Introducing your AI Budtender: Terpli
Technology is an integral part of society. From the world’s earliest days, when tools were made from stone, to today’s more advanced inventions like computers and smartphones, technology is constantly evolving. One of the world’s latest innovations is artificial intelligence or AI.
In simple terms, AI is the science of making machines that can think like humans. It has become popular in many different industries in order to help people with various needs and has now made its way into the cannabis industry with the invention of AI budtenders.
When trying to find the right medical cannabis product for you and your health needs, it can be overwhelming with all the available options; that is why we have budtenders. However, those who prefer to shop online don’t always get the same personalized experience as they would if they had shopped in-store. Enter AI budtenders.
If the idea of an artificial intelligence budtender freaks you out, don’t worry. We aren’t replacing our live, smiling humans with robots or anything like that. With an AI budtender, medical marijuana patients who prefer shopping online can find cannabis products specifically for their needs without taking time out of their day to shop in-store.
The Source Cannabis is excited to be the first dispensary in Arkansas to offer AI budtending with the implementation of Terpli to our online menu. To learn more about the application, I sat down with Terpli co-founder Eric Mercado to discuss how artificial intelligence budtending benefits the cannabis industry.
What is Terpli?
Terpli is an artificial intelligence budtending software that helps medical patients find the best cannabis products for their needs currently in stock at our dispensary. With the use of this application, customers have the option to shop for their cannabis products based on what type of effects they want to experience and what symptoms they are trying to relieve. Customers can also select the type of product they wish to consume and the level of potency desired; they can even choose specific terpenes they are looking for.
According to Eric, Terpli takes the terpene and cannabinoid content from the cannabis products' COAs (certificate of analysis), customer reviews from public platforms such as Leafly and iHeartJane, as well as our online menu, and “[marries] them with the underlying chemistry of that product.” With the underlying chemistry and the reported effects, Terpli pulls our live inventory through the point of sale and bases its recommendation on all the information gathered.
Through a quiz available to the online shopper on our menu, Terpli has the customer answer questions like, “What kind of effects are you looking for?” “How potent of a product do you want?” “What is your price range?” etc., and then recommends cannabis products currently in stock at our dispensary based on the answers you provided.
Conceptualizing AI: The Intelligence Behind Terpli
The idea behind Terpli came from Eric’s best friend and college roommate, Peter Kasper, founder of Terpli. Peter founded the Marshall Cannabis Institute, the first business of cannabis organization at the University of Southern California (USC). During his time at USC, Peter took a terpene workshop and started learning about the entourage effect and how terpenes and cannabinoids work together to produce particular effects.
Information regarding a cannabis product’s chemical makeup is not readily available to the everyday consumer. Peter went to retailers, who are required to retain the COAs, obtained the terpene and cannabinoid information of the marijuana products he was consuming, and began manually keeping track of how he was affected. Eventually, he built the information he gathered and put it into a predicted analytic, creating the first generation of Terpli.
Initially, Peter's ideology was a recommendation engine that was a mobile app. However, according to Eric, when COVID-19 hit in 2020, many dispensaries went from zero to one hundred for online sales.
“It was illegal in many states to sell weed online, at least to have your menu available. Now, all of a sudden, because of Covid, it was an essential business. So many of these retailers basically just took whatever they had and turned it on, which de facto was either Dutchie or [iHeart] Jane.”
Eric and Peter looked at what the online menu experience was for the cannabis consumer when using these iframe eCommerce marketplaces and determined, “It kind of sucks.” Eric explained how shopping on these market platforms was like shopping on a “glorified inventory listing with a bunch of made-up names, and customers didn’t have any guidance.”
Eric stated nobody knew what they were consuming as there was no benchmarking or anything to trace, especially in new markets. With Terpli, they wanted to cut through that misinformation.
Benefits of an AI Budtender
Though many are skeptical about artificial intelligence, AI budtending applications like Terpli benefit the cannabis industry in more ways than one.
Eric spoke about how Terpli allows online customers to have a more personalized, “guided experience” while shopping, just like they would if they had shopped with one of our employees. “It’s the same level of soft touch and personalization that you get from a budtender in a store.”
“Rather than focusing on indica, sativa, [and] hybrid, we’re focused on what experience would you like to have?”
He states, “You can go in, and you can ask it for what product types you’re looking for, what effect you want, so rather than focusing on indica, sativa, [and] hybrid, we’re focused on what experience would you like to have? People use [cannabis] for different reasons, and we want to focus on the underlying ailments that they’re looking to relieve [rather] than just the ‘Hey, I want to get high.’”
At The Source, we strive to educate our patients about how the whole cannabis plant is beneficial to the healing process and not just the THC. By implementing Terpli’s AI budtender software into our online menu, we are able to advise our patients during their online shopping experience.
Terpli also allows us to educate more patients as our friendly AI budtender (who we call Leafy Bud) can assist more than one patient at a time, at any time of day, whereas shopping in-store, we are limited to the number of budtending stations available, and the dispensary’s hours of operations.
While online consumers navigate through Terpli’s quiz, they have the ability to learn about the specific components in the cannabis plant’s chemistry that may be beneficial to their specific ailments, such as terpenes and other cannabinoids like CBD. Customers are then able to make a more knowledgeable decision when selecting a product off the website as they are provided with recommendations tailored to their needs.
Once patients have shopped initially with Terpli, they can come back and leave reviews, and with that information, our artificial intelligence budtender, Leafy Bud, will be able to “hyper-personalize their future recommendations.” Eric explains, “If I consume a low-THC flower and rate it highly for sleep, the next time I come back, even if it’s out of stock, instead of giving me a random indica, it’s gonna match me to a product that’s chemically the same or similar as a previous experience I’ve already rated highly.”
Terpli’s expansion across the cannabis industry
Terpli launched its beta version in April 2022 in a small, single-location mom-and-pop cannabis dispensary in Oklahoma. After a few months in beta, the software company began expanding across the country. Today, Terpli is implemented in 100 locations across 13 states, quite a success in just a year’s time.
Eric spoke of the company’s goals and how they would rather have 100 locations nationwide versus 100 locations in one state if and when cannabis becomes legal federally.
“It’s the beauty of 1) selling a software and 2) having a system that’s designed to be leveraged at any state. We have so much information across every state inventory that we’re able to provide recommendations anywhere.”
“It’s about the accessibility of information fueling the model.”
Terpli is constantly pulling live information, unlike other forms of artificial intelligence software such as ChatGPT, where the data available needs to catch up because it's based on statistics from 2021, for example. “It’s about the accessibility of information fueling the model,” he continues.
Though Terpli has grown across the United States, the company remains a small team of six in order to maintain its quality service. Eric explains how the software uses a machine learning model, meaning it “takes a grouping of data sets and has triggers to [say], if this happens, then modify it this way,” allowing the team at Terpli to perform quality analysis and ensure the program is working as it’s supposed to with accurate information.
Expect to see our newest budtender, Leafy Bud, soon when we launch Terpli on The Source website!
Also, a big thank you to Eric Mercado, co-founder of Terpli, for sitting down with me and sharing Terpli’s story.
About The Source cannabis dispensary in Northwest Arkansas
The Source Cannabis – Arkansas is a craft cannabis dispensary located in Rogers, Arkansas, just off Exit 85 on Interstate 49. We produce and dispense In The Flow Boutique Cannabis and Wavelength Extracts vape cartridges. We value education, quality, friendliness, and inclusivity.