Recent Dispensary Closings in Michigan

Since the new year has began, I personally have already had to switch dispensaries that I was using due to the new medical marijuana regulations coming into effect.  Starting December 15th of last year, the state began accepting applications for the various types of businesses including: cultivation, processing, transportation, and retail shops.  Retail dispensaries that were operating for years without any problems with local ordinances are now receiving letters ordering them to shut down until they are approved for a new license.  According to the Detroit Free Press, over 200 dispensaries in the state have been sent these cease and desist letters.

While the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs claims that the availability of medicine will be unaffected for patients, there are other consequences to this move.  Although profitable, opening a dispensary demands an enormous amount of overhead and variable costs. All of these business owners who had invested money in both their property as well as the medicine they had in stock, are going to lose patients during the temporary to permanent closure.  This is not right, and if they didn’t want them operating they shouldn’t have ever been given permission.  Yes they technically were unregulated businesses, but that was how the system had forced them to operate for years under the protection of local ordinances.  Some of these businesses in the past had even gone the lengths of relocating in order to comply with the ridiculous zoning requirements imposed by the city of Detroit.  Even playing by the rules doesn’t always guarantee protection of your business in this industry.  This transition period of awarding licenses to applicants is supposed to end in June, but at it’s current pace many in the industry are expecting delays.

There are many different opinions on whether this regulation is a good thing for the cannabis community or not.  The regulation establishes new taxes for those using it for medical purposes.  It also will make a system to track a plants progress from seed form to sale and ensure all products are only produced by licensed commercial cultivators.  Personally, I think regulation is not a good thing and it should be left to the already existing large community of cultivators who produce much higher quality cannabis on a small scale.  The patient- caregiver system that was established in 2008 when medical cannabis passed in Michigan, is still the backbone of the industry.  Dispensaries that are currently existing get their medicine from caregivers or patients, not some 3000 plant  facility that machine trims commercial quality bud.  It seems inevitable that with regulation small time grows will be undercut by those growing on a large scale.

The dispensary that I choose to visit now for my concentrate and edible needs, is much larger then other collectives I had been a member at.  The inventory selection is much larger as well as a higher number of employees working.  Larger dispensaries seems to be the trend as the number of operating dispensaries continues to be squeezed by the state government.  To this day it remains a risky business plan to enter the “not quite regulated” medical marijuana industry in Michigan.  For those looking to get into the trade, it would be best to apply for one of the new licenses and then wait before trying to set up shop during this uncertain time.

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My Current Brand Preference on Vape Cartridges

Just like in many other states licensed to sell medical marijuana products, Michigan has a large variety of competitors and brands fighting for their own market share in the industry.  Pre-filled vaporizer cartridges are still a relatively new to the industry, and many different producers are attempting to dominate that niche.  One of the first brands to do it was The Clear.  Although they were one of the originals to introduce the technology of pre-filled vape cartridges, other emerging companies are making a name for themselves.  From better mouthpieces to new heating elements, newer technology is making it harder to stick with the Clear.

Not too long after the Clear’s release, dispensaries began to stock their shelves with an overwhelming amount of options.  I have tried several types of cartridges including: FlavRX, Platinum Vape, Illuminati, Claw Concentrates, Fire Stix, Thon, and Pure Michigan Oil.  The list of brands currently producing cartridges here in Michigan is so long I probably haven’t tried half of them.  One reason for my lack of cartridge exposure is the price point of some of the oils.  I don’t find it sensible to spend more then $40 each time on a refill.  Some of the top shelf or larger gram size cartridges go from $60-90 a piece, and I’m simply not willing to give those a try for something I only use when I can’t smoke flower.

Out of the options that are reasonably priced, me and my friends prefer Thon over the rest.  As I mentioned earlier, the mouthpiece and heating element are a step up from the traditional cartridge design.  The heating element is no longer a wick at the bottom of the chamber, but a cylinder that evenly heats the medicine and eliminates any waste that might otherwise get stuck to the sides.  Another must have feature is the the anti-leak design built into the bottom of the chamber.  With other products, its a constant struggle making sure that my pen is sitting upright so none of the good stuff goes below the heating wick.  All these perks to the design are nice, but it wouldn’t be too helpful if I didn’t mention the medicine itself.  After just a few pulls, it has pretty noticeable effects.  A few more and it’ll have you stoned for an hour or so.  With all cartridges duration has been an issue when compared to buds.  There are no test results or cannabanoid percentages labeled on the packaging but it is identified as a distillate.  The various flavors they offer are named by the strain that the oil originated from, which is more helpful then calling it strawberry or peach cream.  Every strain I have tried is tasty in its own way, and if you’re not careful you’ll catch yourself hitting it constantly.  If this brand is accessible in your location I highly recommend picking some out from the overwhelming wave of options.

Maintaining Stealth in the Grow Room

It’s always a pleasure for me to show close friends and others also in the cannabis industry the beautiful results of the garden.  There’s nothing like impressing others with high quality medicine that took hours of tedious work every day to create from a simple seed.  The process of growing is expensive and time consuming and the worst nightmare of any cultivator would be the discovery of the garden by unwanted visitors.  Whether it’s the police or someone looking for the five finger discount, there is far too much at stake if the garden were to be detected.  There are several precautionary steps that can be done to maximize the chances that the flowers are safely harvested and consumed.

The first thing that growers are conscious of when it comes to being compromised, is the strong pungent odor the plants emit while flowering and/or drying.  The most popular solution to this problem is the use of carbon filters.  Regardless of your lighting setup, the filter would be hooked up to a ducting fan, pumping the now clean air out of the tent/room.  The high pressure sodium setup is going to require more equipment then LED’s to effectively clean the air.  In a high pressure sodium grow room there must also be fans used to remove hot air from the hoods of the lighting system before it reaches your plants.  So there needs to be a ducting connector used to combine the hot air from the lights with the clean air coming from the filter.  This is going to use more fans and incur more overhead than LED grows.  LED lighting does not emit anywhere as much heat as a HPS, so there is no need to have a separate ducting fan.  I’s also important that all the air exiting your tent will need to be vented outside to ensure an optimal growing climate is maintained.

Equally important as masking the identifiable smell of cannabis, is avoiding suspicions from the neighborhood.  It’s human nature to get a little to nosy, and there’s plenty of people with too much times on their hands.  The home being used to cultivate needs to look as inhabited as possible.  Many times people transform a properties bedrooms and living rooms into a full blown growing operation, containing plants in various stages of growth.  It’s going to have a much higher chance of drawing attention if someone is going to the house for a few hours a day and leaves, instead of appearing to spend a reasonable amount of time inside the home.  There’s numerous ways to do this so get creative.  It would also be smart to leave designated spaces near the front door and windows full of furniture and other decor.  For those with smaller less organized operations, it’s much easier because they often live where they cultivate.  These types of grows have a far different risk than not looking inhabited.  Other types of activity like having lots of traffic that doesn’t seem to hang out long, is a quick way to receive complaints from neighbors and put you on the radar of the local task force.  The sounds of high output fans combined with bright lighting systems can also give you away if not properly contained.  In a small apartment or condo with neighbors close by, the more centered the grow is in the unit, the better off you’ll be.  Walls aren’t going to block the sound of multiple fans if they’re just feet away from the source.  Both high pressure sodium and LED lights will completely illuminate a room and all windows in that room.  This is one reason why I prefer using tents then an open room.  If you don’t utilize tents, it will be tricky to both ventilate air and block light from the same window.  This is why many people choose use the basement as an open growing space.

Taking steps like these and consistently investing money back into the security of the grow will help your odds and reduce the chance of becoming the target of a violent robbery or a drug investigation.  While cannabis is legal in more and more places each year, it remains illegal federally and attention from law enforcement in this industry is yet to prove beneficial.  Never get to comfortable and cut corners when it comes to operation security.

 

 

Price of CBD Products Relative to Traditional THC Products

Many of us cannabis consumers have no problem paying a premium price for a product that is significantly more potent then normal.  On the flip side, CBD-only producers and distributors have proven people are willing to pay top dollar for the non-psychoactive variety of medicine.  There is no doubt that these types of products extracted from the hemp plant has many uses in the medical world just like dried cannabis flowers do.  However,  I was completely shocked to learn the prices these companies were advertising this natural product for.  To be clear, there is absolutely zero euphoria or uplifting qualities to these edibles and oils.  At the same time, people find it helps them relax at night and fall to sleep easier without any noticeable areas of pain.  It also has a relatively short list of negative side effects when compared to man made medicine.  These include: low blood pressure, dry mouth, and sometimes drowsiness.

Despite the positive benefits CBD can offer to patients with different aliments, it is no competition for the plant in it’s natural form containing all the cannabinoids.  All patients that benefit from the effects of CBD would also benefit from the effects of THC because they balance each other out so much better then when either is isolated on it’s own.  The CBD market is limited to those who can’t consume cannabis because it’s illegal  as well as children, who nobody wants getting high.  There are also those who fear failing a drug test and losing their job in an unstable economy.  CBD is an attractive product for these groups of  people with medical problems.  There is a much larger market for people who want to really have a euphoric and enjoyable experience, one worth their hard earned money.  So how much are these people selling CBD oils and gummies for exactly?

There were definitely variety and price differences among distributors like with any manufactured product on the market, but all remained within a rather small ballpark.  For a bag of infused gummy bears the most competitive price I could find was $20 for a relatively large bag.  It would probably be enough to get you through a couple days, but that would be the extent of it.  Imagine spending $20 every few days.  Even for medicine that provides great relief, most people would think twice about that price tag.  The Oils are not cheap either and depending on amount of milligrams of CBD and milliliters of fluid, range from $20-$60 a dropper.  They are probably your best budget option though, as the edibles wouldn’t last nearly as long as dropping a few drops every time you dose.  You could purchase a traditional edible for $10 that would likely be an extremely strong dose capable of splitting into at least two separate sessions.  Not only would it be euphoric, but extremely effective at helping someone sleep for hours uninterrupted.

The way CBD is currently being priced, it’s pretty clear that if you have safe access to cannabis products to choose them over CBD products for medical purposes.  You will be spending a similar if not smaller amount each month on your medication and are likely to be less stressed along the way.  Unless you really don’t like the feeling mary jane gives you, I suggest sticking to the flowers.

 

Experiencing Florida’s Cannabis Culture

This past week I was lucky enough to escape the never-ending 6 month winter here in Michigan and visit one of my favorite destinations, the sunshine state.  From my past travels I came to the conclusion that a vacation isn’t really the complete package until you’re able to experience some of the best local flavors.  I knew that the possibility of smoking without any existing connections in the area could be a challenge, and decided to bring some great lakes ganja along for the journey.  Even though I’m a daily smoker, I did not bring enough to meet my usual consumption. It was just one of the strategies to help me stay under the radar.  Being conservative with my medicine was not really a problem because almost immediately my tolerance had drastically dropped.  There was a constant temptation to burn the stash quickly because of perfect weather and a community with a very relaxing environment.

It didn’t take me long to cross paths with another smoker who was also a medical marijuana patient in Florida’s program.  While out shooting hoops and hitting my vape pen, another basketball player joined the court and started shooting around with me.  He acknowledged the vape cartridge, and to my surprise also told me he had even brought his own along.  After hitting the “sherbert” flavored cartridge, I was in shock.  Never had I hit something so tasty that still packed a strong punch when it came to potency.  It was better than any of the countless brands I have tried from the dispensaries here.  The medial marijuana producers in the state have really done well with what they are working with.  Being limited to strictly producing non smokable forms of the plant allowed them to master the process of producing high quality medicine in vapor form.  At that point I felt comfortable asking for some direction on where to find some dank buds.  To my surprise the first person I met there was down to help me out.  I felt pretty lucky considering how sketchy it can be for dealers to deal outside their main circle.

When it came to the buds themselves, I was able to secure a batch of some mango kush.  The bag appeal was not too bad although noticeably different from what I’m use to seeing in Michigan.  While the buds were covered in orange hairs and pretty dense, they lacked that light green color and were not coated in trichomes.  I was not about to complain though as my new friend had gone out of his ways and it looked decent.  The flavor was surprisingly fruity and it burned really well.  It didn’t pack as strong of a punch as the joints I had brought along, but it definitely was a nice relief to my diminishing supply.  The price was higher then what I would pay at home, but I’m sure if I sticked around for a while and made some connections, I could secure comparable pricing.  The same goes for the quality of the bud.  I know people have top shelf medicine down south, it’s just not as prevalent and accessible.

From my short time there I met several consumers, and even caught some wiffs of dank while walking around the neighborhood.  Just as many people seem to smoke, but in a more discreet manner.  With not many people enrolled in the medical marijuana program, and those enrolled not allowed to have buds, there is a greater threat of police enforcement.  While I was able to find a connection relatively easy, I think it came down to getting really lucky.  With some of the country’s nicest beaches and weather its a trade-off when it comes to the state’s accessibility to weed.  If you plan on visiting, I would suggest bringing some of your locally grown weed along for the ride and not to plan on having a lucky encounter such as mine.  I would also definitely recommend trying the vape cartridges produced there if given the chance, I guarantee they will not disappoint.

 

Side by Side Grow LED vs HPS

This past year I have had the opportunity to complete several harvests using an LED grow light for the first time, alongside the usual high pressure sodium set up. It was a great learning experience to see how the same strains responded to alternate lighting environments. The first and more obvious trait that differed among the two, was the final yield. Using feminized white widow seeds for both growing environments, I saw a difference of 4.5 ounces of dried flower. Not only was there more weight overall, but there was also a much higher weight per bud. My LED simply could not compare when it came to the main colas produced via the high pressure sodium. While both crops used the same growing medium and nutrients, the wattage on the lights used were not equal. The HPS uses 1000 watts, while the LED puts out 600. There is no doubt that a 1000w LED would have increased my yield to a noticeable degree. However, I know the buds would remain smaller and it still wouldn’t reach those monstrous HPS yields.

Getting a bigger harvest is always an attractive sales pitch to us cultivators, but it certainly isn’t everything. The quality was comparable in both environments and
it would be hard to judge a winner when it comes to potency, flavor, and duration of effects. They would also be hard to distinguish visually had the buds been of a comparable size. Controlling the temperature and minimizing electricity are where the LED lighting systems shine. They don’t generate much heat and are easy to cool a tent or grow area without a bunch of ducting and high powered fans. Your electric bill will hardly notice a difference ( definitely not the case for HPS).

The last difference I would like to mention was noticed while harvesting one day with a friend. We had knocked out the high pressure sodium grow in as few as 3 hours just between the two of us. Yes, there were only 2 plants, but there was a lot of buds. The leaf to bud ratio was low and after pulling the fan leaves the fine trimming was minor. It was great and we both couldn’t believe how fast we had finished in comparison to past grows with high pressure sodiums. A few months later, it was time to cut down the ladies under the purple lights. We had also left an entire afternoon/evening to complete the job. Unbelievably, after 9 hours we still hadn’t finished. There were so many leaves to manicure, and it simply was an extremely tedious process. We finished it the next morning, but in all it took us over 3 times as long as the previous crop! So if you plan on using LED’s to begin or to experiment with I highly suggest consistent manicuring and trimming during the vegetative stage to keep things under relative control before harvest day.
The final decision comes down to performance and budget but either route can lead to beautiful medicine.

Sweetstone Gummy Bear Edibles

If you have a sweet tooth and love shoveling down gummy bears one after another, you should be extra careful when dealing with Sweetstone’s edibles.  I haven’t written any articles about any other brand of edibles and there is a reason for that.  No other medicine in oral form has delivered a comparable potency in my personal experience.  My own experiences with edibles have been extremely disappointing overall as I’ve spent tons of money on different varieties of products with either little to no effect.  The gummy bears from Sweestone has been a far different story.  These were the first edible I ever felt and I immediately fell in love with the overwhelming effects of a 11-Hydroxy-THC high.  I’m not even going to lie about it I ate these things in excess when I first discovered them.  It was like discovering weed again in a way for the first time.  For the first time ever I could consume cannabis in a stealthy manner and be higher then ever for hours at a time.

In my case, I would eat the entire thing which according to the labeling was 100mg of thc.  I think they are underestimating, but again that’s only being based on comparisons of other brands I have tried in the past with similar or higher thc content.  For people new to edibles or smoking, I would not even eat more than a leg to be honest.  It is likely it will not be enjoyable if you are exposed to more than that.  Even for those who consume a decent amount of cannabis, I would start with half and wait at least an hour.  Sometimes the full effects don’t hit for 2 whole hours though, so play it safe the first time and take less then you think you can handle.  There is also a variety of flavors to choose from with cotton candy being my personal favorite.  While the flavoring helps somewhat to cover the overwhelming taste of strong cannabis oil, it is definitely noticeable.  I guess at least you know it’s in there right?  That would be the one negative that you should be prepared for when it comes time to eat them.  (Also they do make me pretty tired, probably because I’m eating the whole thing).  I have had edibles that tasted far worse though. so they are still killing it in my book.  While the company is headquartered somewhere in California, they might be stocked at your local dispensary.  That is where I find mine, and Cali is a long drive from the Midwest.

So give them a try, they’re the only edible I recommend to both those using it medicinally and those trying to relax and have a good time.