CANNABIS-FRIENDLY MUSIC, PART 3

Note: This is the third installment in our series about cannabis-friendly music. The order applied to the videos & clips isn’t a ranking, but simply follows the order of posts on our Instagram feed. All you need to know is that is heady, cannabis-friendly music.

11. Kicking off the third set of cannabis-friendly music videos is a short film featuring the song “The Ballad of Evel Knievel” as an accompaniment to an interpretive recreation of Evel Knievel’s many ambitious motorcycle jumps (most of which were punctuated by ill-fated landings). Evel was on television throughout the 1960s and 1970s, usually featured in an ABC Wide World of Sports special. The jumps varied in setting, from a cache of 18-wheeler trucks to the Caesar’s Palace fountain, to Snake River Canyon and beyond. Evel was more than ambitious; he was relentless. Relentless because he wasn’t always successful and he endured many serious, bone-breaking injuries, yet he still continued jumping.

Evel released a largely spoken-word, eponymous album in 1974 wherein he attempted to answer philosophically the fundamental question so often put to him by fans and critics alike: Why? Why did Evel do what he did? He answers the question in his poem, “Why?” (reprinted below), on the last track on side 1 of his LP. Whether he succeeded in answering the question is up to us to determine. “The Ballad of Evel Knievel” is the only song on the album, which also features a twenty-minute press conference, an extended message from Evel to “the kids”, and the daredevil’s wistful musings on “the future”. The LP stands alone as a cannabis-friendly cultural artifact the essence of which is captured perfectly by this short homemade cannabis-friendly film, Canyon In The Sky by Gordon Langley.

EVEL KNIEVEL – CANYON IN THE SKY by Gordon Langley featuring “The Ballad of Evel Knievel”

Why?
Everywhere in this world that I go,
No matter who or what I know,
The people, they look, 
Most of them stare,
I wonder if they even care

They see this cane with its golden crown,
Some of them smile, but most of them frown.

I hear them laugh, and see them cry,
No matter what,
They all ask why?

Well, I’m just like you, and you,
and you, and your wife,
We have a special purpose in life.
This way of life, I’m glad that I found,
For like you, I too, make the world go round.

We’re all alike,
Oh yes, we are,
We all have a dream on some faraway star

For when it is over and done at the end of the day,
Some can relax, but I go to pray.
For I know that tomorrow in some other place,
I’ll have that fear again to face.

Could it be the quest for money and fame,
Oh no,
To play with my life is not much of a game.

It’s a want- a want that’s so dear,
It’s given me faith,
I can face the fear

Oh yes, I do think about a day
In life when fate came along and struck my way.

Each time I was hurt, they all said,
The guy is lucky that he’s not dead.

They were right.
But I wanted to get up
To try it again,
I kept telling myself that I knew I could win,
So I’d close my eyes, and to the lord, I’d pray,
Oh, help me God, let me walk someday

And he did.
Every stitch on every scar
Has just brought me closer to my dream afar.

To be a man,
And to do my best,
To stand alone is my only quest.

Success is a term that has a broad use,
For and I to have none in life – there is no excuse.

For you, to do what I do is not right-
But, for me, it’s not wrong
What I’ve been trying to tell you all along
Is that it’s got to be.

So, you wonder why?
The answer to that is just like you,
I’ve got to be me…

– Evel Knievel. (1938-2007)

12. Evel Knievel’s is always a hard cannabis-friendly act to follow but Monoshock‘s “Ice Gazelle” from their posthumous Lost Shock collection makes a commendable effort. The band’s first release, the Primitive Zippo 45 on Womb Records, features on its cover a chiaroscuro rendering of a guy smoking out. They later recorded a cover of Hawkwind‘s “Psychedelic Warlords (Disappear in Smoke)”. They were a cannabis-friendly band making cannabis-friendly music. Aural cacophony…glorious din… however characterized, there’s no doubt it is cannabis-friendly music.

ICE GAZELLE by Monoshock

13. The next cannabis-friendly tune speaks directly to something many cannabis users once dreaded in the pre-legalization days (and may still depending on the employer) known as the drug test. Yo La Tengo captures masterfully in this one short piece all the emotions that surface in the face of drug screening, from the awkwardness and discomfort of forced sobriety in the weeks prior to the test to the anxiety over whether the test will come out clean. The song communicates personal angst at the outset with ominous bass thuds setting the tone and half-formed chords introducing the mood and melody, which is decidedly unsure, inchoate, and a bit of a mess.

Steadied hands soon regain chording control and tame the melody to create space for the singer to tell his tale. The lyrics take great care to convey the singer’s inner fragmentation at being without his steadying drug of choice (we’ll assume it is cannabis), as he confesses that “I’m not ready to face that thing today / I wish I was high”. The song reveals the singer’s unsettled vulnerability as he admits that “I hate feeling the way I feel / I hate feeling the way I feel today / I wish I was high”.

The desire for cannabis comfort finally has the singer imagining what he would be doing if not for the test as he describes his vision to the listener, “I see myself with headphones on / I’m listening to Wake of the Flood (2x) / now I’m high”. Desperation and anxiety have pushed the singer to psychically recreate the setting he would otherwise occupy, high and listening to the Grateful Dead with headphones on. But the daydream is ephemeral and within moments the sobered singer admits his inability to ditch this “wish” that he was “high”.

The singer begins to rationalize the exaggerated desire to be high by conceding he’s “brighter than nothing / smarter than nobody” and “wasted away.” The singer’s self-worth is shot and wholly subject to his desire to be high. He’s physically diminished and lacking the strength to redirect his efforts, even for the sake of the income that would enable him to buy more cannabis. The song never really resolves and there’s no indication whether the singer passed the test, or even took it at all. The song ends with the same ominous bass thuds with which it began but then adds one repetition of the verse melody to end the piece signifying, perhaps, a final thread of hope to which the singer clings.

Don’t take my word for it, tho. Here’s Yo La Tengo performing “Drug Test” live and sober in 1989:

DRUG TEST by Yo La Tengo

14. Next up isn’t cannabis-friendly music per se, but it is cannabis-friendly. Those old enough to remember SCTV will be familiar with the character Dr. Braino and his “Dr. Braino Hour” segment. John Candy, RIP. That was indeed the ultimate bummer.

BUMMER by Dr. Braino (SCTV)

15. Rounding out this 3rd installment of Swedish Flying Saucer’s cannabis-friendly music video menagerie is Rod Stewart’s Faces covering Etta James’s “I’d Rather Go Blind” live in Edmonton, Canada in 1973. The show also happened to be Ronnie Lane‘s last gig with the band (he died in 1997). The song is a classic and I would’ve much rather posted a live version of Christine McVie performing it, but I couldn’t find one. There’s something about cannabis and live music performances complement one another, whether attending a concert or watching live footage at home. And there’s something nostalgic that comes to the fore that is cannabis-enhanced when seeing those guys so young and at their peak. So just put yourself in the right mood, sit back, relax, and enjoy.

GETTIN’ THE BUDTENDER GIG: IT’S WHO YA KNOW!

I JUST WANNA SAY I MET YOU
IT’S WHO YOU KNOW

“Who You Know” by X

Budtenders are a consumer’s link to the cannabis industry, providing product and brand information, relaying important industry news, explaining regulations and taxes, demonstrating new devices, and much more. Budtenders are both repositories and transmitters of crucial industry knowledge and effectively liaise between the consumer and seed banks, growers, processors, trimmers, manufacturers, distributors, bakers, candy makers and more. I decided last year that as my kids head off to high school and college, I would very much like to find a job in the cannabis industry and combine my passion for and knowledge about marijuana with gainful employment. Lacking industry experience, a budtender job seems to be an ideal position for me to build a deep and fundamental understanding of all that is involved in bringing safe, legal cannabis products to the public.

As the cannabis industry continues to grow, there is an increasing need for companies to hire additional staff. Industry growth is a sign that legalized cannabis is succeeding, putting down roots while meeting current demand and preparing for future expansion. Companies are structuring themselves corporately in anticipation of big business dealings along the lines of the adult beverage industry. This bodes well for both the future of legal marijuana in states that have authorized its sale and use and for national legalization, generally. As the industry expands and establishes a foothold in new markets, more new jobs are created, reducing unemployment and increasing consumer spending. This is all very good news, particularly for job seekers. But it is worth taking a closer look to see what kinds of cannabis industry jobs are actually available and how accessible these jobs are to the general public.

Kris Knox, right, a bud tender, helps Kris Bunker of Boulder choose a strain of weed at the Terrapin Care Station (photo: stuffstonerslike)

From the 1970s through the 1990s one of the coolest jobs a young adult could get was a record store job. I was fortunate to work at a few record stores in my youth. One was easy to get, working as a holiday temp at Tower Records back in the day. But the other record store job was at an independent shop in downtown Santa Barbara, and the only reason I got that job was that I knew someone who worked there. I recently began applying for budtender work at local dispensaries and it is not lost on me how much today’s cannabis dispensaries resemble record stores of yore. The truth is that there aren’t many record stores around these days, so those jobs now are even harder to come by. The continuing proliferation of cannabis dispensaries, particularly here in the east San Fernando Valley, however, leads me to believe that budtender jobs are plentiful and available to the right candidates.

Although some dispensaries advertise for budtender jobs on internet job boards, others do not. Most of the listings for budtender and dispensary positions require some amount of cannabis industry or budtender experience for a candidate’s consideration. This is reasonable but it also filters out interested applicants lacking such experience yet possessing other qualities suitable for the position. And it begs the question of how one acquires cannabis industry experience if he is excluded preemptively from consideration for the only job that would provide him with that requisite experience. The best answer I can come up with at this point is that in almost all cases, the only opportunity for those who haven’t acquired budtender experience is to either know someone working at a dispensary or be a well-acquainted customer. Record store jobs work the same way.

(photo: gocaliva)

Even with this strategy, how easy is it for a customer to become so familiar to a dispensary staff that he would be offered a job even if lacking budtender experience? The short answer is that it isn’t as easy as doing the same thing in a record store. Why? Because anyone may walk into a record store and browse without buying anything, spend time talking with the employees there, ask them questions and demonstrate music literacy. Dispensaries, on the other hand, regulate customer ingress and at times require the customer to sign a legal agreement. Once the customer is in the door, there is an expectation that he will make a purchase. Dispensaries don’t allow for the kind of browsing one can do at a record store. And because dispensary shopping generally requires a budtender’s active assistance, time is always of the essence so that waiting customers may be served. The downside of this for the customer at the counter is the feeling of being rushed to make a choice and complete the transaction. This leaves very little time for an idle, getting-to-know-you chat with budtenders, and makes it much harder for a customer to establish himself as a familiar face to be considered for a job, as he could otherwise do in a record store.

Mysterious record store clerk (Photo by Sergio Bastidas/Brooks Institute, ©2008)

Another significant difference between record stores and dispensaries is that music products are generally less expensive than cannabis products. A music customer can find a desired used compact disc or elpee for, say, five dollars, but a dispensary customer generally has to spend more than that on each visit. Theoretically, a cannabis customer could buy a gram of flower for something close to five dollars, but whereas that elpee or compact disc can be played over and over, the gram is only going to last a day or two in most cases. In short, it is more expensive to patronize a dispensary than a record store, making it all the more challenging for a prospective budtender to be there to familiarize himself with a prospective dispensary/employer. Making matters more difficult, sales tax on cannabis is roughly three times more than the tax on records and compact discs. The economic challenges facing inexperienced would be budtenders clearly impedes the ability to compete for dispensary work.

Marijuana buds in glass jars on wooden background (photo: Leafly)

The growth of the cannabis industry is the result of individual cannabis businesses across the board becoming successful and expanding production and marketing operations to meet demand and increase sales. Consequently, there are many marijuana-related jobs listed that don’t require any cannabis industry experience at all, because they are corporate positions. The corporate cannabis listings include VPs, Operations, Product and Social Media Managers, Sterile Processing and Lab Techs, Sales Reps, Accountants, and the list goes on. All of these require either a corporate background or technical skill irrespective of any affinity for cannabis, no matter how passionate. My desire to work in the cannabis industry is fueled in large part by a desire for a decidedly non-corporate experience. Budtenders in almost all cases aren’t corporate, and the position, itself, is wholly unique to the cannabis industry. Marijuana and marijuana products are a budtender’s focus, leaving him free of corporate considerations, departmental budgets or production chain issues. And while corporate and technical jobs generally restrict employees to office interiors and cubicle walls, laboratories, and greenhouses, budtenders man the front lines engaging the public, meeting new and likeminded people, exchanging ideas and information and sharing a passion for cannabis.

To the north and west of where I live there are several cannabis dispensaries and it isn’t unreasonable to believe I might find a budtender job at one of them. But upon closer look, not all dispensaries are the same. The three storefronts to which I’ve submitted my resume are all successful, legal, well-run shops where any self-respecting cannabis aficionado would eagerly work. It is more than reasonable to believe that competition for budtender positions at these outlets is high, and that candidates with experience or official cannabis education or with friends on staff have the greatest likelihood of being hired. But these are three of at least ten, if not more, local dispensaries. What of the others? There are a few legal, compliant local dispensaries that I’ve yet to patronize, but I’ve avoided them thus far due to high prices. Other local dispensaries are black market or quasi-legal at best and incompatible with my approach to cannabis.

(photo: stonerdays)

For now, I’m left to continue experiencing what I can of the cannabis industry, writing, editing and publishing my thoughtful observations here at Swedish Flying Saucer. I’m happy to continue in this manner for now while seeking out opportunities to enrich my understanding of the cannabis industry and working towards my desired goal. In this manner, I will advance my marijuana industry “experience” even though technically only a layperson. I’m a few years older than most budtenders I encounter, and it is easy to see how a younger person might have an easier time establishing friendships with budtenders that might lead to a job. But folks of all ages consume cannabis for medical or recreational reasons and of them, there are those who prefer an older budtender. I’ve also noticed that a majority of budtenders I engage are female, which has me wondering if that is the norm and another hurdle I must clear in my pursuit of a dispensary job. Ultimately it is inconsequential because I am patient and determined to achieve what I’ve set out to accomplish. I have abundant confidence that as the cannabis industry continues to grow, it will carve out a budtender opportunity for me, your faithful scribe. Once that happens, I look forward to seeing you on the other side of the counter!

CANNABIS-FRIENDLY MUSIC, PART 2

Note: This is the second installment in our series about cannabis-friendly music. The order applied to the videos & clips isn’t a ranking, but simply follows the order of posts on our Instagram feed. All you need to know is that is heady, cannabis-friendly music.

6. Starting the second round of cannabis-friendly music videos at number six is another Swedish Flying Saucer project, unofficially dubbed The Record Refugees. The track, called “Kosmische Rock”, is a glorious cacophony of cannabis-infused musik abiding Tommy Hall’s & Roky Erickson’s concept of “play[ing] the acid” (in this case, “playing the cannabis”) in an effort to transmit cosmic consciousness to the listener. Always helpful if the listener takes the initiative to put herself in that state of mind prior to listening, if possible, but it isn’t essential.

KOSMISCHE ROCK by The Record Refugees

7. The Pink Fairies took heavy, psychedelic, speed-fueled rock to overdose levels, leaving the world with a classic 1973 LP, one of our favorites, called Kings of Oblivion. Fortunately for us, video exists chronicling their sort of psych-out mayhem, courtesy of French television, which has supplied a panoply of obscure and brilliant music videos to streaming platforms for our cerebral consumption. Here are the Fairies playing live in London in 1973, recorded by the French for their Pop 2 programming. Video also includes an interview.

PINK FAIRIES live 1973, London

8. The Pretty Things were another superb English psychedelic rock band that included future Pink Fairies drummer Twink on their groundbreaking album S.F. Sorrow. The Pretty Things began early on as a Stones-esque English R&B band who’s musical style evolved over the years in tandem with other groups and which peaked with this album. S.F. Sorrow was recorded at Abbey Road studios and features the kind of pop psychedelia that bands like The Beatles and The Who had incorporated into their own repertoires. Once again we owe the French gratitude for hosting and capturing this classic performance.

BARON SATURDAY by The Pretty Things

9. We continue to hold fast to the British Isles with the next video featuring two classic and deeply talented songwriters and musicians, Bert Jansch (RIP) and Anne Briggs. Jansch’s story is book-worthy, so I won’t even try. Suffice to say he was Scottish and brought up musically on traditional English folk songs and the folk-blues of the duo Sonny Terry and Brownie McGee. Jansch is known for, among other things, being ripped off by Paul Simon, who asked to learn Jansch’s arrangement of “Scarborough Fair” and then copyrighted it under his own name. This song, “Blackwater Side”, is another traditional English folk song arranged by Jansch. Led Zeppelin included an instrumental version of the song that mirrored Jansch’s arrangement on their debut album, which they titled “Black Mountain Side” and credited to themselves. Once again, Jansch had been ripped off by other musicians. Anne Briggs is an English folk singer and songwriter with a beautiful voice who sadly never gained the kind of recognition she deserved. She certainly deserves more than I’m offering here, so let this be a starting point for the uninitiated. Know that this song suits her voice and style very much. Here are Anne and Bert from the documentary Acoustic Routes.

BLACKWATER SIDE (Trad.) by Anne Briggs and Bert Jansch

10. Rounding out part 2 in our cannabis-friendly music parade and bringing us back to the US is the electronic music experimenter, Bruce Haack. Haack’s work burrows deeply into the guts of electronic sounds, in some cases nearly fusing with circuit boards and capacitors, sounding more like a robot than a human. The highlight and lead-off track of his album Hush Little Robot, “Electric To Me Turn” could be Haack’s most robotic infusion as he wails and moans in a cyber-spiced plea along with the frenetic, synthesized music track. The song is relentless in tempo and evokes the desperation of a machine seeking authenticity and autonomy. It is chilling, but fun, and begs the question whether Haack finally succeeded in fulfilling his robot calling.

ELECTRIC TO ME TURN by Bruce Haack

ROOM TO BREATHE AT EXHALENCE

This week’s dispensary field trip took me to Exhalence, a well stocked, competitively priced, readily accessible storefront in Sun Valley. The two-story building is easy to spot from the road and sits astern an amply sized parking lot on Roscoe Blvd., just off of Glenoaks Blvd. Those driving up the 5 Freeway from LA can exit right across the street from the shop at Roscoe, and there is a southerly onramp right there as well for the return trip. Exhalence opens earlier than most dispensaries, at 8:00 am, closes at 10 pm, serves medical and recreational patients, and offers online ordering.

Exhalence storefront and amply sized parking lot, right off of the 5 Freeway in Sun Valley (photo: Exhalence)

Exhalence’s roomy parking lot holds at least 10 spots, which suits the larger-than-normal building. The dispensary lobby is spacious and modestly appointed with comfortable seating and calming aromas wafting from scented candles. The front desk is staffed by an affable and efficient admin who processes intake paperwork and checks IDs for returning customers. It was only a few moments after entering before I scrolled down one of the 3 digital sign-up stations and completed the patient agreement. There’s a jar on the desk filled with an assortment of Halloween candy for customers to grab and take home to enjoy once their meds kick in. I figured I oughta wait until my second visit before grabbing free-bees from the front desk (although I’m sure they wouldn’t have minded).

Front lobby is modestly appointed, spacious and comfortable (photo: Exhalence)

For whatever reason, I rarely have to wait anymore in a dispensary’s front lobby, and if I do, it is only for a minute or two. Exhalence was no different, and as soon as the admin handed back my doctor recommendation, the security guard invited me into a very spacious room with a ceiling two stories high, featuring cases and shelves lining the back. The walls and cases are stuffed full of all kinds of flower, concentrates, edibles, pre-rolls, waxes…you name it. There were 3 or 4 budtenders working during my visit, one in training, and all were friendly and helpful. The young lady who seemed to be the lead budtender that afternoon was very knowledgeable about extracts and concentrates and offered me good advice.

Dispensary interior is stocked with products and varieties galore (photo: Exhalence)

First time Exhalence customers receive a 15% off discount (minimum $20 donation), softening the tax blow. There are discounts each day, with wax discounts on Shatterdays, and a 15% discount with minimum $25 donation on Sundays. After scrutinizing the extracts brands and products, and with budtender advice, I purchased a gram of Raw Garden Zookies sauce, a gram of Flavor OG Kush live resin sugar & a half-gram OG Kush Stiiizy pod. Total bill came to just over $100. Pretty average pricing – not more, nor less expensive than the comparable local dispensaries I’ve patronized.

Exhalence customers who spend $40 are invited to spin the dispensary goodie wheel for 25 cents. The wheel includes various discounts and accessories and currently lists different premiums than those listed in the picture, below. I spun the wheel and received a 4% discount to be applied on my next visit (which can be combined with the daily discounts). My budtender said she would note the discount in my account for my next visit. There is another premium, however, that I missed out on and which wasn’t mentioned by the admin or budtender but which is noted on the Exhalence Weedmaps page. They offer a rewards program, giving the customer 5% back in credit on every purchase. This is the first dispensary I’ve encountered that offers this kind of rewards program. I’ll have to mention it on my return trip and hopefully, they will make it retroactive to include my purchases this week.

Customers spending $40 or more can pay a quarter to spin the wheel for prizes and discounts (photo: Exhalence)

I’m familiar with the excellent Stiiizy pod and strain (OG Kush) I purchased, and have enjoyed Flavor’s live resin sugars in the past. The Raw Garden brand is new to me, however, and this was only my second Raw Garden purchase. A few weeks back I grabbed a gram of their Bogglegum strain live resin, which is moderately potent yet which seems to enfold the body in full spectrum plant essence when vaped at 710 degrees. I’ve only tried the Zookies sauce once so far, but like it more than the live resin because it is more fragrant and sweet and seems to combine the best characteristics of terpinated distillates and extracted waxes. The live resin is more pungent than sweet and seems to contain the grassy tasting terpene, phyto.

I was very happy with my virgin visit to Exhalence and look forward to return trips. We east valley residents are blessed to be surrounded by a growing number of worthy dispensaries selling quality, safe cannabis products at prices no greater than the Industry norm. In this sense, cannabis is a consumer’s market – at least in my neck of the woods – and customers have the option to patronize a dispensary at a time that is the most cost-effective. The Exhalence discount days that benefit me are on Shatterdays and Sundays, but I tend to make my dispensary visits on weekdays and frequent local dispensaries offering weekday discounts on waxes and distillates. That said, I’m very satisfied knowing that Exhalence is a go-to weekend dispensary should I need one. For all you weekend warrior dabbers out there, Shatterdays and Sundays at Exhalence are made especially for you. Don’t miss out!

HOUSE WEED: REBRANDING HERB ON A BUDGET

The term “house weed” is generally applied to generic, basic, inexpensive cannabis that a dispensary offers patients and customers (usually in joint form) as part of a premium or first-time customer bonus. One dispensary manager gave me a house joint “on the house” in recognition of a review I posted about his store. I graciously accepted the gesture, but I’ve put the joint aside as an absolute last resort should the home stash run dry. At a time that so many different strains and varieties of cannabis products are readily available, many with potencies twice, three times and in some cases, four times as high as even the dankest flower you’ll find on dispensary shelves, we’re left to wonder why, with so many effective options, would any cannabis user even want “house weed”?

Their simple, generic stylized packaging & logo

At my most recent dispensary visit, just yesterday, I was pleasantly surprised to discover a brand that totally redefined the ubiquitous “house weed” epithet by turning it from a negative to a positive. By crafting a stylized trademark and simple packaging design with a recognizably generic font in bright red that pops out against a white background, they’ve transformed the notion of boring, inert “house weed” into a viable cannabis brand of the same name. Their packaging is utilitarian, with a functional simplicity consistent across all of its products. For flower in gram and eighth sizes, and for shatter, a branded ziplock pouch is used while a branded jar houses full ounces.

The company produces at least 5 shatter strains (photo: Instagram)

I purchased two half grams of House Weed shatter, Berry Kush, an indica, and Slymer, an indica-dominant hybrid, each packaged in one of House Weed’s signature ziplock pouches. Although it has positively transformed the idea signified by the term, House Weed has not changed a key conceptual old school “house weed” element: affordability. The local dispensary where I discovered the House Weed brand charges ten dollars per half gram of shatter! This isn’t only a fantastic price vis a vis affordability, but it suggests that maybe (please let it be so), the price of quality, tested, safe, labeled and packaged extracts is starting to settle down. The shatter strains I purchased are solid and effective, with THC percentages in the 60s, yielding a robust potency at a reasonable price. House Weed products are available at select dispensaries throughout the sunshine state and some of these storefronts are indicated on the company’s website. My local dispensary isn’t listed, however, so consumers will need to consult individual dispensary menus to be certain.

House Weed are the first brand I’ve seen package full ounces in jars

House Weed’s internet presence sadly hasn’t kept pace with the company’s growth: the only products listed are sativa, indica and hybrid flower packaged by the gram, eighth or ounce. Their website fails to list available strains and doesn’t mention shatter at all, a deficiency they really ought to correct. Their Instagram feed is similarly lacking in product promotion. Elsewhere on the web, I’ve found images of Blue Dream, Cherry OG, and GG4 shatter. The cannabis delivery service Greenrush carries House Weed flower strains including Cherry OG, Cookies, Purple AK and Cherry AK. In addition to the above-listed varieties of House Weed shatter, Greenrush lists one additional strain, Gelato, and also features House Weed prerolls that come in packs of five. Preroll strains include Pink Cookies and OG Kush. Why aren’t any of these listed on House Weed’s website?

House Weed buds are trichome laden and THC rich (photo: Instagram)

The House Weed brand name is both a play on the term for generic, bargain basement herb and a reference to “house parties”, where kids gather to hang out, listen to music, smoke ganja and have a good time. House Weed wants its customers to view the brand as a connection to those free-flowing, anything goes teenaged weekenders of their youth. Their website contains the company’s mission statement which playfully renders and reframes the consumer’s sense of nostalgia and youthful memories. The House Weed brand, in the words of its purveyors, is “inspired by the good old days of house parties, bumping jams from your boombox, DJ battles, and dub bags,” which they simplify and sum up with a bold affirmation that “HW is the dopeness.” I can attest that their Slymer shatter is, in fact, “the dopeness”.

Flavor brand crumble wax retails for about $15/half-gram

House Weed isn’t the only brand staking a claim to budget-friendly cannabis extracts and related products. I’ve written previously about the Flavor brand which is sold at local dispensaries. Flavor is also reasonably priced, its half-gram crumble retailing for $15, and makes fragrant and potent live resin sugars. Both House Weed and Flavor are owned by the Salinas, California based Indus Holding Company, yet they compete with each other for concentrate-purchasing consumers. The main difference between the two is that Flavor manufactures crumble, live resin sugar and shatter, while House Weed produces the items mentioned above, the only overlap being shatter. Flavor products have largely faded from my local dispensary shelves (their crumble is all I tend to see anymore), and doesn’t seem to have a web presence, so it is hard to know in which direction the company is headed. In the interim, House Weed provides affordable, potent alternatives in a variety of strains. Ask for House Weed products at your local dispensary or consult the company’s website and you, too, will feel the nostalgic and money-saving rush of a house party on a budget.

CANNABIS-FRIENDLY MUSIC, PART 1

Swedish Flying Saucer’s Instagram feed ( @swedishflyingsaucer ) is a musical kinescope exhibiting minute long video clips of some of the greatest cannabis-friendly music ever recorded (at least in the last century or so). The clips attempt to capture the essence of the songs, foreshortened by the platform’s video time limits, and ought to pique the interest of even the most milquetoast musical minds. For those unprepared to suss out the full-length cannabis-friendly sounds and images corresponding with the culled clips, this here blog seems a welcoming host for exhibition and ease of access for any regular viewers and readers. Music is meant to be free as the spirit-channeled voices, fingers, and hands creating and performing it. Cannabis heightens listeners’ sensitivities and openness to that freedom of spirit, connecting the corporeal, earth-bound weight of existence with the immortal, inscrutable, intractable life-force propelling all flesh towards a gloriously unknowable destination.

Note: The only order applied to the video clips on the SFS Instagram feed is chronological vis a vis when posted. There’s no ranking system, for this is all heady, cannabis-friendly music.

1. The first video clip of cannabis-friendly music posted was a composition written and performed by your humble scribe, who also cobbled up and edited the video using footage found in the home library. Dig “Carol Needs A Safe Space” by Swedish Flying Saucer.

CAROL NEEDS A SAFE SPACE by Swedish Flying Saucer

2. Next comes Thelma Houston, discovered long ago by the great Oklahoma-born songwriter Jimmy Webb. Here’s Thelma vamping funkily on the British television show “The Price of Fame”, singing the Stones‘ “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”, from her 1969 album “Sunshower”, a repsitory of cannabis-friendly music. The album was produced and arranged by Jimmy Webb and released on Dunhill Records. This was Thelma’s first solo album before signing with Motown Records and going on to win a Grammy with her international hit “Don’t Leave Me This Way” in 1977. (h/t original video poster).

JUMPIN’ JACK FLASH performed by Thelma Houston

3. Third in line on the Swedish Flying Saucer Instagram feed is “Candy Pants” by Lionel Davis. Mere words, no matter how florid or precise, are insufficient to convey the essence of “Candy Pants”. To understand “Candy Pants”, listen to “Candy Pants”. “You’re such a honey-dripper / I’d forget all about your zipper”… Let Lionel sing his sweet and soulful cannabis-friendly music to you and make you feel real goooooood.

CANDY PANTS by Lionel Davis, The Electric Man

4. The cannabis-friendly music quad spot is occupied by one of the best and most overlooked bands of the late 60s & 70s, The Flamin’ Groovies. Equal parts Rolling Stones, Creedence, and old-time, blues-based rock and roll, the Groovies released a handful of superb albums containing a gold mine of rockin’ nuggets. One of their best and most famous tracks, “Slow Death” was released as a single in 1972 and has appeared on various compilations over the years. A blistering slide-ruled anti-drug dirge, or more poignantly, anti-Heroin backlash, the track mirrored the Stones’ sound while distancing them from Keef’s favorite pastime. In a time when over 130 Americans die EACH DAY from opiate toxicity, it’s a welcome message:

He said “There’s nothing I can prescribe 
To keep your raunchy bag of bones alive” 
I got some money left for one more shot 
He said “God bless you” I said “Thanks a lot”

SLOW DEATH by The Flamin’ Groovies
SLOW DEATH by The Flamin’ Groovies performed live on French TV, 1972

5. Rounding out today’s post of the first five cannabis-friendly music videos in the Swedish Flying Saucer Instagram feed is a clip from An American Family, a 12-episode / 12-hour 1973 television documentary series about the Santa Barbara family of William C. Loud. In many ways, it was one of the first reality shows and presented a raw, unfiltered rendering of an upper echelon California family living as they did in their home habitat. Most musical minds will recall Lance Loud, the son who moved to New York to be a part of the Warhol scene and who became the lead singer of a quasi-punk proto-new wave band called The Mumps. In this clip, however, we get to watch and hear Lance’s brother, Grant, play a spirited and dead on acoustic version of The Kinks’ “Ape Man”.

AN AMERICAN FAMILY: Grant Loud plays The Kinks’ “Ape Man”

COMPACT VAPE PENS & THE 420 LIFESTYLE REVOLUTION

Vape pens, batteries, cartridges, and pods, are supplanting the leaky bong and dime bags of yore with sleek, diminutive, rechargeable (or disposable) batteries the size of ink pens or tubes of lipstick and with grams and half-grams of oil-containing cartridges or pods. Where choking, unhealthy smoke once proliferated, variously sized clouds of fragrant, potent vapor now waft. And as the quality and accessibility of cannabis concentrates improve, more vape products are making their way to dispensary shelves. Stiiizy, Mezz, and Pax are three such brands out of a growing number of companies marketing vape pens and cartridges as discrete, modern, lifestyle accessories. Brands like these seek to change outdated popular perceptions and convince recreational cannabis skeptics that today’s marijuana consumers don’t fit the stoner stereotypes of yore.

Stiiizy’s sleek, functional batteries and potent pods generate massive vape clouds (photo: Altnernate Leafs)

Brands like Stiiizy, Mezz and Pax know that their success, and the success of their industry, can be achieved only by attracting new cannabis consumers and obliterating old stigmas about marijuana use. In order for the cannabis industry to become competitive (e.g. with the beer industry), it must appeal to non-cannabis habitués by presenting contemporary cannabis use as a cleaner, more refined, and more sophisticated marijuana experience than that was had by the old high school stoner crowd. Through broadening their reach and drawing new customers, these companies are helping the cannabis industry establish itself successfully in the broader American marketplace (at least in states where it is legal).

Dispensary walls are lined with a proliferation of vape pen and cartridge products (photo: Leafly)

A cacophony of vape products representing brands of all stripes sit on dispensary shelves or hang on walls, calling out to consumers in different ways. How is one to choose? For veteran cannabis users with a high THC tolerance, Stiiizy outclasses its competition in potency and vapor production, providing even the most seasoned sinsemilla superhero with a powerful and enduring buzz. Of the brands tried, none produced as much THC-rich haze as Stiiizy. Their starter kits come with a battery smaller than a pocket comb and USB charging cable and retail for $30 at most dispensaries. The batteries are available in five different colors and the pods, offered in half-gram and gram sizes, retail for about $30 and $55 respectively, and include a wide variety of aromatic, flavorful, and potent indica, sativa and hybrid strains.

Some vape brands market their cartridges in terms of effect produced rather than the strain (photo: MezzBrands)

Other brands like dosist and Mezz bypass strain names completely and market their disposable vape pens in terms of the effects produced, such as “calm”, “relief”, “mellow” and “inspire”. Mezz Brands, a Colorado-based company, also markets brand attire and accessories in connection with their vape products (Stiiizy does, too) and uses the hashtag #mezzlife on social media. Mezz Brands self-identifies as a manufacturer of lifestyle enriching products rather than a supplier of intoxicating drugs or dispenser of medical salves. I’ve never tried their products as they haven’t appeared in any local dispensaries where I live in California. They do have an office in Los Angeles, according to this press release. I’ve written previously about the company’s very hepcat namesake, Milton Mezzrow, and am familiar with the brand. But don’t take my word for it. This is from their website:

Mezz is a cutting-edge lifestyle company leading the next wave of cannabis culture. A movement united by the common goal to define our lives through the things we do, say, and create. We are seeking to normalize the use of cannabis and redefine what it means to experience it.

https://www.mezzbrands.com
Pax ERA battery flashes colorful lights to indicate battery life, play games and control the temperature, which can also be regulated with a Bluetooth app (photo: Natural Cannabis Company)

The vape manufacturer Pax doesn’t market its vaping systems in terms of lifestyle choices and branded apparel, neither does it host pictures on its website featuring stylish models posed in brand clothing with vape pens in hand. Instead, their battery flashes colorful lights, has an app for controlling temperature and includes games the user can play via the lights. The very modern Pax ERA battery was my first post-vape pen (after my old Oasis pen died) and my go-to vaping device prior to discovering Stiiizy. Different companies like Select, Bloom Farms and Island, manufacture Pax ERA pods, giving the consumer a wide range of strain and variety choices. There are plenty of potent strains, but the Pax ERA doesn’t generate quite as much vapor as the Stiiizy, though it does provide flavorful clouds. The Pax ERA communicates to the user helpful information (how much battery life left, how much has been vaped in a session, etc.) via the system of colored lights. The batteries retail for about $30 and the Pax-friendly pods are comparable in price to others and are usually of excellent quality.

There are a handful of worthy dry herb & dab pens like the AirVapeX and Megatoke XL, but they are pricey (photo: TheDabSpot)

Other vape device manufacturers are more focused on marketing branded personal devices that vaporize dry herb and / or concentrates. The company AirVape, in addition to producing a variety of traditional vape pens, also sells a portable, sleek and pocket-sized vaping device that enables users to vape ground flower and wax (though not oil, distillate or other liquid concentrates). Other manufacturers like Pax and Megatoke sell similar devices. Like the vape cartridges and pods mentioned above, a dry herb vaping device can also be used very discretely and portably.

Whether lifestyle choice or simply a safer method of consuming cannabis, vaping in its many forms is revolutionizing an industry that’s only just found its legs. Hard to make an unequivocal product or brand recommendation since there are so many I haven’t tried. But I have experienced enough vape batteries and cartridges to highlight Stiiizy, first and foremost, as a go-to cannabis vaping system that is easy to use, reasonably priced, generates huge vapor clouds, and with a battery that charges at a moderate speed but affords the user many, many vapor puffs before a recharge is needed. And the dual air-flow design and quality cannabis pods provide an effect almost as strong as if the user had dabbed with a rig. Speak with your budtender, check out Weedmaps and Leafly and High TImes reviews, and you may unearth more worthy vape brands and products, too.

REPOST: THE GRASS LOOKS GREENER AT PROJECT CANNABIS (FORMERLY GVC)

Green Valley Collective sign
Green Valley Collective on Magnolia Blvd., just south of Vineland, in NoHo, CA            (Photo: Leafly)

NB: Green Valley Collective has rebranded itself and is now called Project Cannabis. A good opportunity to revisit their top notch customer service and wide selection.

I have driven up and down Magnolia Boulevard in North Hollywood, CA, and passed Green Valley Collective for longer than the dispensary has been in  business. I would see it clearly almost every day yet never seriously consider patronizing it even though I was a medical marijuana patient in need of a reliable medical dispensary. I can’t account for this avoidance, for there is nothing about the dispensary at all uninviting or worrisome. In fact, in the years preceding medical marijuana legalization, an exotic and woefully under-patronized Jamaican restaurant called Coley’s occupied the spot, and I had dined there in the 1990s. In other words this was familiar territory, inside and out, and yet after six months of reviewing local dispensaries I hadn’t even perused their Weedmaps menu. Why?

Coley's Jamaican Restaurant
Coley’s Jamaican Restaurant in NoHo (Permanently Closed)

The answer is that sometimes the things we want or need most are right before our eyes. And yet because they are so close to us we fail to see them. I’ve spent generously in time and money surveying different dispensaries and products and publishing reviews of my experiences. The upside of all that investment has been my discovery of dispensaries with good customer service, quality-tested cannabis and cannabis products, reasonable supply and pricing, organized displays, well lit & clean store environments, friendly, knowledgable and supportive budtenders, easily accessed locations, and adequate parking. Although I had already discovered a handful of dispensaries possessing most of these characteristics, the industry’s product uncertainties and pricing inconsistencies were negatively impacting the most important of these qualities: supply and affordability. If I could not find nor afford my meds, the rest would be moot. I began searching Weedmaps in earnest, extending my travel radius to allow for dispensaries further from home. Then one day last week  I passed Green Valley Collective in my car for the thousandth time and finally, out of necessity, made the connection that I could be one of those happy-looking customers I saw going in and out of the dispensary’s front doors.

Cannabutter
Homemade Cannabutter separating from water

As cannabis businesses on the grey or black market finally feel real pressure to either comply with the law or close down their storefronts, quality dispensaries are revealing themselves to the cannabis-consuming public and setting a positive standard for the industry.  These compliant storefronts are like hunks of potent cannabutter separating from water and floating to the top and must be recognized and supported by cannabis consumers or they will vanish, the industry along with them. Compliant cannabis producers and manufacturers similarly require the support of discriminating consumers to survive in the long term. If compliance conforming businesses and high quality products finally succeed in eliminating all unregulated competition, it is safe to assume that consumers will benefit from more standardized pricing and greater product consistency. Cannabis customers at last will be empowered to make rational, informed, economically sound decisions about how to acquire their meds. Once the black market is all but vanquished (it will never be eradicated completely) the leveled industry playing field will enable cannabis businesses to compete fairly for the ultimate prize: repeat customers. It is that simple.

Cannabis Taxes, Los Angeles
Cannabis Taxes, Los Angeles, CA (Photo: Hopegrown website)

Taking black market dispensaries out of the picture will enable the industry to establish realistic price points for particular products based on supply and demand, affording the consumer a reasonable expectation of paying about the same fair price for a given product at any nearby dispensary. Although recent months have seen the gradual disappearance of black market storefronts and non-compliant items locally, consumers like myself continue to experience significant price-outs and shortages of certain cannabis varieties and products. Compounding the financial burden on consumers are the incredibly hefty recreational use taxes, themselves another set of hurdles that have the potential to sink the entire industry if prices don’t come down in the long term. Shrewd dispensary operators have recognized their customers’ financial limitations and have made the very smart decision to offer consumers regular daily and weekly discounts. There are a few dispensaries I like very much but which I tend to avoid because they only offer a first time customer discount, or no discount at all. It is also unfortunate when a storefront is well stocked with quality items but is not licensed for medical sales, meaning no break on taxes for medical patients such as myself. Marijuana businesses seeking repeat customers and company growth – if not industry survival – would be wise to offer incentives like daily discounts while differentiating between medical and recreational taxes.

Because I purchase dabbable waxes and concentrates primarily, I am often faced with high prices and short supplies and consequently must patronize a handful of local dispensaries to acquire the best possible meds at the lowest prices. When a storefront is able to keep in stock even a small variety of products made by brands I trust at prices I can afford, I tend to stick with that dispensary until things change. To wit, after patronizing a certain local dispensary regularly over the past month I last week finally experienced the inevitable shortages in their supply of dabbable concentrates. What remained on their shelves was of good quality, but they were the same three items I had purchased on my last two trips. Lack of choice can leave a customer feeling like he is settling mindlessly for remnants and not obtaining the precise meds he needs. This runs contrary to the spirit of medical cannabis use. And yet there I was lacking options, feeling a bit like a captive audience. I could have left empty-handed but since I knew the three available items were of excellent quality and reasonably priced, I purchased them again without regret while realizing I needed to shop elsewhere in the short term. The plain truth is that the most successful businesses find ways to circumnavigate distribution shortages or bottlenecks, doing whatever possible to meet consumer needs. These businesses understand that when a customer shows up and a dispensary is out of product, he may go elsewhere. And if another storefront has the products he needs on the first visit, the customer will most likely return to that other dispensary for his future meds.

Dab Wax Shelves
Random dispensary shelves featuring many dabbable concentrates (Not GVC) (Photo: Leafly)

I try to be a loyal customer to businesses that treat me well because I value good customer service and appreciate the recognition as an essential partner in commerce. Businesses would see no profits and cease to exist without dedicated customers, and yet there are far too many businesses that take shoppers for granted. I won’t return to a dispensary with impatient or discourteous staff – such behavior should not be rewarded with anyone’s patronage. But the last dispensary I’d visited had treated me well and thus before moving on to a new dispensary I felt it appropriate, if not honorable, to give the old storefront another shot. One of the budtenders there affirmed to me that the staff maintained up-to-the-minute accuracy on their Weedmaps menu, so I duly scanned their list one last time and was again disappointed, noting that the dispensary’s concentrates supplies were even more depleted than on my previous visit. I decided that returning to a shrinking supply of waxes would not only be disappointing, but would also rob me of the enjoyment I experience as a consumer taking stock of the different brands and varieties available. I needed to know if there was a comparable, local alternative with a larger selection of reasonably priced dabbable concentrates. I needed options. I did not want to become robotic and habitual about my meds, buying the same products on each visit. And then I remembered that Green Valley Collective was just around the corner, and my prospects suddenly improved.

GVC Front
Green Valley Collective storefront (Photo: Google)

I looked up Green Valley’s Weedmaps menu and was impressed right away with the wide array of products and varieties they carry. The detailed list included a number of items meeting my particular cannabis consumption needs including several wax concentrates and varieties for dabbing, a selection of Pax ERA pods for vaping, and a robust palette of flower with an emphasis on hybrid strains. Their prices were reasonable, no higher than other local dispensaries and in some cases lower, and they offered different daily discounts. My discount day would be Thursday, when there was a buy one / get one at 20% off regular price (limit 2). I was both relieved and encouraged by the wide selection of concentrates carried at Green Valley Collective and planned my Thursday trip accordingly. Before heading over, I took another long look at Green Valley’s menu and noted a few affordable concentrates of interest to look for. I wasn’t exactly sure about how the dispensary’s first time customer discount worked, but I was confident I’d at least be able to take advantage of the daily deal. I also noticed that they opened at 9am, an hour earlier than most other dispensaries. This was a plus, as I like to do my cannabis shopping in the mornings.

Green Valley parking
Green Valley’s very accommodating parking lot

As they were already open, I immediately put on shoes, got in the car and reviewed my mental list of products to look out for at Green Valley Collective. Five minutes later I was driving into the dispensary’s uncharacteristically large rear parking lot recalling my lunch at Coley’s many years prior (jerk chicken, black beans and rice, and bottle of Red Stripe). That sweet and savory memory was the perfect tonic for my usual first time customer jitters, and as I walked across the lot toward the front of the building I felt very much at ease. I noted security cameras posted strategically on the side of the building and appreciated the dispensary’s concern for customer and staff safety. I walked around to the front of the building and approached the entrance. I can’t recall if I was buzzed in by the front desk or if I just walked in through the front doors, but as I entered the lobby, I was almost breathless at the welcoming warmth and openness of the interior. It was not at all what I’d expected and on the whole was unique from other dispensaries I’d patronized. Where other dispensaries were compartmentalized, largely in deference to security concerns, Green Valley had an open floor plan that flowed from front to back and side to side. My recollection is that there was no glass window separating the intake administrator from the lobby, no metal grill through which customer and security were forced to communicate, and most stunningly, part of the wall at the rear of the front desk opened up into the dispensary interior, giving customers a glimpse of their destination while conveying a sense of transparency and trust. Within moments of stepping into the lobby, it was clear to me that whomever designed this dispensary paid especial attention to how energy would flow through the building in a manner resembling feng shui.

GVC front desk
Green Valley’s front desk. (Photo: Weedmaps)

The openness and internal flow of the building at Green Valley Collective, as I would discover, are as much a product of the spatial orientation as they are of the warm, luminous lighting that facilitates movement and enables customers to connect freely and transparently with staff and with whatever items of interest they spy in the cases or on the shelves. The thorough array of lights placed thoughtfully throughout the store reveals to the customer a very well organized, uncluttered, clean and functional dispensary. Customers who can see the full field of products and varieties arranged in an orderly, logical display enjoy the ability to compare all options and, with the aid of an informed budtender, make the best possible individualized choices. Customers will also notice new products, brands, and varieties and ask about them, affording budtenders the opportunity to introduce these new items into the mainstream while educating customers and making sales. That kind of thinking is win-win, and the openness and transparency I experienced at Green Valley Collective was a strong statement about the company’s integrity and purpose as well as its commitment to building positive, trusting, long-term relationships with its patrons.

As I entered Green Valley Collective, a friendly intake admin welcomed me with a smile and processed my paperwork while I directed my attention to an iPad stand on my right. Whereas at other pre-ICOs or collectives I’ve had to sign and initial digitally in multiple places, scrolling down past clause after initial-requiring clause, Green Valley’s customer agreement required only a single signature. This small but appreciated simplification of the sign-up process  reiterated to me a higher level of trust in the dispensary-customer relationship matching what I’d been struck with as I entered the lobby. I’ve found it somewhat stressful at other dispensaries standing and reading through page after page of a patient/member agreement, initialing each paragraph along the way. It makes me feel like they’re going to bust me for breaking a rule. “See! See!! You initialed clause 8 right here!!”  No thanks. Green Valley’s single signature agreement was just right. After I entered my e-mail address on the iPad to complete the sign up, the friendly admin returned my paperwork and handed me a discount card and slip for the budtender, who would be ready momentarily. As I turned for a moment to look at the spacious waiting area I heard my name called and was then buzzed in to the passageway connecting the lobby and the inner dispensary. This passageway is more like a  portal of sorts and the only completely sectioned off area in the shop. It is actually kind of cool to walk through because it feels like you are transporting from one part of a spaceship to another.

Green Valley Collective interior
Inside GVC: clean, lit, organized & stocked. Customers line up in the middle of the room. (Photo: Yelp)

I walked through the exit door at the south end of the portal and into the dispensary’s inner sanctum to see up close what I had moments ago gazed at from across the building. The openness and transparency I had experienced in the antechamber was magnified all the more now that I was in the midst of the dispensary’s wares. In the second or two after I opened the door I noted again the totally illuminated warmth of the room and its cleanliness and orderliness. Not in a sterile, antiseptic way, but in an open, inclusive, warm and trusting way. The dispensary’s thoughtful design says to the customer, “We want to be sure you have the very best opportunity to see clearly what your product choices are and know everything about that product that the packaging and our budtenders can communicate to you.” As a regular cannabis consumer and dispensary patron, I couldn’t imagine a more welcome message.

As those first few impressionistic seconds faded, Jessica, an engaging budtender with a kind countenance and affable demeanor, greeted me enthusiastically as a first time customer and asked what I wanted to see. I mentioned concentrates and clarified that I was seeking the dabbable variety, not cartridges, and Jessica directed me to the north-west corner of the shop. There are glass cannabis product-containing counters on three sides of the dispensary interior as well as cases and shelves along the walls. Patients await their turn in the middle of the room, giving them a 360 degree view of the items on display. Because I was the only patient at the time, there was no wait. Jessica walked along the perimeter to meet me at the showcase housing various live rosins, shatters, crumbles, bubble hash, diamonds and other dabbable concentrates ranging in price from under $20 for half grams of Flavor crumble to almost $100 for high end extracts like 710 Labs water hash.

GVC Concentrates
Dabbable waxes & concentrates on GVC shelves (Photo: Weedmaps)

I’ve written much about the price of dabbable concentrates and the challenges this presents to consumers, dispensaries and manufacturers. I still hold out hope that as the black market disappears and the industry begins uniformly to adhere to regulatory standards, the price of extracts and distillates will diminish. In the current market, however, the dabbing consumer is left on his own to navigate dispensary menus and weekly discounts in search of the best possible wax products for the lowest cost. I was encouraged by the selection appearing on Green Valley’s Weedmaps menu and thought the prices looked fair and comparable to other dispensaries atop my list. I was extremely pleased to discover that I had been incorrect in my understanding of their first time customer discount, because the Collective gives patients a 20% discount on their first and fifth visits in addition to offering different daily deals. Customers receive a punch card at their first visit to track their progress. It isn’t clear whether customers receive a new punch card after their fifth visit – I will ask next time. I also discovered that if you navigate to their website and provide your e-mail address, they will reply with a coupon for fifteen percent off the customer’s next purchase (I have not confirmed whether this promotion is still valid – it may be old).

GVC discount punch card
Customers receive 20% off on their 1st & 5th visits

With my new customer discount card in hand I surveyed the different waxes and resins on display and tried to correlate them with what I’d seen on Weedmaps. Some items rang a bell, while others did not, and there were a few items listed on the menu that I did not see on the shelves. It is easy to envision the challenges inherent in maintaining up-to-the-minute accuracy on Weedmaps menus, particularly while the industry remains in flux. If the industry survives and grows, there is little doubt that dispensaries will ably maintain fully accurate menus via their own websites and apps, giving customers live updates on stocked items. The good news is that Green Valley’s Weedmaps menu was accurate enough to have previewed the kind of choices I would see there, even if those exact products were no longer in stock. In other words, there were options. I perused the dabbable offerings on display and recognized something I’d seen on the menu: Flavor brand live resin sugar. I’d enjoyed Flavor’s potent and affordable crumble wax previously, having purchased it several times around the corner at the also excellent Zen NoHo dispensary, and was pleased to have the opportunity to try the sugar, reasonably priced at $45/gram (and less with my discount). By reasonably priced, I mean comparable to the lowest prices I’ve seen at similar local dispensaries for tested, labeled and pre-packaged dabbable concentrates. I chose (50/50 hybrid) Cherry OG and (indica dominant hybrid) Mango Sherbert (Sorbet?) grams of sugar while continuing to eye the shelves for an additional pick.

Flavor Mango Sorbet
Flavor Mango Sorbet live resin sugar (1g) for $45 (Photo: Eaze)

My eyes tracked over to a few varieties of Neutron Genetics live rosin shatter half-gram packages on display and Jessica brought them out of the case to give me a closer look. I found a few strains I liked, but when Jessica searched for the sale product she discovered they had sold out. Jessica was extremely contrite about the mix up and genuinely at a loss for it, assuming all responsibility and assuaging any disappointment on my part, and I continued my search,  gazing inquisitively at the shelves’ remaining wax offerings. The 710 Labs badders, rosins, and water hash were priced far out of my league at $80-$90/gram, so I kept my eyes roaming until I noticed items I hadn’t discovered on the Weedmaps menu. On a lower shelf in the case I spied grams of bubble hash by Nasha and considered my options. I’d never tried bubble hash and wasn’t sure about its dabbability. Jessica advised that if I wanted to dab it, I should first grab some wax on the dab tool and then dip the sticky end into the hash to coat it before hitting the banger. The gram of hash cost $35 ($28 with the discount) and Jessica guided me toward the (indica cross) Blue Cheese to meet my nighttime relaxation needs. I continued to peruse the shelves and wondered to myself which customers were those able to afford $90 grams of concentrate. Not me. Jessica was extremely patient while I considered my options and gave me ample time to deliberate while also suggesting alternatives like Nasha’s hash temple balls (I may try next time.) Jessica did not rush me at all and asked if there was anything else I needed even though there were now customers waiting in the mid-store line. I can’t emphasize enough how important Jessica’s patience with me was to my positive first impression of Green Valley Collective.

Nasha Blue Cheese Bubble Hash wasn’t on the menu, but was on the shelves for $35/gram (Photo: Kushy dot io).

Patience with cannabis consumers isn’t just good customer service, it is an acknowledgment by the dispensary staff that cadillac concentrates and connoisseur cannabis are not cheap and that consumers should be afforded a reasonable amount of deliberation before making a final choice. Realistically, this principle of budtender-customer patience applies to all dispensary exchanges, because affordability is so relative to a customer’s means, and those budtenders who show the most patience make the most lasting impressions on customers. Green Valley Collective recognizes not just the high cost paid by customers for quality compliant cannabis products, but also the impact of taxes imposed by city and state, which the dispensary responsibly differentiates for its recreational and medical consumers. Other storefronts I’ve patronized have not been clear about taxing customers, and I’ve on a few occasions reluctantly paid recreational taxes even though I am a medical patient. No surprise that I return to these businesses only when other options are unavailable.

GVC Staff
Green Valley Collective staff (Not sure how up to date this is) (Photo: Weedmaps)

Satisfied with the three grams I’d chosen, I tracked Jessica along the length of the counter to the nearest cash register and asked if she wouldn’t mind giving an overview of the store since we had only so far focused on waxes and concentrates. Although another budtender by that time had begun to help waiting customers, there were others still in line, and yet Jessica nonetheless accommodated my request and causally yet methodically identified where in the store they stocked different categories of products. As I followed her description of the room with my eyes I caught a glimpse of the waiting customers, all of whom seemed engaged by the 360 degree view from their perch in the middle of the store. This reconfirmed my initial impression about the wisdom of placing the line in the room’s midpoint – that it is very customer-centered thinking. My recollection is that the last product section described by Jessica contained their CBD selections, and as I took mental note of what I could, Jessica processed my discount card and explained that my savings would offset the taxes plus a little more. My budtender’s thoughtful tax/discount explanation was itself another acknowledgment of and respect for my financial concerns as a customer, and I again appreciated it. To top it off, as she packaged my purchases and wished me well, Jessica explained that I would receive a $1 discount if I brought back the child-proof meds bag on my next visit. Some other dispensaries provide a bag gratis on the first visit and charge a fee if the customer fails to bring the bag back on subsequent visits. This punitive approach has always struck me as in poor taste. Thankfully, and unsurprisingly, Green Valley Collective conversely offers customers an incentive to recycle their meds bags. As a customer, I always prefer carrots to sticks. Every. Single. Time.

GVC Purchases
First Impressions: With the first time 20% discount at Green Valley Collective, I got my three purchases the easy way!

Since bringing my meds home I’ve had the joy of sampling them all. The Flavor sugars, although moderate in THC content at around 65%, are so terpene-rich that a single pea-sized dab will envelop your body, glaze your eyes and in some ways feel as potent as concentrates 30% higher in THC content. Jessica’s advice about dipping a dab of wax into the bubble hash didn’t pan out, as the hash granules were hardened and compacted. The hash was fresh, having been made only a month prior, but it was not for dabbing. Instead, I’ve at times enjoyed chunky scoops of the Blue Cheese atop crumbled Tangie moonrocks in a glass pipe, at other times atop hybrid moonrock bits in an iced beaker bong, and I’ve also sandwiched scoops between layers of Durban Poison grounds for dry vaping in my AirVapeX. This last method has proven the most enjoyable, as the bubble hash’s incense-like sweetness complements and balances Durban Poison’s piney, diesel taste, while the heavy indica qualities of the Blue Cheese moderate the Poison’s overstimulating tendencies. I’ve looked further into the dabbability of bubble hash but decided that it would be better used with flower or by itself either in a pipe, bong, or in the AirVape X. I look forward to checking out Nasha’s other products, its temple ball hash in particular, and will keep an eye on Green Valley’s Weedmaps menu and hope that they’ll add Nasha to their inventory.  And I’ll look forward to returning to Green Valley Collective on Thursdays and Fridays for their daily deals – on Friday’s customers can pick their own deal from the other daily offerings – and will be a very satisfied return customer if what I experienced on my first trip is matched from visit to visit. My superlative first trip to Green Valley Collective this week tells me I have every reason to expect it will.

LIL’ GREEN BUDDY: MY 710 LIFE MICRO MINI ENAIL

The 710 Life Micro Mini Enail arrives preset to 710 degrees, but I easily reset it to 720. It is lightweight and compact enough to fit in your pocket.

The 710 Life Micro Mini Enail, made by 420 Life, is an efficient, reliable, stylish, functional, compact, portable and reasonably priced electric heating element that obviates the need for a butane torch. Beginner or expert, low temp or high temp dabber, it doesn’t matter. The enail is very easy to set up and operate, giving the user precise control over the temperature and duration of each dab and dab session. Wax won’t burn to carbon or flash into the ether, nor will it puddle at the bottom of the bucket, because the 710 Life Micro Mini Enail won’t overheat, nor underheat, your dab. The 710 Life Micro Mini Enail sets itself apart from its competition by boasting the only all-digital thermometer system, which maintains a consistent, specific temperature far better than analog systems. If you currently use a torch, get rid of it (responsibly), and if you’ve never used one, don’t even consider it. The 710 Life Micro Mini Enail is one of those rare products that delivers exactly what is promised.

So what promises does 420 Life make about its 710 Life Micro Mini Enail? The first page of the enail instruction booklet makes it clear: “Award-winning precise low temp true flavor at your fingertips.” 420 Life’s multiple High Times Cannabis Cup awards confirm the first part of their claim and lend official approbation to the company as a reputable enail manufacturer. The 710 Life Micro Mini Enail’s all-digital design empowers the user to maintain precise low and moderate temperatures, yielding a fuller spectrum of terpenes and affirming the second part of the company’s claim. And the compact size of the unit enables users to assemble the parts, power the device and control temperature, literally with their fingertips, meeting the third of 420 Life’s claims. Marijuana consumers embracing alternatives to the deleterious effects of traditional combustion and smoke inhalation seeking a reliable, safe vaping experience would be wise to invest in a 710 Life Micro Mini Enail and a rig.

Vaping in its different forms has become popular because it is healthier, more efficient, and more discrete than burning and does not produce unpleasant smoke or pungent odors. The aromas wafting from vaped cannabis distillates are actually quite fragrant and sweet thanks to the abundant terpenes reintroduced following distillation. Those who’ve never dabbed using a butane torch and who are unaware of the downsides may question the need for a relatively large upfront enail investment of about $170. This is understandable, as a decent torch and fuel can be had for a mere $30 or so. But this way of thinking fails to acknowledge the costs of butane torch dabbing that accumulate over time. To wit, in just 4 months or so of torch dabbing, I went through three quartz buckets, several rig cleanings, grams of wasted concentrate, and many torch refills. Butane proved to be high-maintenance and cost-inefficient. It also left a mess. The grossness of a rig knee deep in mucky, reclaim resin isn’t just a nagging eyesore; it also diminishes the quality of the potent, aromatic concentrates. Put simply, torch use is cost inefficient in the long run while in the short term inhibiting the user from enjoying the concentrates’ full beneficial properties.

The dab cycle (photo: Weedmaps)

Before giving up butane, I worked diligently to find an optimal torch dabbing formulation, adjusting flame size, counting off seconds of heating and cooling times, brushing the banger with the flame in different patterns and spots, but I was never able to recreate the same quality of heat from one dab to the next. There are abundant video demos online claiming the magic formula for torch use, for consistent heating from session to session, and for low temperature vaping. I watched several of these videos and attempted to follow the instructions given, tried to experiment to find my method, but it remained hit and miss. I was getting plenty of vapor, but it was harsh on the lungs and all the vapor was packed into only a couple of draws. These unfulfilling dab sessions were simply a problem to work out, and in the back of my mind, I knew an enail was the solution. If the wasted wax wasn’t enough to motivate me, after four months or so using highly flammable butane, I was tired of the worry and decided to ditch the torch.

420 Life manufactures and sells a wide variety of dab products and accessories

I dug into the High Times magazine 2017 enail “best of” list, a consumer-centered, detailed comparison of their top enail picks for that year. The original 710 Life Enail (standard, not mini) was ranked eighth on the High Times 2017 list and earned 3rd place in their 2018 Cannabis Cup competition. I read through 420 Life’s website, pleased to discover the compact version of their enail, priced about the same as their standard model. Before making my final decision, I sought out third-party, consumer reviews and really connected with a video demo by a YouTuber called SunshineStoner710. Her presentation includes a thorough unboxing and examination of the 710 Life Micro Mini Enail, a visual and operational review of the included parts and accessories, and a methodical illustration of proper assembly, setup, and safe and effective use. SunshineStoner710’s video made clear the benefits of an enail that offers consistent functionality, easy and direct temperature control, and is affordably priced (relative to the cost of other enails).

I navigated to 420 Life’s website, signed up for their newsletter and searched their linked coupon codes until a game wheel popped up on the page asking for name and e-mail in exchange for a spin. I entered my information, spun the wheel, and landed on a $15 off discount to apply at checkout. The unit comes in several colors (I chose green) and the customer may purchase add-ons including (1) an extension of the standard 1 year warranty, (2) a foam lined, drop shock and waterproof case, (3) an additional coil (the part that connects the main unit to the rig), (4) a quartz banger, and (5) additional options, including personalizing a unit with text or an image. I made my selections and completed my purchase, very happy about the free shipping, and figured I wouldn’t receive the enail for a week or so. To my welcome surprise, I received confirmation emails right away along with a new discount code (not sure the amount), then later received a final e-mail confirming shipping.

My 710 Life Micro Mini Enail arrived only a few days after ordering. I eagerly opened the box and pulled out the bonus gifts that accompanied my order. Although I’d watched SunshineStoner710’s video a couple of times, I hadn’t remembered the treasure trove of extras that came with the enail, and was a bit in awe upon seeing a sweet dab mat & cool dab tool (both with the company’s honeycomb & hornet logo), a universal titanium carb cap, quartz & ceramic inserts for the titanium nail, a couple of food grade silicon containers (one with the honeycomb logo), a handful of stickers, little rubber feet for the unit, and a few helpful postcards. The unit and power cord come housed in a branded and graphically cool cardboard box, where they are best kept when not in use. It baffles me that more companies don’t go out of their way to reward their customers in this manner, because it is a relatively inexpensive way to build a relationship and encourage repeat business.

Bonus goodies include dab tool, silicon container, dab mat, stickers and more

Unboxed, the 710 Life Micro Mini Enail is compact and lightweight enough to fit in the palm of one’s hand or in a coat pocket. Its diminutive size makes the system reasonably portable, particularly if heading somewhere with a rig and accessories already in place. The unit arrives pre-set to 710 degrees, matching the temperature found by many to be ideal for dabbing concentrates (and referencing a dabber “holiday” – “710” writ upside-down spells “OIL”). Dabs at this temperature are gentler on one’s throat and lungs. Far too many high-temperature torch dabs left me without breath and with difficulty regaining my equilibrium. I haven’t yet experienced anything like that with the 710 Life Micro Mini Enail, and I don’t miss it. If you’re like me and prefer a little more vapor than 710 degrees produces, it is very easy to change the temperature setting. I upped the temp to 720 degrees, just low enough to avoid combustion, but which produces a bit more vapor than the standard setting. I may dial down the thermostat to 715 degrees, to make sure I avoid the high temp dab zone completely. To change the unit’s temperature setting, the user presses either the up or the down arrow button on the front of the unit until reaching the preferred temperature and then presses the “set” button. There are only 4 buttons relating to temperature all on the front and a large, silver, power push-button on the back of the unit.

Titanium nail, 20mm coil, power cord & instruction manual

Dabbing with the micro mini enail is easy, fairly quick, and user-friendly. After assembling the triple OG 5 in 1 grade 2 titanium nail to fit the rig, the user attaches the 20mm barrel heating coil to the nail and connects it and the power cord to the unit. The instruction booklet illustrates different nail configurations for the 19mm or 14mm male/female or 10mm male only nail components. After the parts are in place and hooked up per the included, easy to follow instructions, it is time to plug the unit in and turn it on. The digital display immediately shows a number, around 70 – 110 degrees, and then climbs quickly to 400, then 500, then 600, where the thermostat finally slows and the unit works methodically to raise the heat to the desired temperature. It takes 5-10 minutes for my unit to reach 720 degrees. I’m sure there are higher priced enails that work more quickly to attain the desired temperature, but if you’re patient, like me, you can save a little money to spend on premium wax.

I’ve been very impressed with 420 Life’s customer service and customer-centered philosophy

The 710 Life Micro Mini Enail works by continuously raising the thermostat to a higher level, then dropping back down to reflect the actual temperature, until the user’s setting is reached. This is a normal feature of the unit. In most cases, when the unit climbs above my 720 degrees setting, it quickly settles back down to the set 720-degree temperature (give or take a degree), and remains there, making small adjustments during the dab session to account for temperature fluctuations. On a few occasions, the thermostat has appeared to continue climbing without dropping back down. I fixed the problem by resetting the temperature and turning the unit off and on again and then called 420 Life to make sure I was handling the issue correctly. I was glad I called because the gentleman with whom I spoke was eager to assist and explained in great detail that this was normal behavior for a digital unit. He instructed me to press the sideways arrow button on the front of the unit (hold for 10 seconds), which resets the system. Just consider how often you need to reset your all-digital cell phone. The same principle applies. The great irony is that this troubleshooting tip is included in the instruction booklet and I needn’t have called. And yet I’m glad I did because it afforded 420 Life the opportunity to demo their excellent customer service.

710 Life Micro Mini Enail set up for dabbing with quartz insert

The 710 Life Micro Mini Enail offers both qualitative and quantitive advantages over torch use. The moderate temperature dabs made possible by the enail enable a truer and fuller experience of the strain or variety of wax consumed. The constant electric heat facilitates the transformation of wax to liquid and then vapor without burning away the terpenes or charring the wax. The fuller spectrum of terpenes enhances the overall user experience resulting in less wax needed to achieve the same psychoactive effect. Set to 720 degrees, or 710 if one prefers, the 710 Life Micro Mini Enail generates far more vapor per dab session than the torch, which packs all the vapor produced into one or two overwhelming draws. In contrast, a moderate temperature enail distillate dab provides 10 or more hefty yet tasty and smooth draws. The 710 Life Micro Mini Enail produces and maintains heat fierce enough to continue vaporizing the liquefied concentrate until it is all but gone. With a greater aggregate vapor yield in each dab session, I’ve taken fewer trips to the dispensary. In both senses, qualitatively and quantitatively, the 710 Life Micro Mini Enail has already saved me money and improved my dabbing efficiency.

Although an enail eliminates the dangers posed by butane, it does present a serious hazard if not used responsibly and as instructed. Any time you’re dealing with electricity or extreme heat, caution is in order. I’ve come up with a few common sense rules of thumb that limit the potential for serious problems. While dabbing I keep the temperature at 720 degrees and although high temp dabs can be particularly heady, I won’t go higher than that. I always turn off, unplug, and disassemble the unit after each session and clean my tools and the mat with an alcohol wipe. I also try to keep the nail and inserts q-tip “clean” to avoid carbon accumulation and to maintain flavor. This is all easily accomplished in five minutes, tops. It might be overkill, but it gives me peace of mind. Carelessness and intentional misuse are the quickest routes to tragedy, so it is imperative that the dabber be methodical and focus on what he’s doing to avoid any unwelcome outcomes.

420 Life honeycomb & hornet logo on dab mat with boxed micro mini enail

After a month of frequent, problem-free use, I wholeheartedly endorse the 710 Life Micro Mini Enail. It is a well-made, highly functional product made by a company that prioritizes its customers’ needs and concerns over crass commercialism or high-pressure sales. And those extra goodies they included in the package? They’re put to good use every day. The dab mat is the perfect size for my beaker rig and keeps the counter clean, the dab tool has a generous scoop that works well with saps and sauces and the ceramic and quartz inserts allow for slight variations in taste and how dabs vaporize. After sampling the titanium nail, and ceramic and quartz inserts, I find quartz the best surface for producing the cleanest, most unadulterated vapor taste and use it almost exclusively. High Times noted in its review on the Best of 2017 list that 420 Life’s quartz banger (not the insert) made specifically for use with the 710 Life Micro Mini Enail is what truly sets the unit apart from other standard enails, its all-digital design notwithstanding. If this is true, then I look forward to getting the quartz nail when I’m ready to upgrade. For now, the insert will do just fine.

DURBAN POISON & THE UPLIFT OF DAYTIME SATIVAS

When I obtained my medical marijuana referral and became a legal cannabis consumer, I began viewing cannabis in terms of how it might ameliorate my maladies. Insomnia topped the list of imbalances for which I sought relief, and I quickly familiarized myself with the soporific qualities found in indica dominant strains. Indicas seemed to help with other issues like anxiety, indigestion, and back pain, which is probably why the best indica strains always seem to be in short supply. Indicas tend to have higher potencies as well, making them a popular recreational choice. There were plenty of sativa offerings available at my local dispensaries, but I was looking right past them.

I got a handle on my insomnia with nighttime medicating, but was at a loss for how I might use cannabis during the day for other ailments. I didn’t want to be left sleepy, overly relaxed, or couch-locked when I had things to do and places to go, and I didn’t want to trigger any depression, which seems to go hand in hand with anxiety. How, then, to medicate during the day? How to treat anxiety and ocular hypertension without diminishing my energy and activity? How to treat the anomie and ennui that accompanies dreary housework? The Stones have a song about that. Could sativa strains be my father’s little helper? These questions stuck with me for far too long, and the answer sought me out in a glorious way.

The Rolling Stones clue into a hausfrau’s daily drudgery

Durban Poison is a landrace strain, in this case a pure sativa strain borne of genetically pure seeds native to South Africa. When I was contacted by a third party I’d never previously met asking if I’d like to transform some of his homegrown Durban Poison harvest into cannabis comestibles, I jumped at the chance to collaborate. I was impressed with the sativa characteristics attributed to Durban Poison and was amazed at how well the (very potent) cookies lived up to the descriptions I’d read. The cookies energized me with a rosy outlook in spite of the day’s mundane tasks, and sparked a creative flow that had me writing and baking cookies and playing guitar. The effects were both cerebrally intense and mentally clarifying, leaving me feeling very affected and at the same time totally lucid. Most importantly, I didn’t feel tired and I didn’t feel anxious.

California Dab Company Jack Herer distillate / sauce

I’ve sense become much more interested in sativas and have had success with other strains and varieties that provide the kind of uplift and energy I’ve experienced with the Durban Poison cookies. If you’ve got a Stiiizy vape battery (if you don’t, I highly recommend you get one), their (sativa dominant) Blue Dream strain works very well during the day, and the battery is small enough to allow for discrete vaping wherever your day takes you. For the dabbers out there, I have a few very worthy recommendations as well. California Dab Company (CDC) makes a mind-blowing array of clear distillate-esque sauces including the classic Jack Herer, a dizzying sativa. Flavor brand’s Sour Tangie live resin sugar has a scintillating sweet-pungent aroma and taste that amplifies the crisp, lucid high. Saving the best for last, Neutron Genetics Hawaiian Punch strain “NuClear” distillate bears a candied sweetness that brightens the sativa-enhanced mood like nectar from the gods.

These are only a few of the incredible array of sativa strains and varieties finding their way to dispensary shelves and into the lives of people who will benefit from their anti-anxiety and anti-depressive effects. Hopefully others will begin to break away from their more habituated, indica-exclusive approach to medicating as I have. It’ll open up a whole new world of daytime possibilities.

Neutron Genetics NuClear Hawaiian Punch Distillate