Vaping Cannabis is Confusing. 4 Things to Know

Vaping Cannabis is Confusing. 4 Things to Know

Are You Confused about Vaping Cannabis?

Vaping cannabis has been all over the news over the last several months. Between vaping extracts, concentrates, and whole flower the terms can be confusing. Dispensaries typically list a long menu of “extracts” and “concentrates”. Many of these products need to be vaped. Did you know whole flower can be vaped as well? The most ubiquitous kind of vaping uses a vape pen with cartridges that contain an oil that’s been extracted from the plant. Other products don’t come in a handy dandy cartridge form. They are variously called butters, rosins, shatter, sugar, sauce, resin, live resin, rosin, etc. The list continues. If you don’t know what all of these are, it’s OK. (I don’t either!) These are concentrates.

If the vaping ‘crisis’ makes things even more complicated because we now have to add the question ‘what is safe?’ then it might be enough to just want to say “to hell with vaping” I’ll smoke flower. OK, that’s fine, but there are some things that you can vape safely and effectively. Here are four things you need to know before you decide to vape or you should know if you are vaping cannabis.

1. WTF is Vaping Anyway?

Vaping is the application of heat, but not flame, to an extract, concentrate or flower. Each form of cannabis is different, but the main event in vaping is heating, not burning. Vaping bud is a bit different. It’s as if you were to heat cannabis flower in an ‘oven’ to somewhere below the point where it burns. The natural components of the flower will vaporize and made available for you to inhale, getting their benefit. All the natural terpenes and THC vaporize in the flower below the burning point.

2. Concentrates vs. Extracts

Concentrates and extracts are not created equally. To make it even more confusing, the terms are often used interchangeably.

Cannabis Concentrates

Concentrates are exactly what they sound like; The concentrated “essence” of the cannabis plant. In this case, we’re talking about hashish, butters, rosins, resins, etc. They use the natural THCs, CBDs and terpenes contained in the trichomes. Trichomes are mostly in the flowers and leaves and are a natural part of the plant. Some concentrates are made by hand…literally. These are traditional methods and are used to make hash. Some concentrates are made with cold water and ice or from freeze-dried flower. Concentrates that are not made by hand are made with water, but can also be made with butane, alcohol or CO2. If the solvent chemicals are completely removed, these are generally safe, but water wash or handmade is still the safest. Do not mistake them for extracts that are made with chemicals. Generally, because concentrates are made naturally using hand labor or water, they’re safe to consume.

Concentrates made with chemicals are more problematic but are generally safe. There is one major problem with chemically concentrated cannabis. All the forms use heat. Heat vaporizes many of the products in the plant. If we’re consuming, we want the vaporization to occur while we’re vaporizing the product ourselves. If there are parts of the plant lost when the concentration is done, so they have to be put back in. How? That’s a bigger question.

Extracts

Extracts are different. Extracts are made from whole plants that are chemically stripped of all of their THC, terpenes and everything else in the plant. Since most extracts use heat to ‘extract’ the elements of the plant, a lot is lost. Extracts are like the oil you find in vape pen cartridges. They are made from the whole plant. If they taste at all like cannabis you’re used to it’s because the producer has added terpenes or other compounds to give it a familiar taste,

Frequently the additions are synthetic, but sometimes they’re advertised as ‘cannabis-derived’. It’s still not what was in the original plant. I don’t vape oil. Making extracts is very efficient. If you have the right equipment, the whole plant can be cut and in as little as 10-15 minutes later, it’s oil! A machine chops the whole plant into tiny pieces that are put in the “extractarator” (my word) and Voila! Magically the plant becomes extract.

Health Issues

All the health problems with vaping you’re been reading about are from extracts, not concentrates. This is important and it’s worth repeating: ALL THE HEALTH PROBLEMS WITH VAPING CANNABIS HAVE BEEN BECAUSE OF EXTRACTS. Concentrates are not the problem, extracts are the problem. Many extractors have been using oils, specifically vitamin E acetate, to make the oil more viscous or an appropriate texture for cartridges. Vitamin E acetate has been implicated in the recent lung illnesses and deaths.

Extracts are the diet soda of cannabis. Made to get you high, but not made for true enjoyment.

3. The Problems with Extracts

There is a major problem with the end product of extracts. Heat. Heat destroys about everything in the plant except for THC and similar compounds. But what makes cannabis cannabis isn’t just the THC. It’s all the THCs, the CBDs, CBGs, terpenes, and all the other 100s of other compounds in the plant. All you’re left with after applying mild heat are THC compounds.

In addition, you just don’t know what’s in that oil you’re vaping. The process is opaque. It’s a mystery surrounded by an enigma. There are many ways to make oil, or to make oil ‘oilier’, or to make it taste better, or whatever the producer thinks will make you buy his or her product. There is almost no transparency in vape cartridge oil production. That’s not a good thing. It’s not good because you don’t know what you’re inhaling. In the long term, it’s not good for business.

4. The Difference Between Flower vs. Concentrate

A cannabis flower has everything in it. There might be 100+ types of THC and who knows how many different terpenes (more are being discovered daily it seems), isomers of terpenes, isolates, and who knows how many other compounds contributing to the complete effect. We still don’t know enough.

Concentrates have the contents of natural flower if done correctly. This can mean rubbing through a screen to get the trichomes, freeze-drying and/or water extraction, or ice water extraction. There are several traditional ways of concentrating. These methods go back hundreds, if not thousands of years. That Labonese blond(e) hash you might love was made with a process that goes back at least to the 1500s. That tarry Nepalese black hash is also an ancient process. Wherever cannabis was found, there was a process to concentrate its goodness.

Newer processes use water technology to concentrate the flower. All these processes use ice water to concentrate the trichomes in a way that they can be extracted whole, then sifted out of the mash to create a concentrate that is essentially pure and whole. Nothing has been destroyed by heat. No chemicals other than H20 have been added to the flower. No terpenes. Nothing else other than flower. It’s a pure process and difficult to master, but the results can be incredible. There are a few companies in Colorado that are only using water extraction to create their products.

The Bottom Line about Vaping Cannabis

If you want to vape cannabis, it’s probably safe. It’s actually a good way to create an effect. Whole flower is wonderful when vaped with a good product. Concentrates are also wonderful when vaped. Different water extracted concentrates like water wash hash or hashish can be terrific. Personally, I do not consume the oils that come in cartridges mostly because I don’t know what’s in them. I also will only consume water washed concentrates. The other concentrates are made using methyl alcohol or butane or other solvents that supposedly are removed at the end of the process. But are they all removed? I don’t know. And neither do you. Vape away, but be aware of the caveats. Be happy.

Cannabis Research Advances

Cannabis Research Advances

Cannabis Research Advances, but not in the U.S.

Cannabis research in the U.S. is totally lacking. Even as medical and adult-use cannabis becomes legal in more states in the U.S., it’s apparent we don’t know very much about the plant itself. We know there are THC compounds and terpenes. We do not know how many different terpene compounds there are. Nor do we know how many CBD compounds or derivatives of THC there are. We don’t know what other compounds might be specific to cannabis or how they might work with other compounds found in the plant. We simply don’t know.

A story published in Nature illustrates how much we don’t know about cannabis.

A New THC

Italian scientists have discovered a new THC compound that’s 30-50 times more potent than the delta-9 THC we all know and love. Tetrahydrocannabiphorol or THCP is the proper name for the new ‘discovery’. Also, CBDP and a few other cannabis compounds were discovered at the same time. The story is scientific and if you like science, it’s be right up your alley. If you don’t, here’s the bottom line; The scientists who discovered the new compounds only know that it binds to our endocannabinoid system at a rate far higher than THC alone. Does this mean you get a bigger buzz? They don’t seem to know, as it wasn’t tested for its effectiveness as an agent to get you high.

We Don’t Know Enough about Cannabis

What this tells us is, we just don’t know enough about the cannabis plant to tell us what it can and cannot do. The personal story I wrote about using cannabis for post-surgery pain relief are just that: anecdotal stories. Anecdotal stories are good as far as they go, but scientific inquiry is even better.

The techniques scientists use now involve mass spectrometers. However, the changes in cannabis plant compounds, whether it’s called hemp, marijuana, or cannabis are so subtle they’re sometimes difficult to suss out even with very sensitive instruments.

More Cannabis Research

Here’s the bottom line for me. If we want to find out about the plant in the U.S., we need to do more research. In order to do more research, we need to either reschedule cannabis from Schedule 1 or or completely de-scheduling cannabis, and just make it legal like alcohol. This means States would be free to regulate cannabis in whatever manner they desire. But most importantly, rescheduling or de-scheduling cannabis would allow important research to be completed by competent researchers. As things stand right now, there’s very little research done in the U.S. It’s all being done overseas. If anything, the U.S. needs to legalize cannabis research to stay competitive.

What It’s Like to Buy Recreational Cannabis in Michigan

What It’s Like to Buy Recreational Cannabis in Michigan

Purchasing Cannabis in Michigan: A Personal Story

Last Saturday I went to replenish my supply of medical cannabis. It was my first time at a dispensary since the adult-use stores opened in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I like to visit different dispensaries, and today I went to “Exclusive Provisioners” a large dispensary on the south side of Ann Arbor. It’s located in a small office and industrial park. In December, we published a story about the sad state of the Michigan adult-use rollout. I wanted to see what was going on with my own eyes. I was in need of some supplies, so it was an easy thing to do. I was shocked at what I saw.

Cold, Cold Rain and Long, Long Lines!

Saturday dawned. It didn’t exactly dawn it just got lighter…it was about 40 degrees and a hard rain was pelting down. As I turned onto the street where this shop is located, I was astonished to find the street filled with cars on a Saturday morning. This was an office and light industry area! Approaching, I saw there were tents set up. Finding a parking space, I walked toward one of the tents. There were at least 100 people inside and there were about 20 people waiting in line outside, getting very wet.

Medical Gets a Pass

I thought I’d just have to get in line with everyone else. Wrong. “Medical” patients, i.e., those with medical cannabis cards get to bypass the line. Not just at Exclusive, but every dispensary in Michigan. It’s a state regulation. All those people were waiting to buy recreational cannabis!! Holy Smoke!! Literally. 🙂 I couldn’t figure out why so many people were there, standing in the line in the cold rain for weed. But they were. And I got to walk right in. Also, the variety of strains available to me in the store was immeasurably greater than the ‘adult-use’ strains. I had a choice. The recreational customers had almost no choice.

Newbies Might be Driving the Market

I stayed in the ‘holding’ tent for a while and talked to several people. I was completely surprised at what I found out. All of them were newbies. Two had consumed cannabis in the past, but they were wanting to try it again now that it’s legal. My ‘n’ was small and I was shocked at first, but then realized it makes a certain kind of sense. When cannabis was ‘illegal’ it was; a) harder to find and b) you could get in trouble for using it. So, many people opted out. But now…it’s legal and everyone is wanting to give cannabis consumption a go or another go if they’ve had it long ago.

Cannabis Price Appears to be the Top Priority

While it isn’t surprising to find so many people wanting to experiment with legal cannabis, I discovered most people were interested in the price. As in, finding out what was the least expensive cannabis they could buy. The price of cannabis is the price of cannabis. And yes, there’s an analog in the wine business. In today’s market, Two Buck Chuck and Barefoot dominate sales in groceries and wine stores. The wines sell at decent, but not great margins, but they sell in volume. Why would cannabis be any different? I don’t know what margins are like in this business, but I’m beginning see there’s a lot of room to discount and make deals. And there are lots deals out there.

Michigan: At the End of the Day it’s the Black Market

So far, for consumers purchasing adult use cannabis products it’s not that easy. In Michigan, the medical cannabis community gets the cannabis products first. Adult-use cannabis sales can happen once the product has been in the store for 30 days. I’m sure that most dispensaries would gladly let anyone in over the legal age for purchasing cannabis products. It’s so hard to actually purchase adult-use cannabis that the real bottom line is this; I know a black market dealer who only sells cannabis. He told me his business has never been better!

Managing Pain with Cannabis – A Personal Story

Managing Pain with Cannabis – A Personal Story

When I found out I had cancer, I freaked out. Good old fashioned 1970’s style freak out. F.R.E.A.K.E.D. O.U.T.!!!!! Cancer? I can’t possibly have cancer! What am I going to do? I decided to get it treated, that’s what. This is my story on managing pain with cannabis.

I needed an invasive procedure. The only thing ‘western medicine’ offers for pain relief are opiates.  While opiates do ‘kill’ the pain, they make me feel nauseated. I decided to try cannabis for pain relief after surgery.

This is My Cannabis Pain Relief Experiment

Would cannabis work to control or mitigate my pain? What kinds of cannabis would work best? I wanted to find out for myself if cannabis could do the job of ameliorating my post-procedure pain.

I had the procedure a few weeks ago. It wasn’t exactly surgery because I wasn’t cut open and it didn’t involve general anesthesia. There was an anesthesiologist and he did knock me out and numb me up. The physician didn’t cut, he punctured; Four pretty big needle-like things digging around inside, through my back. That’s enough detail. This already borders on TMI. I liked that my procedure didn’t involve open surgery or general anesthesia. Issues have been reported with cannabis and the drugs used in general anesthesia.

Research on Managing Pain with Cannabis

Research was necessary to find my answers. There are pain studies with serious scientific grounding, but mostly they were about chronic pain for diseases like arthritis. There are some older studies, as well. None appear to address situational pain, such as pain associated with surgery or injury. Hopefully, my post-surgical pain wouldn’t become chronic.

There are several articles and studies warning against cannabis use before surgery. These pre-surgery studies state that cannabis users take up to 220% more anesthesia drugs to put a cannabis user under for surgery. Since I wasn’t going to get any of the anesthesia drugs, I wasn’t concerned about pre-surgical consumption. Other articles claimed cannabis can help with recovery pain.

I should also tell you I only like to smoke flower, having never cared for vape cartridges, or pens, or BHO, or CO2, or whatever concentrates. I like bud. Why? Because I believe this plant, in particular, is meant to be consumed whole. It’s a holistic thing for me. Since science hasn’t yet figured out what is actually in the plant, there’s a lot to learn still regarding healthy uses of cannabis. Whole flower fits the holistic bill…as long as it’s pesticide, fungicide, and herbicide free, and doesn’t have mold or little bugs in it.

Day and Night #1 (Tuesday), Managing Pain with Cannabis

I went for the procedure at 10am. Before the surgery, the radiological interventionist said there would be some discomfort afterwards. He was both right and wrong. He was absolutely correct about the discomfort. I was very uncomfortable. But he missed the pain. There was a lot of PAIN! OUCH! He had proactively prescribed an opiate. As I said earlier, I’m not fond of opiate-based drugs. I do not feel better after I take them and they make me nauseous.

Which Strains Would be Effective Pain Relief?

I had just read studies about managing pain with cannabis and wanted to see if those studies and anecdotal stories were true. I decided to try three common types; indica, sativa, and CBD. Then I stocked up (3 grams each!) on; Mango Puff and DoSiDos for indica; Blue Dream and Tutti Frutti for sativa; And In the Pines for CBD. I haven’t tried a lot of CBD genotype flower, so went with the one I knew. My experience with the THC containing strains taught me how they worked and what their effect was, mentally at least. However, I hadn’t really paid attention to their pain relief properties.

It was the day of surgery and I thought all I’d want to do was sleep, so I decided to try some indica first. The most effective indica for me has been DoSiDos. Mango Puff also works, but I decided to try DoSiDos. DoSiDos generally puts me to sleep after about 1/2 hour.

After the surgery and after the anesthetic wore off, I started to feel a lot of pain. It was ramping up to a 7 on a 10 point scale. I packed my first bowl at 3pm. As I lit the bowl and took that hit, the pain disappeared. Just like that. No pain. None. It almost instantly disappeared. Pain = 0. It was amazing!

DoSiDos did the job. No nausea, no strange drowsiness. And my brain felt fine. The downside was the pain relief only lasted about 30 to 45 minutes. As the pain reasserted itself, getting to a 4 or 5, I had more DoSiDos. I needed to medicate fairly frequently, sleeping most of the day and through the night, waking to have a puff of the DoSiDos.

Day and Night #2 – (Wednesday)

Day and night #2 was a completely different story. The day was mostly fine. Because I wanted to get some work done, I didn’t want indica. Lately my favorite sativa strain has been Tutti Frutti. So when the pain hit about a 3 or 4, I took a hit from the bowl.

The pain was very manageable with a puff here and there, but the pain relief wasn’t as strong as it was with the indica strain DoSiDos. I didn’t have many problems coping or working during the day, although it was a bit more painful than the night before.

Night Time Pain

Into the evening and night was a different story. I went to bed feeling a bit more pain than I had previously, maybe a 6 or a 7. I switched back to indica with Mango Puff. With just a few puffs the pain mostly went away, but not like on night #1. It was worse. At about midnight, the pain became unbearable…an 11 on the scale of 10. It was almost the worst pain I’d ever experienced, except perhaps for sciatica or kidney stone.

I couldn’t turn over on my side and could barely move.

I took a few more puffs and the pain subsided somewhat, but came roaring back in 15 or 20 minutes. Soon, I took  a couple of Advil, which started working in about 1/2 hour. It didn’t end there however. At about 1am, my side by the kidney became noticeably warm to the touch. The rest of me was fine as far as temperature. My forehead was cool to the touch and my kidney was inflamed. I didn’t want to take opiate medication, so I took another couple of Advil after I had a few more puffs. The puffs helped immediately with the increased pain, but didn’t seem to help very much with the inflammation. The ibuprofen helped after a half hour or so, but not by much.

I was mostly up all night with a lot of pain on my right side radiating around to the front. It was obvious where the pain was coming from. My right kidney. Nothing I did touched it. I did finally fall asleep around 5am or so and was up at 7am.

Day and Night #3 – (Thursday)

First thing this morning, I tried to get in touch with my radiologist who actually did the procedure. I also tried to contact the nurse. Both eventually called back and said my kidney pain wasn’t 100% “normal”, but still fell in the “normal” range of symptoms. Inflamed kidney isn’t good, but it’s also not deadly either. My fear was that if my kidney got too hot or too inflamed, it could cause kidney failure. That wouldn’t be good. Thursday was definitely the worst day of my recovery.

The 2nd day after surgery is the hardest, I’ve been told, and I now believe it. It was just plain hard. But my cannabis pain killing regimen worked perfectly. It did kill the pain, but it really couldn’t quell that much inflammation. I had to rely on the Advil to do that for me. I got through the day, but with a lot of difficulty. I used the Blue Dream a lot, as it allowed me to focus. Even if the pain relief wasn’t as good as DoSiDos or Mango Puff, it did enough of a job to keep me going through the day.

Day and Night #4 (Friday)

Things are getting better. I didn’t take any opiates any time during my recovery and I’m down to Advil twice a day – total. Managing pain with cannabis was working. Tomorrow will be a challenge as we’re headed to Taos NM from Durham, NC. It will be a day-long trip with flying and then 3 hours of drive time. But today was a good one. There was some pain, but nothing that wasn’t manageable with cannabis and Advil. Personally, I prefer the cannabis, but recognize it has a limited time span of killing the pain.

Day and Night #5 (Saturday)

I woke early after a not so good night’s sleep. The pain returned in a big way overnight. I got to sleep late and woke up early to catch our flight. Thankfully, I was upgraded on one of the flights. That helps, if for no other reason than I get more space and can get into a comfortable seated position.

After landing, we got a car and drove to Santa Fe, a less than 1 hour drive. That weekend was Santa Fe’s largest annual event – Indian Market. Couldn’t miss that, if parking was to be had. It was! So we spent about 2 hours at Indian Market, which was fabulous. Freakin’ fabulous. I felt somewhat enervated after that, but we still had grocery shopping to do. After the market we drove 2 more hours to Taos.

When we arrived in Taos, I was beat and in pain again. The first two things I did were to liberally dose myself with indica cannabis and take a couple of Advil. We fried up some crab cakes, and along with salad, had dinner. Then I promptly went to sleep, but woke up Sunday morning at 6:30am. Well okay, it was 8:30am east coast time.

Day and Night #6 (Sunday)

Sunday was almost as bad as Wednesday. Intense pain in my kidney. There was no heat from inflammation, thankfully. Just pain. Puff. Poof! Gone! That’s sort of become my relationship of late with cannabis. I have a puff from my bowl and Poof! The pain is gone! OK, it’s not gone for long, but it is gone and the enervation that pain brings to our bodies is also gone. For the inflammation, Advil works better.

Day and Night #7 (Monday)

This will be the last entry because my pain is pretty much gone and I think I’ve proven, to myself anyway, that cannabis really does eliminate pain. It eliminated my pain, even if it was for only 30-45 minutes at a time.

No pain is a good thing. With no pain, I can get my work done. With no pain I can concentrate. With no pain, I feel more like a normal person. I don’t know if I’ll ever feel “normal” again though. Cancer changes your perspective on what is and what isn’t. It changes my thoughts on what my life expectancy might be. I’m not whining. I’m just stating facts from other cancer patients I’ve known and two cancer videos I’ve made with a variety of patients. Having cancer changes your view of living.

A Note about CBD

I never did use any of the CBD. The cannabis with THC was taking care of the pain. I’d have tried it, but the sativa was doing what I wanted during the day and the indica was doing its job at night. And like most people, We all can be creatures of habit. In this case, up = daytime and down = nighttime. Simple.  Thankfully, the period of pain and writing about it was so short that I just didn’t get there. Maybe the CBD would compound the effect of the cannabis with THC. That will have to be a different experiment and hopefully not one involved with pain…or cancer.

My Conclusion on Managing Pain with Cannabis

Managing pain with cannabis works. That’s it. That’s all. It works. Cannabis doesn’t work as long as something like ibuprofen or maybe opiates, but it works. And it works well. Just expect to keep dosing. It was easy enough to regulate on my own. If I had pain, I lit up. If i didn’t have pain, I didn’t feel the need to light the bowl.

Illegal Vape Cartridges & Pubic Heath Crisis

Illegal Vape Cartridges & Pubic Heath Crisis

Illegal Vape Cartridges has the Cannabis Industry in its First Real Public Health Crisis.

Cannabis is reviled and prohibited according to the U.S. government. The government has told us it was a gateway drug, started the ‘war on drugs’, and committed many other pejorative acts. It’s in this regulatory environment that illegal vape cartridges have come to be.

Adult-use cannabis is still illegal in 39 States + territories. Medical use cannabis is still illegal in 17 States. Problems begin in the States where cannabis is not legal. In these States, consumers are buying their illegal vape pen cartridges in the black market. Obviously, illegal products are not tested for safety. Is the cannabis product you’re buying loaded with pesticides? Does it have fungus or mold? Are there little mites on the flowers? All States where cannabis is legal test for pesticides, fungus, purity and more. Testing offers a degree of “safety” for the consumer.

The Illegal Vape Cartridge

So What Happened?

In just a matter of a few weeks, hundreds have fallen to ‘vape lung’. Some bad players made some bad cartridges and/or used ingredients that are guaranteed to make people sick or potentially even kill them. Maybe these makers of illegal vapes didn’t know. There are still too many unknowns about these incidents, the numbers of which are mounting. Vitamin E acetate, which is harmless when ingested, apparently can be lethal if it’s vaporized and inhaled.

In many ways, this whole illegal vape cartridge situation is similar to the true bathtub gin made in the era of alcohol prohibition. Bathtub “gin” was frequently made with methyl alcohol. Alcoholic beverages use ethyl alcohol, which has many known side effects, but is legal. Methyl alcohol can kill you or make you blind.

Is the Legal Cannabis Industry Stepping Up?

As for the cannabis industry; the response has been to try to help find why these cartridges are making people sick or, as in some cases, killing them.

It’s in the best interests of legal makers of cannabis products get to the bottom of this terrible health crisis. And, they are stepping up to the plate. In some cases testing labs are performing tests for free. The government is talking about banning “flavored” e-cigarette vape pens or cartridges. (Like that’s going to solve the problem…How about banning Vitamin E in vape products.)

If cannabis were legal at the federal level, this whole health crisis could have been averted.

We would have mandatory testing for everything; flower, edibles, and extracts. (Extracts make up the liquid in CBD or THC vape cartridges.) Consumers deserve to know if these products are safe. Of course we might still have an illegal market place. But with regulations and mandatory testing everyone, in every State, would have safe and easy access to safe vape cartridges.

Cannabis must be either taken out of schedule 1, or removed entirely from the schedule, or made legal at the federal level. Until then, the States where cannabis is illegal are powerless to enforce anything but prohibition laws. And we all know how well that works.

Call your congressperson and tell them you support Marijuana 1-to-3 Act of 2019. We need to fully legalize cannabis at the Federal level, so all cannabis products are tested for safety.

Whatever you do, do not buy your vape cartridges from any place other than a legal cannabis dispensary.

Photo Credit: By Jeff Chiu/AP/Shutterstock

Cannabis Edibles, A Call for  Consistency

Cannabis Edibles, A Call for Consistency

Why Consistency Matters in Cannabis Edibles

The story is a familiar one; I decided to try a different company for cannabis edibles and found them ineffective or uncomfortably strong (or weak) due to inconsistency in their manufacturing. Sometimes this is just a mild inconvenience or waste of money but other times it makes for a very sustained, uncomfortable, and inescapable experience. It’s no secret to those that know me, I love Wana gummies. No matter how many times I have them, they’re always the same. Inexpensive, consistent in strength and flavor, and easy for me to find here in Colorado. I’ve yet to be as impressed with another company, though they are slowly catching up. When I purchase a cannabis edible that touts 10mg of THC per serving, it shouldn’t matter if it’s a gummy, chocolate, lollipop, lemonade, or the myriad of other confections I haven’t listed. I want to be able to trust that it’s actually what it says it is.

Regulating Cannabis Edible Consistency

My home state began regulating potency in the middle of last year, with a whopping 179 page document outlining all of Colorado cannabis edible rules. It allows for a 15% variance, meaning that for a standardized 10mg dose, can be anywhere between 8.5-11.5mg. For someone like me who routinely eats 30mg at a shot, that subtle variation isn’t a huge deal, but would be for friends who consume a puny 2.5mg dose and are stoned. It can be a major issue. Even the National Institute of Health addressed that “severe cannabis-induced behavioral impairment are common [in edibles], experienced by 65 percent of medicinal cannabis users”. That’s an enormous pool of people!

While there is a much smaller variance in cannabis edibles these days, I still run into problems. Labs only test portions of the products, so who’s to assure that the entire batch is consistent? The labs themselves have run into issues also, with some being found to have fraudulent certifications or simply erroneous results. In some states even if a lab admits they made an error, the results are permanent, and can result in destruction of the entire batch of products. So what do we do?

Cannabis Edible Taste Matters

While there is always a place in my stomach for some homemade hash brownies, major companies need good manufacturing processes when they hit the market to assure a consistent and delicious product. Make no mistake, making edibles is a major manufacturing endeavor, despite often letting you think they are a mom and pop operation. Consumers are growing more demanding and when I have 50 different choices of edibles at a given time to choose from, if it’s not great (potency or taste), I will likely never try it again. The bad ones or the inconsistent ones, will die out. In the same way that a Budweiser® tastes the same if I drink it in China, Milwaukee, or Amsterdam, companies should be able to replicate their edibles in the same manor.

So far, Wana is still the only one to impress me in this way but I hope the industry proves me wrong. Step up manufacturers of cannabis edibles. Show us how its done.

Vaping Dry Flower vs Vaping Cannabis Oil

Vaping Dry Flower vs Vaping Cannabis Oil

Vaping has become a popular way to consume cannabis and there are a variety of ways you can vape cannabis to get the results you’re looking for. The differences between vaping dry flower and vaping oils (also called concentrates) have long been debated. Both types of cannabis consumption are valid and both have different effects and uses.

Cannabis consumers tend to be very loyal to their preferences between vaping dry flower or vaping oils. It’s hard to know what will work for you since each person is going to react differently and have different goals when using cannabis while vaping. Neither option is wrong, it’s just about what works for you.

In a survey report from TVape, a whopping 86% of the 700 respondents agreed to the statement that they “felt generally better after vaporizing as opposed to smoking”. One thing for sure, people do seem to prefer vaporizing to smoking.

If you aren’t sure about the differences vaporizing cannabis or vaping oils yet, that’s ok. There’s a lot of research out there and it’s hard to narrow it all down. You probably even have friends telling you one way is better than the other. With that in mind, here are some concrete differences between vaping dry flower and vaping concentrates.

What Is Cannabis Concentrate?

A cannabis concentrate is a product stripped of the excess plant material and impurities leaving behind only the most desirable parts of the cannabis. When compared ounce to ounce with natural cannabis flower, concentrates have a greater proportion of cannabinoids and terpenes.

Concentrates come in many forms, like wax, creams, lotions, and oils. It gets so complicated that UCLA came up with a whole page on cannabis concentrate terminology. They all have their own particular uses but vaping with oil is what you’re looking for information on at this point.

Understanding the composition of oil will help you understand the differences between vaping flower and vaping oil.

What Are The Benefits Of Vaping Cannabis Oil?

Concentrates like oil have a higher percentage of THC when compared to dried flower cannabis. This gives the oil a more potent punch when vaped. For patients using cannabis as a treatment for symptoms like anxiety or pain, this is a good thing. It acts more quickly and is a more powerful dose of medication to really attack the symptoms and calm them more efficiently at times.

Vaping oil recreationally also has similar effects. Many recreational users will find they reach their preferred level of high while vaping oil. Again, this has a lot to do with the higher concentration of THC in the oil.

When it comes to cannabis oil there’s definitely a less is more factor. A small amount of oil may not look helpful but it’s definitely extremely powerful.

Oils are also easier to use on the go since they come in easily carried forms. Pre-filled cartridges are almost impossible to mess up, and they’re so portable you don’t have to worry about not having your cannabis with you when you need it. If you get hit by a sudden wave of panic you have something fast-acting on hand that you can use right away.

[Related: Vessel Vape Pen Review]

Is Processed Cannabis Safe in Oil Form?

Zeus vape pen
Harvard’s Peter Grinspoon can’t answer his own question in this post on the safety of CBD, let alone THC. He asks the questions and then dodges it, so it will be hard to get a definitive answer.

Remember how concentrates are made? They’re stripped of all parts of the plant, which includes the terpenes. Since terpenes in marijuana are part of what gives medicinal benefits that can be an issue if you’re vaping to treat a medical condition.

Terpenes are often added back in with artificial flavorings but it’s not quite the same. It’s sort of like drinking apple juice and thinking you’re getting the same nutrition as an actual apple. This doesn’t mean oil has zero benefits, in fact, you’ve already read about the many benefits oil vaping does have. It’s just something to be aware of.

There’s also something to be said about removing the ritual involved in preparing the dry flower version. Some cannabis consumers prefer the ritual and find it to be part of their calming encounter with marijuana consumption. Again, that comes down to personal preference but a pre-filled cartridge isn’t going to give you that option.

What Are The Benefits Of Vaporizing Dry Flower?

Dry flower (or dry herbs) have all the parts of the plant included. That means you’re getting all the natural terpenes and cannabinoids straight from the plant itself.

Vaping cannabis flower gives you the full aroma and taste of the plant as well. Some cannabis consumers claim that vaping the dry herb is a fuller, richer experience that can’t be mimicked by vaping cannabis oil.

The psychoactive effects are different as well. You’re already aware of the THC difference but vaping dry flower creates a different effect overall. The high from vaping dried flower is going to be more like the high from smoking a joint or bowl. If that’s the effect you are seeking, then vaping dry flower is a great option for you.

What Are The Negatives Of Vaping Dry Cannabis?

Because it’s a plant that isn’t regulated yet (as it’s not federally legal yet) there’s no way to certify it as organic. While specific growers may use organic practices, overall there’s no industry standard on what pesticides are or are not ok to use. It’s possible you could be exposed to pesticides passed on through vaping dry herb.

Research also waivers on the effects of vaping dry flower on your lungs. Nothing is concrete on either side of the debate, but there is some question as to the long term effects of vaping dry flower. These same discussions are not being had when it comes to vaping cannabis in oil form.

It’s nothing that is conclusive enough to discourage you from vaping dry herb but it’s something you should still be aware of. If you have lung issues currently you should speak with your doctor to see what they think is best regarding your own personal health issues and what types of cannabis you choose to consume.

Conclusion

Vaping Dry Flower vs vaping oil
You’re the only one who can make the best choice about which way you want to consume your cannabis. It’s okay if you try vaping both dry flower and cannabis oil before deciding which you like best, but before you decide, remember that not even Harvard’s PhDs have an easy time answering these questions yet.

You can also consult your doctor, a dispensary employee, or cannabis expert to help you make a more informed decision. Whichever option is best for you, you’re bound to enjoy the great benefits of vaping cannabis. Find what works for you and stick with that. You’ll be more than thrilled when you do.

Michigan Cannabis Market in Peril

Michigan Cannabis Market in Peril

Update 8-16-2019

It’s not getting better. It’s getting worse. The state hasn’t figured out yet how to license growers. There are still plenty of retail operations (provisioning centers) in the state, but there’s little flower to be had. Someone in Michigan government thinks they’re doing a good job. They aren’t.

Update 7-25-2019

It’s no longer just the medical cannabis market that has draconian fees and regulations. Now regulations for the recreational market are coming. And the fees are cutting out the little guy…again. Michigan’s actions and proposed regulatory rules for applying for a grow or dispensary license will ensure the black market remains larger than the legal cannabis market. Big moneyed players are the only ones who can get in the rec game. And when there’s no product in the legal recreational marketplace (dispensaries), there will be plenty of money flowing into the black market. Michigan is going to lose 100s of millions of dollars to the same market where it has always lost potential tax revenue. It’s the illegal market.

The Michigan Cannabis Market is in Deep Trouble

The Michigan cannabis market is at a dangerous crossroads and it’s the fault of the new governor, plain and simple. Governor Whitmer (D) was elected last November on a campaign promise to normalize the Michigan medical cannabis market and develop the best adult use market in the U.S. In the face of current evidence, the promises are hot air.

New Michigan Cannabis Licensing Agency

Governor Whitmer dissolved the old bureaucracy licensing retail and grow operations. She then initiated a new regulatory department called Marijuana Regulatory Agency (MRA). The MRA is supposed to be efficiently granting licenses. They’re not. It’s run by the same person who previously held up licenses, Andrew Brisbo. The people at the regulatory agency are breaking their arms patting themselves on their collective back for the good work they’re doing. The MRA is not doing good work, or enough of it to help the state markets now. If they were doing a good job, the dispensary shelves would not be bare.

Street Reality for Michigan Cannabis

The reality is quite different on the street. Medical cannabis patients are hurting. Effective medicinal products are not available, including Rick Simpson Oil (RSO). RSO is reputed to have an analgesic effect on cancer. There is at least one lawsuit because of the lack of product some cancer patients need. It’s not going to get better soon unless the courts step in once again and tell the regulators in Michigan to get their act together.

So, What Happened in Michigan?

A quick recapitulation of the facts; Gov. Whitmer dissolved the department of the Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) in charge of licensing both growers and retail operators. She replaced it with a new department called the Marijuana Regulatory Agency (MRA). This simply  substitutes one bureaucracy for another. Both the old LARA and the new MRA are run by the same person, Andrew Brisbo. Brisbo gives the impression he does not care about the medical cannabis market or its patients.

The MRA has granted only twelve grow licenses to date. Twelve grow licenses for well over 100 licensed stores in Michigan? There’s just not enough cannabis to go around. Currently, dispensaries have very little cannabis flower product on the shelves.

Michigan’s Cannabis Market

Michigan growers have little interest in growing flower, as concentrates are much more profitable.

Michigan caregivers (the original growers of cannabis) gave way to an unregulated hodgepodge of stores. This was the original failure of the state; A failure to regulate the burgeoning medical cannabis retail market. The adult use market is supposed to start later this year. If it happens, the shelves will be bare.

Currently, there are about 300,000 registered medical cannabis patients in Michigan. If they only smoked two grams per week, per person, about 13,000 pounds of weed per week would be needed to keep patients supplied with cannabis.

13,000 pounds/week works out to more than 50,000 pounds a month. That’s a lot of weed. It takes at least 20 weeks to go from planted seed or clone to cured harvest. Twelve growers, no matter how big, can’t handle that. 100 big growers, maybe. How does Michigan expect to grow the market when adult use comes online? The simple answer is, they can’t. Dispensaries only have 12 growers from which to buy. Past caregivers can either dump what they have or divert it to the black market. Guess what is going to happen? The black market will thrive!

What Michigan Needs to Do to Fix the Problem

Here are 5 things Michigan needs to do right now. Not three or six months from now. Now!

  1. Recognize cannabis is business. The state gets tax revenue from these businesses. In order to operate and thrive, businesses needs inventory. Cannabis flower inventory in the market right now is scant, and has been for over a year.
  2. Allow caregivers (and let’s call them small growers, since that’s what they are) to sell their product to the dispensaries.
  3. Open up the licensing system for smaller growers with smaller fees.Now everyone has to show at least $150,000 in assets, with $37,500 in liquid assets. That’s a non-starter for many people who might like to become a grower. The current Michigan cannabis licensing fee scale is pretty steep. This takes smaller growers out of the cannabis business.Convert “caregivers” to “growers” and make them ’boutique’ growers for a new, craft category. Treat them like the state treats wineries or distillers. Allow the ’boutique’ growers to grow 50 to 100 plants. Create a lower fee for smaller grow operations. This allows smaller, disadvantaged communities access into the marketplace. What a win-win!
  4. Regulate the Michigan cannabis model after the alcoholic beverage market. Both are controlled substances. Both need regulation at some level, especially because both are revenue streams for the state.
  5. Let growers and dispensaries have a say in how they’re regulated. The best interests for both groups will regulate the free flow of legal cannabis products in Michigan. Make sensible regulations and implement them slowly enough to not disrupt the market.

The Current Reality

Excess cannabis grown by past ‘caregivers’ is currently not allowed in dispensaries. Until earlier this year it was. Now it is going to the illegal market. Where does the state think it’s going? Do they think growers going to destroy their harvests? What should the small cannabis farmers do? They need to make a living. The cannabis is going to the black market, that’s what is happening. Since January 2019, 3 times Michigan failed to implement a reasonable and thoughtful approach to medical cannabis.

Get your head out of your nether regions, Michigan. You have patients, and soon adult consumers, wanting to pay tax dollars to the state.

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