[Editor’s Note: You want a nice place to go where the people in the store are friendly and knowledgeable. It’s retail and this is a good explanation of what you should expect.]
Brick-and-mortar dispensaries have evolved considerably since the early days of Dutch coffeeshops and private patient collectives in California. Nowadays, storefronts exist across many cities in North America and abroad, taking the cannabis retail experience to the mainstream consumer.
When you first step through the door of a dispensary, you should have a good idea of what type of experience you’re about to have. Between atmosphere, staff, and menu selection, cannabis retailers with high reputations have many ways of standing out from the competition.
For the uninitiated, finding a dispensary worth visiting may not come as second nature. Here are some elements to look for when searching for a dispensary to buy cannabis.
Many pieces come together to create a great ambiance in a dispensary. All of these elements will hit your senses when you first walk in the door:
- Interior design
- Merchandise placement
- Staff presence and attire
These all fuse together to create a mood and feel that, if done correctly, will ensure a comfortable experience for the consumer, from picking a product to buying one. Good dispensaries work hard and use a lot of resources to develop the right ambiance for their customer base. As you leave the store, plunder in hand, every one of your senses should have been catered to.
Friendly and Knowledgeable Staff
Dispensaries are charged with connecting consumers with cannabis, and this experience is far more complex than walking into a convenience store and grabbing a six-pack of beer. A friendly, patient, hospitable, and knowledgeable staff of budtenders makes all the difference.
A well-trained budtender should be knowledgeable about all the various types of cannabis products, how to consume them, and be able to answer any questions you have about cannabis. They’ll be able to recommend an array of products that will meet your specific needs, whether it be flower, concentrates, edibles, tinctures, topicals, or any other cannabis product that they carry. They’ll also be able to tell you how to properly dose products.
Some dispensaries carry seeds and clones, so it’s important to have a budtender with cultivation knowledge at those stores. They should be able to help inexperienced growers get started, as well as be able to guide advanced growers through a library of genetics to help them find the right addition to their garden.
Broad Menu Selection
Having a comprehensive menu is imperative for a dispensary to capture the market. This includes having high-demand cultivars and specific brands and products in stock. Purchasers at dispensaries work tirelessly to create an inventory that captures what consumers want. A customer wants to walk into a single store and find specific brands, strains, or products all in one place.
An expansive inventory of products should include flower and concentrates, as well as various edibles, tinctures, and topicals. Consumers want variety and dispensaries usually offer similar products at various price points as well. This is to appeal to both the customer coming in for an inexpensive half-ounce of flower as well as the customer looking for a gram of top-shelf live resin and everyone in between.
Aside from cannabis products, some dispensaries also sell accessories like pipes, dab rigs, vaporizers, grinders, lighters, torches, papers, and more, to be a one-stop shop for anything a cannabis consumer may need. Not all dispensaries carry accessories though, so be sure to do some research ahead of time.
There is no secret recipe to success in building out a dispensary menu. Research and market data help, but a large part of curating products relies on purchaser intuition. Successful dispensaries rotate their menus and respond to feedback from their community about which products to carry and which to get rid of.
Competitive Price Points
Passing off savings to the customer hasn’t always been easy for dispensaries, especially for stores in states that tack on lofty excise taxes for cannabis products. However, saturation of product in the market forces many retailers to lower their prices, benefitting customers at the end of the day. Dispensaries have to provide their products and services at reasonable and competitive price points.
Dispensaries stay competitive by offering consumers reasons to return. This may include disseminating deals through advertisements, offering loyalty programs for frequent shoppers, and even discounting older inventory. With these tactics, a dispensary can capture and retain customers by giving them reasons to keep shopping at their store.
As the market continues to fluctuate, maintaining consistency in pricing is as important as keeping prices low—customers want to trust that a dispensary will always have certain prices for certain products. Referrals and word-of-mouth advertising also rely on maintaining consistent pricing.
Visibility is a key factor to help a dispensary stand out among the competition, and a lot of dispensaries promote themselves through community outreach. By offering services other than the sale of cannabis products, businesses have a chance to give back to their local community.
Some examples of community outreach include adopting highways for cleanup, participating in local fairs and gatherings, and facilitating donation drives and fundraisers.
Many great dispensaries may also provide extra—and often free—in-house services for customers and patients. Wellness services such as acupuncture, aromatherapy, massage therapy, and yoga are some examples of additional offerings you may find.
Some retailers even provide cultivation seminars, cooking with cannabis classes, and even lectures from educators, activists, and prominent members of the cannabis community. These extra services aim to drive community participation and engagement, and make a local dispensary stand out among the competition.
Original Post: Leafly: Characteristics of a Reputable Cannabis Dispensary
[Editor’s Note: If you think growing cannabis is the same from strain to strain, you absolutely needs to read this. There’s a lot to consider when growing cannabis.]
Once you’ve made the decision to grow your own cannabis, you probably have a couple favorite strains in mind. Picking a strain is one of the most exciting aspects of homegrowing, but setting up a successful garden requires careful planning and consideration, no matter what your experience level.
Starting a grow takes an investment of time and money, and which strain you decide to grow will influence how you build out your garden.
Picking a strain to grow is ultimately a matter of balancing what is available to you and what your individual needs, experience, and growing preferences are. Below are some factors to consider to help you pick the right strain for your garden.
The great thing about cannabis cultivation is that you don’t have to be an expert to get started. Any cannabis enthusiast can grow at home with a bit of planning and research.
Nevertheless, some strains require more care and attention than others. This information is usually made available by breeders and distributors, but be sure to do some research to see how difficult specific strains are to grow.
Difficulty equates to more care and attention, which can involve a more complex nutrient regiment, more training requirements, and perhaps paying more attention to environmental factors. These all take time, patience, and research to master, especially if you don’t have much growing experience.
That being said, don’t let the difficulty factor discourage you from cultivating your favorite strain. As long as you’re determined and know what you’re getting yourself into, by all means, go for it.
Availability of Strains
Where you live and intend to set up your garden will affect what strains you have access to. Although there are many strains in circulation, not all markets carry certain varietals.
The legality of cannabis in your state will determine whether you can buy seeds or clones at the dispensary. Even if you can, you’ll be limited to genetics that are only produced in your state, as seeds and clones can’t cross state lines.
The selection of genetics will be contingent on many variables, including what local farmers are circulating, the time of year, and demand. Popular strains will be easier to find as the market favors supply and demand.
Contact local seed and clone suppliers to see what they have. That way, you can have the jump on genetics you want as they become available throughout the year.
Seed banks exist outside of the US and can sell seeds for “souvenir purposes,” but it is illegal to bring seeds into the US. Customs will seize any cannabis seeds that they find in packages or on a person.
Climate and Environment
Cultivating indoors or outdoors will also affect which strain you choose. Certain strains benefit from open space and are easier to grow outdoors. For example, sativas tend to grow taller than indicas and have a more open bud structure, making them better in warmer and more humid climates.
Cultivars such as Lemon Skunk and Chocolope are known for their towering canopies and moderate-to-intense stretching and will benefit greatly from the extra sun and space of an outdoor garden. Just be sure to plant them early as they have long flowering times.
Other strains need more attention and are more susceptible to pests. These usually benefit from a climate-controlled environment. OG Kush is considered a more finicky strain to grow, so it will probably benefit from being grown indoors despite its tendency to stretch.
Dwarf and auto-flowering varieties grow short and bushy, making them perfect companions for spatially limited grows. Lowryder is a dwarf cultivar and Hash Plant and Critical Kush are other varieties that grow small and have short flowering times.
Cannabis can be grown successfully in small or large spaces, but know how much space you have to work with before you start building out your garden in order to figure out which strains are suitable. For example, if growing in a small space, consider growing indicas, which tend to grow shorter and bushier.
Many OG strains, like OG Kush, need specific nutrients, like a higher quantity of calcium and magnesium. Other varieties such as Blue Dream or Green Crack don’t need as much watering and can be left alone for longer periods and given a less stringent nutrient schedule.
Also take into consideration flowering time. Some strains take longer to mature than others and if you want a quick turnaround, aim for strains that take 8-9 weeks to flower instead of 12.
Certain strains will need different types of soil, and some will need more watering and nutrients than others.
Other factors to consider before planning out the parameters of a cannabis garden include:
- What kind of soil or grow medium you’ll use
- How many lights you’ll need and how bright they need to be
- The number of plants you’ll have
Be sure to also give yourself room to work in your garden. You’ll need workspaces to put soil in pots, take clones or plant seeds, and room to move potted plants around and water plants.
At the end of the day, choosing a strain that meets your needs is the most important factor. You want to enjoy the fruits of your labor after months of hard work and dedication. Think about why you want a specific strain:
- If you’re looking for aroma and flavor, try growing a strain with a great terpene profile, even if it’s lower in THC.
- If you’re looking to grow a strain simply to process into a concentrate, you’ll probably want something known for producing a lot of resin.
- If you’re looking for symptom relief, check out Leafly’s strain database and find one that meets your needs—you might want something with a particular THC to CBD ratio.
Research and planning is essential to building out your cannabis garden and picking which strain to grow in that garden. Whatever your wants or needs, as long as you’re determined, you’ll be on the way to growing your own cannabis in no time.
Original Post: Leafly: Which Cannabis Strain Should You Be Growing?
[Editor’s Note: I admit it, I’ve never dabbed. This article makes me want to try it though.]
Perhaps no other material has made as big of an impact on dabbing culture as quartz has over the past several years. Initially created as an alternative to materials like titanium and ceramics, quartz is now regarded as the gold standard for dabbing rig pieces.
Quartz can withstand and retain heat with less risk of breaking and it can preserve concentrate flavors better than other materials.
What makes quartz so great for dabbing cannabis concentrates? It can withstand and retain heat with less risk of breaking and it can preserve concentrate flavors better than other materials.
Here we look at what makes quartz so popular, how quartz nails and accessories have evolved, and best practices for quartz cleaning and maintenance.
What Is Quartz?
Silicon Dioxide (SiO2), also known as clear-fused quartz or fused silica, is a solid, amorphous (non-crystalline) material comprised of silicon and oxygen. While very similar to traditional glass, the two are distinct in that quartz contains no other materials.
In order to create fused quartz, pure silica sand containing quartz crystals must be melted or fused. This purity gives quartz a high thermal conductivity, and it’s also often used in laboratory-grade materials.
Why Dab With Quartz?
Quartz is great for low-temperature dabbing, the practice of using reduced temperatures when heating a nail in order to preserve terpene flavors during the sublimation and inhalation processes.
When used in conjunction with a carb cap or any other device designed to create convection, quartz nails preserve terpenes because they can maintain a lower temperature for a longer period of time before cooling off. This creates a much more robust and enjoyable dabbing experience compared to other nail materials, which can burn off terpenes with higher temperatures.
Quartz is also a champ when it comes to thermal conductivity. It can withstand high temperatures over time with less risk of breaking, and can also retain steadier temperatures for longer periods, making for easier and less rushed dabbing without the fear of cooling.
The amount of heat a quartz nail can retain depends on its thickness, and this is usually advertised by the retailer.
A Brief History of the Quartz Nail
Before 2010, low-grade flathead nails were easy to produce and often accompanied early versions of dab rigs. These impure glass nails would break easily, so quartz began to show up as a stronger, more resilient alternative.
The introduction of the quartz domeless nail was the turning point when quartz became a major contender for nails.
But the flathead design of early quartz nails was still imperfect. Although it fit well with early dab rigs that had domes for creating convection, concentrates would often melt off the ridges and go to waste. Cupped designs proved to be a better option with domed rigs, but these nails couldn’t retain heat long enough.
The introduction of the quartz domeless nail was the turning point when quartz became a major contender for nails. Designed to be used without a dome, these nails could hold concentrates easier and retain heat longer. Quartz domeless nails were quickly recognized for providing a better flavor when dabbing, compared to titanium and ceramic nails.
As it grew in popularity, several influential American glassblowers started custom designing nails with quartz. Out of this explosion of creativity came several designs, including the Honey Bucket model from Mothership Glass, the Quartz Club Banger from Quave Glass, and the Trough from Joel Halen.
While each of these designs are still popular today, the simplified banger nail has easily become the most popular for quartz enthusiasts because of its functionality, simple and sleek design, and easy replicability. Quartz nails complement glass more than other materials like titanium, bringing a more attractive aesthetic to expensive dab rigs.
A quartz banger nail. (Julia Sumpter for Leafly)
Proper Quartz Hygiene
A fresh quartz nail, translucent and free of cloudiness and debris, will give you better dabs, allowing you to taste the flavors and terpenes of concentrates better.
Because of the amorphous nature of fused quartz, its atomic structure is in a perpetual state of imbalance. When heated to extreme temperatures, a process called devitrification occurs, when the atoms of quartz attempt to reorganize into a crystalline structure.
This can happen when cooled quartz is exposed to various elements, including extreme temperatures, like a red-hot torch flame, the introduction of contaminants like oil reclaim, or continued and prolonged exposure to oxygen as a byproduct of oxygenated torching.
When devitrification occurs, quartz becomes cloudy. This process is irreversible without lab-grade chemicals and it can negatively affect the function of the nail. To avoid this altogether, be proactive in taking care of your nail:
- Never expose a nail to extremely hot temperatures. This is the easiest way to ruin a fresh nail.
- Don’t dab on a hot quartz nail. Always wait for the nail to cool a bit before applying a concentrate.
- After each dab, immediately clean the nail with a cotton swab or similar material to rid the skillet of carbon residue or reclaim.
- Don’t leave a nail dirty for a prolonged period for risk of creating carbon build-up, which will devitrify the quartz on the next heating session.
- Don’t clean your nail with water, as this will also cause devitrification.
An old standard for nail care was seasoning—heating a new nail until it clouds and turns red, seasoning it like you would a cast iron skillet. But seasoning is, in fact, not considered a best practice for nail hygiene these days because the extreme temperatures cause devitrification.
Exciting New Quartz Technology
The world of quartz dabbing accessories continues to grow with new technologies, fueled by a never-ending pursuit to create a quality low-temperature dabbing experience. Here are some exciting innovations in quartz to look out for:
Thermal Banger Nails
Quartz bangers can create build-up and residue of concentrates inside the nail stem. This occurs when oil either bubbles over or solidifies within the stem when taking a dab. Thermal bangers mitigate this with their design: With a large cylinder to redirect airflow, residue can’t reach the downstem of the nail.
Bubble Carb and Directional Caps
Carb caps are designed to create convection when dabbing, allowing concentrates to sublimate more evenly over longer periods of time when exposed to lower temperatures. Bubble carb and directional caps help facilitate this process by siphoning airflow toward every corner of the skillet.
Their unique design allows the dabber to manipulate the direction of incoming air when taking a dab by moving the cap around. The result is less reclaim at the end of the dab and a better flavor when low-temperature dabbing.
One way to ensure that high-end quartz nails don’t suffer the fate of devitrification is to use a quartz insert or skillet. These skillets are designed to be pre-loaded with concentrates and placed in a heated flat-top nail. This lets the concentrate be sublimated inside of the skillet, leaving the nail basin free from the potential of residue buildup.
Original Post: Leafly: Here’s Why You Should Consider Dabbing With Quartz
[Editor’s Note: Dabbing concentrates is great fun. This technique, which we’d never heard of before, might just make it tastier and even better. It will certainly make it better tasting.]
Cannabis concentrate enthusiasts likely are familiar with low-temperature dabbing. With reduced temperatures and a cooler nail surface, you’re able to preserve the flavors and terpenes in your dabs.
Traditionally, low-temp dabs are achieved by pre-heating a nail and loading concentrates onto that nail. But instead, you can load concentrates onto a cold nail first and then slowly heat it.
Proponents of this method call it “cold start” or “reverse” dabbing, or even “dabbing cold,” and this technique is gaining popularity. Methods for heating preloaded concentrates on a cold surface have been around for a while—health stone dabbing, in which concentrates are loaded onto a porous stone in a nail, was a trend before quartz nails and low-temperature dabbing even existed. Cold start dabbing takes this same concept and reformats it for a new generation of dabbers who have moved on to better technology, especially with the use of quartz and borosilicates.
How to Cold Start Dab
To achieve a proper cold start dab, you’ll need a nail, preferably a banger. The bucket design of bangers allows for a more even distribution of heat, which is imperative when trying to warm concentrates on a cold surface. A standard quartz or ceramic banger will do, or even a thermal nail. Once you have your dab gear, load your concentrate into the banger or nail. The nail must be clean, as you don’t want to torch any residuals that have caked onto the surface from previous dabs. Once loaded with concentrate, apply the carb or bubble cap to the nail. Ignite your torch and slowly heat the underside of the nail with the flame several inches away. The idea is to bring the heat up to a temperature where the concentrate begins to bubble and turn into a vapor. Typically, this takes less than 10 seconds. At this point, power down the torch, rotate the cap to create convection, and inhale. Depending on the amount and type of concentrate loaded, you should get 1-2 pulls, with a more flavorful initial pull.
Cold start dabbing is great for people who wish to achieve a flavorful low-temperature pull without having to wait for the nail to heat and cool after each hit. It’s great if you’re pressed for time. Dabbing cold will also preserve your hardware better than traditional dabbing techniques. By subjecting your nail to less heat, you reduce the potential for breakage and residual buildup. Quality quartz nails and borosilicate directional caps aren’t cheap and can break easily.
The Cons of Dabbing Cold
Dabbing cold can waste concentrates, as some material can be left in the nail after a hit. This char and residue should be removed and disposed of, so that you start your next dab on a clean surface and can get its authentic flavor profile.
Ideally, cold start dabs are best when using borosilicates, but this type of hardware can be expensive and needs care. Dabbing cold is great if you’re strapped for time and want a flavorful single pull without having to stop and wait, and if you want to preserve the flavors of your concentrate.
Original Post: Leafly: What Is Cold Start or Reverse Dabbing?
[Editor’s Note: This is an excellent ‘how to’ for photographing concentrates. Good photographs are an important part of a cannabis-related business. If you’re growing, making, or selling products, you need good photographs.]
This two-part series will show you how to photograph cannabis, regardless of your experience level. Get tips on how to take pictures of live plants, harvested buds, and concentrates, as well as how to shoot indoors and outdoors. There’s something for beginners, experts, and everyone in between.
Cannabis offers many different opportunities for photography, from flower to concentrates to live plants and much more. Concentrates are relatively new to the market and interest in them is growing quickly. Although not as common as photographing flower, concentrates have their own beauty.
The vivid yellow and gold hues of concentrates fold into layers of sticky, translucent goodness, showing a complexity of textures. The synthetic shapes and structures have their own appeal, much different than the natural forms of a growing flower.
Capturing images of concentrates may be a little more challenging than shooting flower because of the small size of concentrates. You’ll have to get creative with equipment to get an appealing image, and it might be a little more expensive to get into because of the gear needed.
Why Photograph Cannabis Concentrates?
(Patrick Bennett for Leafly)
Because concentrates are relatively new products, concentrate photography is still a somewhat untapped field. Taking pictures of them will bring to light what they are, how to consume them, and encourage education of them.
Here are some other reasons to photograph concentrates:
Share on Social Media
Concentrate photography allows creatives to explore the cannabis plant from an entirely different perspective. Social media is great for connecting with others in the cannabis community and taking pictures of cannabis-related content other than flower is a great way to build diversity in your portfolio.
Keep a Tasting Log
Track the different kinds of concentrates that you try in a tasting log. Photography can add a new dimension, helping to categorize your experiences.
Keep a Grow or Processing Journal
Cannabis cultivation doesn’t necessarily end with tasting cured flowers after a harvest. For many, growing is a necessary means to an end for creating concentrates. Processing at home through various non-solvent techniques—like rosin pressing and water-hash processing—are becoming much more common. Photographing the production and sampling of cannabis by-products such as concentrates is a great way to shoot different subject matter.
Create Art Prints and More
The aesthetic that concentrate photography brings translates well into other non-digital mediums, such as art prints and textiles.
Photographing Concentrates vs. Flowers
(Patrick Bennett for Leafly)
There are a few similarities and some key differences when it comes to photographing concentrates over flowers. Much of the methods and techniques used to take pictures of cured flowers in a studio setting come from product and macro photography. This is also true with concentrate photography: Because the subject matter is so small, you’ll need to use equipment capable of magnifying and illuminating the foreground of your images.
As far as differences between the two kinds of photography, with flower, a lot of effort goes into capturing the details of trichomes on the buds, whereas with concentrates, you’ll have your hands full trying to control the lighting, as the surface of most concentrates tends to be highly reflective. Photographs of concentrates can easily have overexposed highlights or shadows of underexposure.
Concentrates are much more difficult to handle than flower and require special tools like dabbers to aid in manipulating and maneuvering the material. Concentrates that are especially viscous can be difficult to cast light on, as these tend to soften and move around under the high heat of lights. This can be challenging if you’re trying to shoot with a low shutter speed because the product moves between each frame.
Equipment Recommendations for Shooting Concentrates
(Patrick Bennett for Leafly)
Because concentrate photography utilizes hardware from macrophotography, it will be more expensive to get into because you’ll need special equipment designed for increased magnification and illumination.
Here are a few recommended pieces of gear that you should consider:
You can still get away with a smartphone camera to produce high-quality images of concentrates. Buy an external macro lens and utilize these 5 hacks for smartphone photography.
But if you want even better quality images, think about getting a macro prime lens. These lenses are designed to be used on full-frame DSLR (digital single-lens reflex) cameras and can focus at extremely close ranges.
Ring Lights and Macro Flashes
In photography, more magnification generally requires greater illumination. Ring lights and macro flashes work well in macrophotography because they center the light directly onto your subject. More light is always good, but directed light is even better, especially for macro work.
A light tent is essentially a wire-framed box covered in some type of white fabric. Light tents help to contain and diffuse light, providing a more even distribution of light and a more controlled background for the subject. Many argue that light tents can limit creativity by creating spacial limitations, but with concentrates, the subject matter is so small that this shouldn’t be a problem.
Extension tubes effectively create a long, detachable lens for DSLR cameras. They extend the lens away from the focal plane, increasing magnification without having to purchase a high-powered lens. You’ll be able to fill the frame with your detailed subject.
If you are planning on incorporating focus stacking (more below), a focus rail will help you dial in focus distances without having to manually adjust the camera each time. Precise incremental adjustments are imperative for achieving properly stacked photographs, and this tool will help get these types of images with far less labor.
Pro Tips for Photographing Concentrates
(Patrick Bennett for Leafly)
Now that your equipment is dialed in and ready to go, here are some tips to get you started on the right foot:
Use a Quality Dabber Tool
Different concentrates require specific tools in order to be handled effectively for photography. Having the correct dabber tool will make your life a lot easier. For more stable concentrates like shatter, ballpoint and needle-tipped tools work great for creating glass-like breaks in the sample, producing shards that photograph well and add character to an image. For less stable concentrates like saps and waxes, scooped dabber tools work much better for handling.
Refrigerate Concentrates for Easy Handling
Under the heat of intense lights, many concentrates will become malleable and even liquid, creating a host of problems for the photographer. Try refrigerating concentrates prior to shooting them to help mitigate this problem.
Utilize Contrast to Your Advantage
Cannabis concentrates typically contain some type of yellow, gold, or amber hue. Choose a background with these colors in mind to create contrast that will help make your photos pop. Both black and white work well as backgrounds for certain compositions, but don’t be afraid to experiment with other colors and patterns.
Props add character to your photos and can give images, especially macros, an extra layer of flare. They also give a sense of size and scale and add to the overall composition of the image. Include various dabber tools or other objects for holding concentrates in place. Scaled-down hobby figurines and train-set props are also great additions, and even fruit can be used creatively to increase contrast and add color and context to an image.
Stack Photos for Greater Depth of Field
Focus stacking is an image-processing technique in which multiple frames are taken of a subject at incrementally different focus lengths to produce an image with a much greater depth of field. In macrophotography, this method can vastly improve the quality of a magnified subject by removing unwanted blur from the background and foreground of your subject. Many post-production photography software programs will allow you to produce and edit focus stacked composite images.
Taking pictures of cannabis concentrates is a great way to learn about the fundamentals of macrophotography. Whether you want to engage with fellow cannabis creatives, add to your journaling skills with stunning images, or turn your images into art, taking pictures of cannabis concentrates is a fulfilling and rewarding way to gain a new skill while exploring a new world of creativity.
Original Post: Leafly: How to Photograph Cannabis Concentrates