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Is Cannabis Flower Falling Behind?

Is Cannabis Flower Falling Behind?

Until recently, most people who tried cannabis for the first time, tried it by smoking flower.

The times are changing, and the demographic of people trying cannabis for the first time is changing too. The tradition of a couple buddies in the woods smoking out of an apple is slowly being replaced by 75 year old grandmas going to the dispensary for a vape pen.

Ok, maybe that’s an exaggeration. But not by much.

As popular as extracts are becoming, are they really putting cannabis flower at risk of falling off in popularity? The short answer is that it already has.

The rise of concentrates

Cannabis concentrates didn’t become popular until 2014, when legal cannabis really started to kick off in Colorado. The most common types were shatter and wax, both of which are processed using Butane as a solvent.

At first, a lot of consumers avoided concentrates not just for their increased potency, but also because of the process used to make them. In the early days of cannabis extraction, there were dozens of accidents involving lab fires, explosions, and un-purged concentrates that would catch on fire when dabbed.

Due to the unreliability of extractors at the time, unfamiliarity with the product and process, and the high cost compared to cannabis flower, cannabis concentrate sales hardly surpassed 10% of total cannabis sales in 2014.

Just in the last 5 years however cannabis concentrates have developed exponentially. Cleaner, tastier concentrates like distillate, live resin and rosin grew in popularity. With the rise in e-cigarette users across the country, cannabis vape pens started becoming more popular as well.

As more concentrate brands entered the market, prices dropped, making concentrates more affordable for the average consumer. A gram that would cost $50 in 2014 was only $20 in 2018.

And just like that, cannabis concentrates took up 27% of total cannabis product sales in 2018. And that number is steadily rising.

Convenience and cost

The biggest bump to concentrate sales over the last two years has been due to vape pens. With more legal cannabis available across the country, more people began looking for a quick and easy way to use cannabis that doesn’t involve rolling a joint or packing a bowl.

Vape pens made it simple for anybody to get a quick, discreet puff of cannabis oil and receive the same effect as smoking a joint, more or less.

The rise in older cannabis consumers taking advantage of the medical and recreational cannabis and the desire for a more versatile and discreet consumption mechanism led to vape pens filling the void.

Even though vape pens are traditionally more expensive than cannabis flower, the concentrated doses make the product last much longer for casual consumers, making them much more cost effective.

But the vape pen industry took a major hit in 2019 when the country was hit by the “vape crisis”.

A serious issue

If there’s a cannabis product that is seeing success in the legal industry, it’s a guarantee there is someone replicating it in the illicit market. And in any market, there will be bad actors who care more about profits than the customer.

These snake-oil salesmen cut their vape pen cartridges with a liquid form of Vitamin E. When heated up, Vitamin E turned into Vitamin E Acetate, a toxic gas that would reconvert to a viscous solid in consumer’s lungs.

If that sounds bad, it was.

A total of 64 people died due to the illness caused by these faulty products, with another 2,758 hospitalized.

Suffice to say, the vape pen industry took a major hit during this time as many consumers questioned whether or not their vape pens were safe. But like most health scares that spread across the media like a wildfire, this “crisis” faded away in a matter of months, and vape pens have steadily risen back to where they were, with no signs of stopping.

The future of cannabis flower and concentrates

Consumer spending on cannabis concentrates rose 49% in 2018, pulling in $2.9 Billion. By 2022, spending is expected to reach $8.4 Billion. Cannabis flower sales still made up 43% of sales, but vape pens alone made up 23%, and cannabis concentrates other than vape pens made up only 9%.

Vape pens have become the main form of consumption method for cannabis concentrates, but cannabis flower still sits at the top as the most affordable, and frankly easier option for consumers.

As easy to use as vape pens are, they aren’t for everybody. Staying on top of charging, making sure you’re cartridge doesn’t get clogged, these are things that some people just don’t want to deal with.

Grinding up a little bit of bud in your fingers and tossing it in a bowl will work every time, as long as you have a lighter.

I like to say that cannabis flower is King (or more accurately, Queen). It doesn’t matter what new creative products come out, the majority of those who consume cannabis will always have the nostalgic enjoyment you can only get from cannabis flower.

That flashback to the first time, the funniest place you had to smoke, and all those great memories.

Sure, we’ll have some of those memories with concentrates and all the crazy places you can easily sneak in a vape pen, but it just won’t be the same. At least for me.

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Is That Dirt Weed? How to Rate Your Cannabis Quality

Is That Dirt Weed? How to Rate Your Cannabis Quality

Cannabis has come a long way just in the last decade. But just because there’s more high quality cannabis available doesn’t mean the dirt weed can’t still make its way into your sack.

There’s plenty of obvious dirt weed out there. The Mexican bricks, the seed-filled nugs, unflushed bud that won’t burn or tastes terrible. Luckily all of this can be avoided!

With a little bit of knowledge you can make sure your cannabis isn’t dirt weed before you even smoke it. Using your eyes, nose and fingers you would be surprised how much you can find out about your sack of bud.

Does it look like dirt weed?

The most obvious way to tell if you have some dirt weed is to just look at it. If it’s really bad, you’ll probably be able to tell.

Yellowing leaves, brown buds, and a lack of trichomes on the outside are typically signs of a bud that is not great quality. But there are plenty of strains out there that might not look good, but still taste great and produce great effects.

For this reason, some buds take a closer look. Maybe that’s with an actual loupe or microscope to analyze the bud more closely. But for your average consumer just checking out a fresh sack of bud, that means bringing in the smell.

How does it smell?

Interestingly and luckily for us, a lot of dirt weed smells the same. There’s a signature smell that bad cannabis has that resembles old, dry hay. Like if you went to a farm, grabbed a handful of hay that has been sitting outside for the last month and took a whiff. If you get that smell from your cannabis, it could be old, moldy, or just straight low quality.

Cannabis has a lot of unique terpenes that give it different odors depending on the phenotype and genetics the plant carries. There are plenty of cannabis strains that most would consider to be high quality that have a unique, and sometimes off-putting smell. For example there’s Cat Piss, which gets its name from the unique odor it gives off.

In case you aren’t familiar, cat piss doesn’t smell good. Yet the Cat Piss strain is a well-liked and even sought-out strain by connoisseurs everywhere for its rarity. So if even weird smelling cannabis strains can still be high quality, how can you tell if you have dirt weed? Fingers.

How’s it feel?

So your looking at your sack of bud; it doesn’t look great, but it’s not brown, the smell isn’t like your usual stuff but it doesn’t smell like hay either. At this point, you could be dealing with a pretty unique strain, a mediocre bud or you’re just missing one key thing; the feel.

An important thing to remember when it comes to feeling out a bud is that dry does not always mean bad. Colorado cannabis is naturally more dry due to the lack of humidity and elevation, which makes the cannabis buds almost crumble in your fingers with a little pressure (which is great if you don’t have a grinder). California cannabis on the other hand has much more moisture, and can even be difficult to break apart and grind up (but typically burns a little more slowly). Nevertheless the importance of checking a bud with your hands shouldn’t be overlooked. If the bud feels a little too wet, break it open and check for bud rot.

There’s one thing a good bud has regardless of it’s dryness, and that’s stickiness. Trichome content will tell you a lot about your cannabis’ quality just by look and touch. Not every bud is frosty and caked in trichomes, but if you break it apart in your fingers and it leaves some sticky resin on your finger tips and more smells come out when you break it apart, that’s a good sign.

Overall, if you get a bud that looks and smells questionable, you’re probably better off just avoiding it. However if you’re in a pinch and it’s all you got, always double check to make sure it is safe to consume by cracking it open and making sure it isn’t moldy. Let’s be real, we smoked a lot worse 15 years ago, and the odds of smoking some cannabis that will actually make you sick are pretty low. But it’s always better to safe than sorry, and with your eyes, nose and fingers you can tell if a bud is good enough for you, or if it’s just some dirt weed.

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Illinois Recreational Cannabis: What to know for January 1st

Illinois Recreational Cannabis: What to know for January 1st

As soon as the clock hits midnight on January 1st, Illinois recreational cannabis sales are set to begin.

Illinois has been setting up regulations and requirements for recreational cannabis businesses over the last year, and it is all leading up to the first day of legal sales on January 1, 2020. The people are excited, and the state is ready to start pulling in those tax dollars.

However there are plenty of differences in the Illinois recreational cannabis laws and regulations for consumers that any would be dispensary-goer should know.

Who can buy Illinois recreational cannabis?

Just like every other recreational cannabis state, you must be 21 to purchase cannabis legally in Illinois. Out-of-state visitors will also be more limited in how much they can purchase compared to state residents, however there is no difference in price for in and out of state customers.

Illinois residents age 21 and over may possess 30 grams of cannabis flower, 500 mg of THC in a cannabis-infused product like edibles, and 5 grams of cannabis concentrate in total. These amounts are halved for non-residents. 

The totals are cumulative, so an Illinois resident could have 30 grams of flower, 500 mg of infused product and 5 grams of concentrate all at the same time. The same goes for nonresidents and their limits.

Where can I buy legal cannabis?

On January 1st, there are only going to be 37 Illinois recreational cannabis dispensaries open for business. If you’re in Chicago or the surrounding area you’re in luck, because that is where 24 of the dispensaries are located.

Champaign-Urbana, Peoria and Springfield all have two dispensaries nearby, and Carbondale, Effingham, Ottawa, the Quad Cities, Quincy and Rockford will each have one dispensary. Unfortunately, the state won’t begin reviewing applications for more dispensaries until March 15. Once approved, licenses will be distributed starting May 1st. On July 1st, up to 40 grower and infuser licenses will be issued along with an unlimited number of transportation licenses for in-state transport.

In other words, it’s going to be a slow start with limited access to Illinois recreational cannabis for most residents. The state will examine the progress through 2020 to determine whether or not more licenses need to be issued.

What about the taxes?

Like any recreational cannabis industry, Illinois is collecting some hefty taxes off the sale of legal cannabis. A good way to put it is, the higher you get, the higher the tax. For example, cannabis products with a THC level of 35% or less will only have a tax of 10%, and products over 35% will have a 25% tax. Basically, flower will have a 10% tax and concentrates will have a 25% tax. All infused products including edibles will have a 20% tax.

Additionally, state and local taxes will also apply, and the state law allows for municipalities to tax up to 3%. And if that isn’t enough taxes for you, local sales taxes also apply. The Illinois sales tax is currently 6.25%.

With limited access and extremely high taxes, it’s safe to say that Illinois recreational cannabis is not going to be cheap. But if there’s anything we can take away from other legal markets with high taxes, it’s that people are willing to pay for safe, legal access to cannabis.

Lastly, consumption

One thing that Illinois holds over other recreational cannabis states is its consumption laws. While public consumption is still prohibited, and smoking indoors was banned in the states in 2008, the Illinois cannabis laws allows on-site consumption at dispensaries, as well as cannabis smoking lounges. While no lounges have yet to open, some dispensaries and growers have applied to have lounges built in their existing facilities or separately attached for consumers.

An issue that will remain prevalent in every state that bans public consumption of cannabis is the impact it has on those in public housing or those living under a landlord that does not permit cannabis consumption. While a private homeowner can do whatever they please in the house they own, a renter is limited by what their landlord allows. This will continue to be problematic, especially for medical patients that need cannabis for serious ailments.

Since repetition is key, like any recreational cannabis state, Illinois has done some stuff well and some other stuff not so well (looking at those 37 dispensaries for the first year). But the trend of starting small and slow isn’t anything new when it comes to cannabis. States want to get their feet wet before diving into the deep end and that typically means more strict regulations that will ease up over time. For now, if you’re in one of the towns with a dispensary, check it out! And if not, plan a New Year’s trip to Chicago and check out a lot more options, and probably cheaper prices.

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Lowell Farms: A Cannabis Cafe Review

Lowell Farms: A Cannabis Cafe Review

The world’s first legal cannabis cafe is now open in the United States. Does it meet the hype?

Cannabis culture has grown exponentially since cannabis was first legalized recreationally in Colorado in 2012. With more states starting their own legal cannabis industries than ever before, the stigma surrounding cannabis is finally being broken down piece by piece.

As cannabis becomes more culturally accepted into the mainstream, so grows the cannabis consumer base, looking for a place to enjoy their cannabis. Unfortunately, a lot of states have laws on the books preventing public consumption, which means that you can only consume cannabis on private property. For a lot of people that rent, it just isn’t possible.

While some attempts at cannabis consumption businesses have popped up, they are very limited in their permissions, with all of them only allowing vaping, edibles or dabbing, with no smoking of flower allowed. That is, until now.

Lowell Farms: a Cannabis Cafe

Lowell Farms is a well known name in the California cannabis industry, with their pre-roll joint packs being found on just about every dispensary shelf in the state. But Lowell is more than that now. They are also the first company to open a legal cannabis consumption cafe in the United States.

So how does the world’s first cannabis cafe operate? Well it’s not like any dispensary or cafe you’ve ever been to, that’s for sure.

The best way to describe Lowell Farms cannabis cafe is a half restaurant, half dispensary hybrid. You can get your food and your cannabis from the same place, but not from the same people. If that sounds confusing, let me dive into the full experience for you.

The Lowell Farms Experience

It’s an incredibly simple concept, that works alright in practice. When you walk into Lowell Farms Cannabis Cafe, you wouldn’t be wrong if you mistook it for your average restaurant. It has an indoor and outdoor seating area, a bar in the middle of the dining room, and hustling and bustling waiters and waitresses.

After being seated, you’re given not one, but two menus. The first is your average food and drink menu with soft drinks, tea, coffee, small plates and lunch entrees. The second menu is the cannabis menu. This menu has your pre-rolls, joint packs, concentrates, and flower to pick from.

When your first server comes to the table, you can order tea, coffee, other drinks and food off of the first menu, just like your average dining experience. But then your second server comes, who would be described better as a walking dispensary.

The cannabis server came up and took our order just like the food server did, but because the cafe is half restaurant and half dispensary, the orders are taken and paid for (and tipped) separately, which can be a hassle especially if you decide you want seconds. The selection of cannabis products is varied, and there are a lot of options to pick from, including outdoor, greenhouse and indoor cannabis flower, hash-packed pre-rolls and more.

The food came out less than 5 minutes after we ordered it, which is great. Unfortunately, we had just rolled up our first joint, and had to let the food sit while we smoked. If there was a little more delay between servers with the cannabis coming out first followed by the food, the experience definitely wouldn’t feel so rushed.

The Products

California cannabis is world renowned, and only having tried it one other time back in 2013 I wanted to take advantage. While Lowell Farms actually allows customers to bring their own cannabis for $20, buying your cannabis there gets you a rolling tray, grinder and papers that you would otherwise need to bring yourself, so we went with buying ours there. Not just to save us the trouble of bringing our own, but to really see what kind of products they are selling.

The pricing of each product seemed to vary on whether it was indoor or outdoor, in addition to brand name. Upon asking our budtender/server how the prices were structured, we were told that the prices are set according to what the cafe pays their vendors to get it all. If that’s the case, Lowell Farms must be paying a pretty penny for their product.

We will dive into the costs of the Lowell Farms Cannabis Cafe experience soon, but for now let’s dive into the actual product. We decided to keep it simple on our visit, and only bought an eighth of flower. Out of the 20-30 flower options on the menu, only the first two were not indoor-grown, and they were also the cheapest. Other than that, the prices slowly rose as you went down the menu, with the “exotic” strains being the most expensive at the bottom. We went with a middle of the road Zkittles eighth, grown indoors.

As much as I hate to say it for the price we paid, I have seen Colorado outdoor that looked better than this cannabis. That’s not to say it didn’t look good, smoke well, taste good and get the job done, but I just wasn’t impressed with the look. Machine trimmed, compact nugs with not much trichome shine on the outside, and a sweet and mild fruit smell when you cracked the bud open. Throughout our time there we rolled up four joints, and had about a gram and half left by the time we decided to head out.

That’s really it. You get some food, you get some cannabis, and you enjoy. We weren’t rushed out the door with our leftover cannabis once we were done eating, but we did feel a little odd sticking around 30 minutes after we finished our meal to keep smoking, especially knowing that servers are trying to hustle as many tables as possible. But like I said, had we had more time before the food arrived to enjoy our cannabis, it probably wouldn’t have been an issue.

Now let’s get down to the biggest pitfall of Lowell Farms Cannabis Cafe – the price.

The Price of a Good Time

Can you really put a price on a good time? At Lowell Farms Cannabis Cafe, the answer is yes and then some.

I get it. This is the first cannabis cafe in the history of the United States, there’s a lot of demand, and it’s in Los Angeles which is an expensive city. It should be no surprise that a cafe that advertises itself as a luxury cannabis lifestyle experience charges a premium for it. But let’s put it all in perspective.

In our time at Lowell Farms Cannabis Cafe, we purchased one eighth of flower and one pre-roll with some hash in it. Our total was over $100. Throw in the $24 for the meal we split, and you’re looking at an expensive experience just to smoke in peace and have a snack. When an eighth of cannabis costs $55 without any tax, you expect a certain quality, and frankly the flower we got from Lowell Farms did not meet that standard for me.

Is Lowell Farms Cannabis Cafe Worth It?

As a one-time experience to check out the only cannabis cafe in the country? Yes, it is worth it.

Being in a public space with a hundred other people, all just relaxing, smoking and enjoying good food is a real sight to see. It makes me so excited for the future cannabis cafes that are bound to start popping up across the country, and competitive market is going to drive down the prices for these places over time.

But for Lowell Farms Cannabis Cafe, there are still a lot of adjustments to be made before it’s a real accessible, enjoyable experience for your average cannabis consumer. The cannabis is insanely over-priced, and it all comes pre-packed. Our flower had been sitting in its jar since July 2019, and we went to Lowells in Mid-November.

In a realistic Lowell Farms Cannabis Cafe experience, the cheapest flower you’ll find will still be over $60 with tax (and that’s the outdoor), the concentrates will be over $70 (without tax) for half a gram, and the pre-rolls come small. But for a once in a lifetime experience that you can’t find anywhere else in the country, Lowell Farms Cannabis Cafe is worth a visit.

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The Vape Pen Controversy Explained

The Vape Pen Controversy Explained

If you’ve watched the news over the past month, you probably think vaping can now kill you.

In today’s sensationalist news cycle, it has become the standard to over-exaggerate. Whether it’s about politics or a major health crisis, the media will always drive a narrative that gets people more worried, and gets them more views.

So it’s no surprise that when people started getting sick from vape pens the media would jump all over it.

The Vape Pen Controversy

It all started in September. A news story broke about someone getting some type of lung-related illness from a vape pen. At first, that was all. But then the story broke. The vape pen they were using had THC in it.

Cue the media leaping into hysteria, claiming that THC vape pens are making people sick. And if you watched the news around this time, there was a clear implication that it wasn’t something else in the pens causing harm, it was the THC. But that didn’t stop other outlets from claiming it wasn’t just THC vape pens to blame, but all vape pens.

Law commercials advocating law suits against Juul started to appear, and talks of a federal vaping ban ensued. Suffice to say, the media — and in turn the country — lost their collective shit.

The Truth

Of course all of the drama and freak out over vape pen related illnesses was based on half truths. Yes, people were in fact getting sick, and even dying, from THC vape pens. But there’s one thing that every single news story in the mainstream media failed to mention. Legality.

Out of over 400 cases of reported lung-related illnesses caused by vape pens, about 99% of them were caused by illicit vape pens. In other words, people purchased vape pen cartridges on the illicit market, and got sick. Why? Because of cutting agents.

Specifically, cartridge producers on the illicit market used vitamin E as a cutting agent. That doesn’t sound like a big deal right? We need vitamin E to stay healthy, you can eat it, you can put it in ointments, so why not a vape?

Well, it turns out that when you vaporize vitamin E, it converts to vitamin E acetate, a solid, viscous state. So these unknowing consumers would hit their pen, the vitamin E would convert to vitamin E acetate, and the residue would attach to the inside of their lungs. That causes some serious respiratory issues, and in a few cases, death.

Harmful Misinformation

There are already plenty of conspiracy theorists out there claiming big tobacco is the culprit for the major media focus on THC vape pens causing the problem. This would be an attempt to take down the vape pen industry that is the largest competitor to cigarettes. Others thought it was lobbying groups pushing to reverse the efforts of cannabis legalization.

But in all of the confusion, half-assed reporting and straight up false information, the people who really get hurt are the consumers. Not just those that are actually getting hurt by illicit vape pens because they don’t have access to safe, legal cannabis. But also your everyday cannabis consumer, and your medical user especially.

There are patients who don’t like to smoke, and choose to vape their medicine. With the rising concern surrounding vape pens, some dispensaries (and even entire states) have taken vape pens off of their shelves to make sure they are safe. Which is all well and good until the people who really need them can’t access them.

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High Times Cannabis Cup or Fyre Fest 2.0?

High Times Cannabis Cup or Fyre Fest 2.0?

It was the first high Times Cup in Oklahoma, and very likely the last.

The hype before the event wasn’t any bigger than past cannabis cups. Just your average instagram posts from local dispensaries and brands that were going to attend, telling customers and attendees to stop by their booth.

But what people anticipated, and what actually happened at the High Times Cannabis Cup in Oklahoma are two very different things. And not for the better.

The Background

High Times has always had a somewhat iffy reputation among the cannabis community, mainly for the company’s poor event planning year after year. Due to the nature of the event, hosting a cannabis cup in a medical only state can cause some problems on its own. Oklahoma happens to be a medical only state.

But that’s not all.

Oklahoma also has the most progressive and fastest growing medical cannabis industry in the country. The state’s medical laws allowed, and even encouraged, outside growers, processors and retailers to bring their experience and knowledge to the new state industry. And boy did they.

As it stands now, there are over 130,000 registered patients in Oklahoma, with over 1,300 dispensaries to service them. Oklahoma is the fastest-growing medical marijuana market in the average number of daily patient increases, and MMJ patients represent 4.1% of the state’s total population – one of the highest rates in the nation. Growth is bolstered by low barriers of entry, including the fact there’s no list of qualifying conditions for patients.

Unprepared, overwhelmed, and even dangerous

To say that the venue was under prepared for the first day of the Cannabis Cup would be a massive understatement. With a huge portion of attendees coming from out of state, and just as many in-state patients, Real Dirt sources on the ground estimated around 40,000 people in attendance.

Other than the fact that it was probably the largest cannabis cup attendance in history, it was also the largest shit show. VIP entrance began at noon, with hundreds of people waiting well past 2 PM to get in “early”. General admission began at 1 PM, which only added to the chaos. Thousands of people showed up at once, making parking a nightmare.

high times cannabis cup oklahoma

A photo from the line at the Cannabis Cup in Oklahoma, about 1/4 mile from the entrance. Photo by @OKCannaCo on Twitter.

After the parking lots filled up in the first hour, attendees began parking down the street, some well over a mile from the venue. On top of that there were insanely long lines, stretching over half a mile around the outside of the venue, through the parking lot and beyond. Keep in mind this is in 80+ degree weather with extremely high humidity.

With excessive wait times, high heat and no water, people became very unhappy, very quickly, with plenty of evidence on Twitter.

One person eventually got into the event, only to find that there was hardly enough food or water for everybody:

oklahoma cannabis cup problems

Others spent all day just waiting in line:

oklahoma cannabis cup 2019

But for a lot of people, the Oklahoma Cannabis Cup was reminiscent of the extremely hyped up, and extremely unsuccessful Fyre Festival:

high times cannabis cup in oklahoma was another fyre festival

While the High Times Cannabis Cup in Oklahoma may have been a huge success for the organizers and vendors that were able to make it, there were still hundreds if not thousands of people who paid for tickets and never even got into the venue. For those that got in however, the event was a blast and a great way to connect the local and national cannabis community in Oklahoma.

Day 2 of the Cup was inevitably less crowded due to many just avoiding it all together to save the hassle of another long day in line, and so it raises the question, will High Times be back to Oklahoma?

Probably. They vastly underestimated the Oklahoma cannabis community and the interest in cannabis in the state. If they High Times wants to return to Oklahoma, they will need to make some serious changes to the venue, entrance protocols and a lot more. If they do have another cup in Oklahoma, you can bet The Real Dirt will at least try to get in.

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