Updated: Aug 2, 2020
As Cannabis pivots toward Solventless Extraction, Dispensaries Remain Oblivious to Top Brands.
I wondered how long it would take for California to be caught sleeping, while the rest of the nation raced to catch up. When California's first and best cannabis company is from Colorado, it doesn't reflect well on California's cannabis scene. This is especially true after this primarily hashish making company started selling flower to meet a vacant demand for top shelf cannabis. As states turn toward legalization, California's bogged down by needless bureaucracy, and a useless desire to remain stagnant.
This one has been weighing on my mind for some time now and I’ve inferred it in previous articles. When I look and see 710 Labs fresh as can be in Berks County, Pennsylvania, my birthplace of all places, I assumed someone got a lucky shipment. Once I realized this was a common occurrence and that 710 Labs hash and hash rosins are being sent and smoked all over the nation, I couldn’t help but feeling jealous. Incredible marketing reach I thought, until I started seeing 6-star hash and hash rosins grown and washed by local brands in states like Massachusetts, Florida, Tennessee, New York, Michigan, and more. To make matters worse, I learned people in PA are often paying less for 710Labs than many California residents are forced to pay. While I'm stoked seeing quality cannabis back east finally, I've become so accustomed to living in CO or CA where the weed is undoubtedly among the absolute best for the least. I'm not so sure that's the case anymore.
Living in Santa Cruz, CA the birthplace of Haze, there’s over 18 retail cannabis stores within a 15-mile radius. Four or five new stores opened in the last several months and a few other’s opened second stores, or reboots of previous failed efforts. At least three shops here have recently re-opened, re-branded, and repeated offering the same bottom feeder concentrates as all the others. Of all those stores, only one shop carries 710 Labs, (used to carry*) and the rest wouldn’t have a clue what I’m talking about. Trust me. I’ve been to every shop numerous times over the past few years, while constantly scouring online menus across the entire Bay area. Solventless hash is usually an unlikely rumor at best. While 710 Labs remains the highest measure of quality and I live just hours from their production facility, finding 710 Labs requires road-trips. Road trips that I willingly take, meanwhile passing numerous brand new, beautiful stores carrying the same generic menu’s as everyone else.
Possibly even more alarming than the lack of producers, is the complete gap in knowledge from "cannabis professionals" about a product revolutionizing the market and re-defining cannabis as we know it. Solventless extracts and 6-star hash are easily the biggest innovation in cannabis since butane extracts created dabbing around 2009. It’s no wonder why the complaints keep pouring in, with retailer's failure to understand the products they sell. This after the informational and educational seminars that 710 Labs sales teams are known for. Shops keep popping up day after day, failing to provide consumers with the level of quality the rest of the nation has come to demand.
After nearly three years of recreational cannabis sales, some local producers and manufacturers are slowly starting to step up. After 710 Labs landed on California shelfs back in 2018, they remained the sole solventless producers of six star hash and hash rosin for well over a year, while a handful of others scrambled to understand that quality doesn't equate to maximum profit. A fact that black market supply ignores, seeking instead to maximize profits through the facade of chemical solvents in mass production. It has been a painfully slow transition to quality solventless cannabis in California.
Growing up in Steamboat Springs, CO, cannabis was an immersive experience and something everyone’s parents would partake in (and the reason why the adults ride chair-lifts alone). Cannabis was immersive without needing to mimic E.R. and Hospital signs with the giant green crosses marking dispensaries all over town. Billboard advertising for Weedmaps, Leafly, and other distribution, data, and analytics services would be fawned at. Personally tailored touches to boutique styled stores (whose products are anything but craft or boutique) try to paint an image of pot that it isn’t. It was an organic cannabis scene growing up in Colorado without the persistent and needy reaching and hunting for consumer demand. Quality was the only thing that mattered to growers and producers, risking everything for their pure love of the cannabis plant and the desire to share their cannabis with those who love it. Money was made, but it came behind community, culture, and most importantly, principle. No way were the risks worth the meager financial rewards of pre-medical era, clandestine cannabis growers. While medical cannabis approval allowed the science to skyrocket in Colorado, it was knowledge shared. California’s Medical Cannabis regulations appear to have driven Cannabis and Cannabis knowledge burrowing ever deeper into California’s Clout-encrusted underground.
While Colorado regulated and oversaw the medical industry closely, they did so with the intent of a smooth and informed transition into recreational cannabis sales. I didn't realize it until after recreational cannabis was in effect and Netflix aired a documentary about a medical cannabis dispensary and their transition into recreational law. This store had no intention of serving only medical needs for long, as medical dispensaries were granted first access to recreational licenses. If you hadn't been operating a dispensary under the states medical guidelines, you had to wait until year two to apply for a recreational cannabis license. This was incentive to operate a medical dispensary, despite enormous costs and minimal profits, you were given first access to recreational licensing. The store in the Netflix series was in its final year of medical cannabis sales and counting down the days until recreational cannabis sales could officially begin.
The medical market was more detailed and stringent than California's, helping make for a smoother transition without enormous tax costs and unreasonable packaging and labeling demands. California, having legalized medical cannabis in 1996, did so nearly a decade before Colorado's first medicinal dispensary opened. California couldn’t have foreseen the coming of recreational legalization, opting instead for a loosely regulated medical industry that keeps quiet, and proceeds however it sees fit. While legalization has always been the ultimate goal, as the first state to approve Medical Cannabis, California’s medical program wasn’t geared toward recreational approval in legislative detail. Instead it created a gray-area or loophole where medical cannabis could be easily infiltrated by greed and criminality, which has seeped into the psyche of a high-priced-low-grade cannabis market. A market trying to squeeze consumers out of every last penny they can. This caused a complex underground system to close its doors to the general public, making cannabis more niche and more dangerous than ever before.
Something I tend to forget is the intentionality of Colorado residents apart from life-long generational residents in California. It’s somewhat rare to meet someone in Colorado who is from Colorado and its been that way dating back to the early 1990’s. In terms of numbers, Colorado barely registers as California’s 39.5 million citizens dwarfs Colorado’s 5.7 million. Per-Capita numbers would put cannabis users in a much higher percentage in Colorado, a number that assuredly multiplies in ski resort towns. For example if 1 in 10 CA residents smoke cannabis, Colorado would be more like 8 of 10 residents are avid cannabis users. I made those numbers up, but you can get the idea I am after, which is simply a common sense evaluation of how and why Colorado's market is thoroughly solventless, meanwhile Cali sells butane extracts for sixty bucks a gram. Stores here in CA have some serious catching up to do.
Being in two states to go recreational, nearly a decade apart, regulation and testing in CA can only be blamed so far. With changing regulations, California’s cannabis extract shelves sat empty for much of June and July 2018, while testing labs were backed-up and overwhelmed. I gave it some time to iron out the wrinkles and now nearly three years into California’s Recreational Cannabis market, the industry remains as stagnant as before, aside from two or three companies who are onboard the solventless revolution. The stores that put in the effort to carry these elite quality brands of cannabis will survive while the other 18 dispensaries I drive past continue to operate like its 2009.