After the avalanche of awful news emerging from our nation's capital over recent weeks, I'm not really in the mood for celebrating Independence Day this year. Instead, I'm skipping right over the Fourth of July and jumping straight into 7/10, better known to cannabis connoisseurs as "Oil Day" or "Dab Day."
As a proud patient enrolled in Florida's medical marijuana program, I usually imbibe the old-fashioned way, using whole flower (or bud). But as Victoria Walker, the vice president of regional marketing at Cannabist, told me in a recent phone interview, there's good reason for consumers' ever-increasing interest in oils, dabs and other cannabis-derived concentrates.
"It really does allow for choice for the customer, and I think that's really what people are looking for, because everybody's different in their preferences," says Walker, explaining why she thinks concentrates now make up about 50 percent of Cannabist's sales. "Smoking is obviously something that's not easy to necessarily do; maybe you don't want to do it in your house, or you live with other people, so a vape cart can be a bit more discreet."
Those oil vaporizer cartridges — available with disposable or rechargeable batteries — are by far the most popular method of concentrate delivery, serving as a gateway to the category for many (including myself). The potent liquid inside them can be extracted from the cannabis plant using a variety of methods; the two employed by Cannabist are ethanol distillation — which blends isolated THC with flavor-producing compounds called terpenes derived from botanical plants and fruits — and full-spectrum CO2 extraction, which preserves the pot's natural terpenes. If you just want an economical buzz and candy-like flavors, botanical distillate will do the job, but I personally prefer full-spectrum extracts that retain, as Walker puts it, "much more of the smell and taste of the flower product itself."
Since I'm already familiar with vapes (see Live Active Cultures' last Dab Day column, July 7, 2021), I visited Cannabist's east Orlando location to explore some more advanced offerings with regional marketing manager Tia August, who walked me through their extensive menu. [Full disclosure: products described below were provided free for review purposes.] The last time I was at that dispensary, it was under the Columbia Care banner, and the store's transformation from sterile medical clinic to welcoming wood-toned wellness bar is almost as impressive as its expanded selection of concentrates.
The next step up from vape carts is syringes of distillate, which can be ingested or inhaled, either alone or mixed with flower and kief (THC-laden trichome dust) to form "moon rocks." Just don't make my mistake by refilling used carts with a distillate syringe; the mess isn't worth the savings. A related full-spectrum extract, Rick Simpson Oil (or RSO), is a tar-like goo that isn't typically inhaled, but makes amazing topical and edible treatments; Cannabist's newly launched RSO chocolate drops (in dark and milk marshmallow varieties) had better balanced body effects and flavor than any distillate-based chocolate I've tried.
Finally, there's the big leagues: wax, shatter, crumble, and other highly concentrated extracts of varying solidity. Consuming these products usually requires the use a specialized electronic pen or a "dab rig," a water pipe with a quartz bowl capable of handling temperatures as high as 600 degrees Fahrenheit. Such a setup can cost hundreds of dollars, and calculating dosages can be tricky.
Luckily, Cannabist offers a unique stepping stone into extracts called "dab tabs." These tiny ceramic pellets, which resemble miniature Altoid mints, each come infused with 50 milligrams of extract. They fit perfectly inside the small oven of my favorite flower vaporizer and leave behind no messy residue, making them ideal concentrate training wheels. The Lemon Do-Si-Do tasted exactly like its namesake and provided hours of pep without feeling racey, while one tab of the Northern Lights locked me into my couch for the evening.
Although it may seem like the variety is already overwhelming, there's a whole new world of concentrates just on the horizon, since the use of butane and other hydrocarbon solvents was legalized in Florida late last year. Walker confirms that Cannabist is currently exploring these newly available extraction methods, calling the science behind them "really awesome" and pointing out, "The West Coast has been at this for a long, long time. There are so many varieties of concentrates, and I think that's where you'll see Florida going, if they haven't already. A lot of producers have really started learning those additional extraction methods, giving people more choice and more variety in the way that they medicate."
If this column has inspired you to get your dab on this 7/10, Walker ended our conversation with some words of wisdom worth concentrating on. "Always start low, go slow," Walker counsels those new to cannabis concentrates, which (at 75 percent to 90 percent THC) can be four or five times more potent by weight than typical marijuana flower. "The more concentrated the product, the higher the THC, the more it will affect you," she adds, advising users to document their dosage and effects in a journal. "Just be prepared to experience the new method ... I wouldn't suggest having a lot of plans."