now scrambling to interpret what these changes mean for their products and how noncompliance will be enforced. 

Here’s the good news—Abstrax has the largest catalog of CA compliant terpene blends and our Native and Signature Series are the gold standard for CA compliance. Abstrax has invested heavily in the research of cannabis aromas and the development of authentic, true-to-type, patented cannabis flavors that utilize the naturally occurring compounds found in the plant.

Read on and learn more about the DCC regulation changes, what they mean for terpenes, and how California-based producers can avoid non-compliance issues.

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Redefining “Terpenes”

The new definition states that “terpenes” means “terpenes, terpenoids, flavonoids, polyphenols, and other naturally occurring phytochemicals and secondary metabolites contributing to the aroma or flavor of cannabis.”

Previously, many of these terms were used interchangeably. The DCC believes the word “terpenes” without a definition could lead to the unintended consequence of prohibiting terpenoids, flavonoids, polyphenols, and other naturally occurring phytochemicals and secondary metabolites that contribute to the natural flavor and aroma of cannabis. Thus a definition incorporating all was necessary. 

Flavors for Inhaled Cannabis Products

One of the biggest ways these changes will impact terpenes is when it comes to how they’re used to flavor inhaled products. 

Under the new changes, flavors are limited “to those that are naturally occurring and contribute to the flavor of cannabis.” The reasoning behind this particular change has to do with the way certain flavors may appeal to minors. 

In the Guidance Document provided by the DCC, they state

Section 17303.1 limits the components that can be included in cannabis products intended for inhalation to the following: cannabis; cannabis concentrate; terpenes; rolling paper leaf; pre-roll filter tips; or ingredients permitted by the United States Food and Drug Administration as an “inactive ingredient” for inhalation, as specified in the United States Food and Drug Administration Inactive Ingredients Database.

They also specify that “artificial, synthetic, and natural flavorings or terpenes that do not contribute to the natural flavor or aroma of cannabis are not permitted.” So, while any terpenes used don’t have to be cannabis-derived, they have to be terpenes that are naturally present within cannabis. The following prohibited flavors include those that could be attractive to children by masking the flavor and aroma of cannabis:

  • Menthol
  • Mint
  • Mango
  • Strawberry
  • Grape
  • Orange
  • Clove
  • Cinnamon
  • Pineapple
  • Vanilla
  • Coconut
  • Licorice
  • Cocoa
  • Chocolate
  • Cherry
  • Coffee
  • Popcorn
  • Bubblegum

Non-Compliance and Enforcement

These regulatory changes went into effect on November 7th and, according to the DCC, licensees are immediately subject to these new requirements. Any products that don’t meet new requirements must be removed from the supply chain as quickly as possible until compliance is met.

They do recognize, however, that licensees may run into trouble during the transition phrase of this change. Therefore, the “DCC plans to initially prioritize education over discipline and assist licensees with coming into compliance.”

What These Changes Mean for Terpenes

While these changes only affect licensed producers in California, the lack of understanding regarding enforcement and the lack of grace period have the potential to be incredibly problematic for affected businesses. 

The pivotal issue is the requirement that “natural flavors” can now, under these updated regulations, only be used to “enhance” instead of “mask” the natural flavor and aroma of cannabis. That means even if the ingredients are “natural”, certain flavors are now prohibited.

Obviously, the solution for only being allowed to use natural ingredients for flavorings is to opt for natural terpenes as opposed to synthetic terpenes or artificial flavoring agents. However, any flavorings with candy-like flavors are still prohibited even if they are “natural.” Considering the popularity of these flavors with people of all age groups, this has the potential to negatively impact sales in a big way.

However, the concept of “masking” the natural cannabis flavor is incredibly subjective and it’s unclear how this will be enforced. It’s likely that many brands will unintentionally not comply simply due to interpreting the guidance differently. 

For example, someone who wanted to continue making a product with a candy-like flavor might be able to simply add the term “Kush” to the product name along with additional ingredients that enhanced the cannabis aroma. In this scenario, they’ve technically adhered to the new regulations—it just depends on how the text is interpreted.

Abstrax Tech Native Series

Abstrax Custom Terpene Formulations may be the perfect solution for licensees as they adapt to these changing regulations. Our terpene experts will help you adhere to DCC regulations while creating unique specialty flavors that still fall into the natural strain category without losing customers that still enjoy flavors in their inhaled products.

Additionally, our Native Series is a phenomenal option for those who want to adhere to new DCC regulations without creating a completely custom formulation. Whether you’re manufacturing food and beverage, carts, edibles, or even beer, our Native Series terpenes are affordable, authentic, and available to ship internationally. 

Have questions about using Native Series terpenes in your products? Want to talk about Custom Terpene Formulations? Contact us today.


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