What Am I Vaping? Making Educated Vape Purchases

Cannabis 2.0 brings a lot of exciting new products to the industry, the stars being edibles and concentrates. Vape distillate is really having its moment, arriving amidst reports of illicit-market cartridges causing health issues. A regulated system for the high-demand product came right on time. Many people are taking kindly to vaping; we wonder how many people know what they are getting when they purchase cartridges. We figure a guide might help some folks.

There are two primary cannabinoid-extraction methods for distillate: CO2 & Ethanol extraction. What’s the difference?

CO2 Extraction isolates specific cannabinoids (i.e. THC & CBD) at specific temperatures. So, a CO2 cartridge’s cannabinoid make up is hypothetically precision-designed. However, it’s possible the cart may not contain the entire family of cannabinoids & sub-compounds at the same ratios that were in the cannabis before the extraction process. Ethanol extracts the full entourage of cannabinoids in one process, which renders a more balanced distillate. So, an Ethanol cartridge should contain the source cannabis’ original family of cannabinoids at similar ratios.

This brings us to the other primary options for carts : “full spectrum” & “botanical” terpene-extraction. Terpenes are the compounds in cannabis and other plants responsible for aroma, flavor, and in cannabis’ case – effect. After extracting cannabinoids, terpenes are extracted and introduced back into the distillate to curate its flavor & effects. Bear in mind that all terpenes are the same, no matter where they’re from.

Terpenes are generally extracted using CO2, but isolating them requires a lower temperature than cannabinoid extraction. So, CO2-based carts still go through this additive process. Ethanol extraction almost completely eliminates most terpenes. An ethanol distillate is therefore essentially flavorless & odorless after cannabinoid extraction. For this reason, most edibles use ethanol-extracted THC/CBD as to not present a “weedy” taste to your snack.

So, terpenes. “Full-spectrum” carts have the source flower’s original terpenes re-introduced, to create the a ‘true’ distillate for that strain. It should taste & feel like the original cannabis. Botanical terpenes are specifically curated and introduced to create a desired flavor & effect. This essentially renders a brand new, intentionally designed experience. Botanical terpene carts could taste nothing like cannabis. Other botanical carts can be a play on their original strains, presenting a creatively ‘enhanced’ version of them.

When you browse a menu and you see a cart that’s Ethanol-Extracted/Full Spectrum, you can assume it’s an honest representation of the strain. CO2-Extracted/Botanical Carts are the opposite: intentionally rendering the effects & flavor they produce. The other two permutations sort of sit in the middle; either the terpene profile (Ethanol x Botanical) or the cannabinoid profile (CO2 x Full Spectrum) are purposefully designed, the other left honest to the source.

On a final, important note, let’s quickly talk about thinning agents. Pure, distilled THC or CBD would be too viscous to vape, so terpenes act as a natural dilutant that allows distillate to vaporize properly. Be aware that some companies use additional thinning agents in their cartridges; substances like propylene glycol (commonly abridged to “PG”) & phytol are also present in some vape options on the market. These materials have proven to be volatile at high temperatures, and can potentially be dangerous depending on the device or heat settings you use. At Evergreen, we make sure not to carry any vape cartridges that contain these substances. So, make sure to be informed of which options are safe and which contain potentially harmful additives if you are shopping elsewhere.

Hope this all helps you make educated decisions when it comes to vape distillate!

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Ultra Sour by Wildlife, a Staff Review

I’ve been waiting a long time to write this review. The first strains that I would truly label as “craft” are available at Evergreen!

We are still waiting for BC micro producers to be available, but if this is any indication of what to expect then the future looks bright.

I sampled Ultra Sour by Wildlife. I was really hoping to give it a super positive / exciting / holy cow! review…. and that is exactly what I get to do.

I was hit with a very strong smell when I opened the package, the flavor was classic Ultra Sour, with the diesel aspect really popping out. It also reminded me of a Haze or Congolese. The buds were moist but not damp, a really nice cure. Tight and spongy.

They ground up beautifully. The smell got even stronger, there was no dust and nothing got stuck in the grinder teeth.

I packed half a gram into my PAX3 and got ready for the beach. My plan was to finish my book then take a quick dip before getting high and listening to tunes in the sun.

That didn’t happen. I was way too excited. I had the vape heating up (lowest setting) before I put down my blanket.

It was delicious. The vapor was strong and consistent, the flavor was exactly like the smell. I was immediately very high. Pure sativa buzz. Often when I jump in cold water I find myself instantly sober but when I jumped in the water the high held. I finished my book after the swim, which is big news as I normally find it hard to read after consuming. My focus was strong. The high lasted a long time and as a pleasant surprise wore off into a nice heavy stone feeling (probably the mk ultra mix as it is a cross of MK Ultra and Sour).

Craft has arrived.

Don’t Limit Your Experience Based on THC Content!

“What’s the THC percentage on that?”
“I need your highest THC Sativa, please.”

This sort of question is something we field dozens of times a day. And we get it; for those of us who engage with alcohol, we’ve been trained to know that 100-proof liquor is going to have a stronger effect than a bottle of wine – and we’re convinced Canadian beer is so much better because its 5% alcohol volume must be different than America’s measly 3% hop water.

It should be no news to anybody that cannabis is fundamentally different than alcohol, but we seem to remain in this place where numbers matter. Well, do they?

I saw an opportunity to smoke weed in the name of science, and I will always be there to answer that call, so I decided to be the guinea pig and smoke “low THC” products on your behalf. Brave, I know. I also tried some strains with big, beautiful numbers to compare. Here are the details of my experiment.

When RE-UP (Namaste‘s white-label value brand) launched, we got a couple of strains from them, at virtually unprecedented value for the time — the “catch”, I suppose, is that the packages contained small buds with THC content between 11-14%, which would be low, if you asked somebody who values those numbers. I grabbed their Sensi Star, one of my favorite indicas, which they branded as SNSSTR. “Sinister”, we jokingly called it behind the desk. It wasn’t very sinister. I experienced a mellow high, decent body effects – nothing remarkably “strong”, but pleasant no doubt. What I noticed more than anything was that the trademark vanilla-extract aroma and flavour I’m accustomed to with Sensi Star wasn’t super present. (I don’t need to be sneaky here, that observation serves as a little foreshadowing.) I was satisfied, especially for the value, but as a daily user it was a bit light for me.

Next came the Sensi Star from Alberta craft cannabis producer 7Acres, which touted 20% THC on its label, and came with the classic spade-shaped buds I’d expect from Sensi Star, along with a much more powerful aroma & flavour. It was lovely. The result was a classic SS buzz, happy and relaxed. Perhaps this content thing does matter?

Well, Namaste re-enters the chat with pre-rolls of their traditional Sensi Star. These PRs were at the same percentage as the RE-UP buds, at around 12%. I figured that if these weren’t under the white-label, they must be different. These PRs were perfect: full of flavor, and the half gram session took me exactly where I wanted to go in terms of intensity. It was absolutely on par with my experience with 7Acres.

Finally, I recently took home an eighth of Kelowna Kush from THC Biomed, a BC company whose quality/value balance is consistent and impressive. This batch of Sensi Star came in at 14.5%, had my nice round buds, and the trademark vanilla scent. I had to get another eighth when I got through it – a rarity for pot snobs like us. It’s so good. Perhaps my favorite batch from this experiment.

So what gives? THC content seemed to end up having nothing to do with which batch gave me strong effects. This is the part where I drop some knowledge on you. You may have heard your favorite cannaseur talk about terpenes, the compounds in cannabis and other plants responsible for aroma & flavor. If you have, you may also have heard that they’re being found to correlate to certain effects when we’re talking strains. It is truly the terpenes that make the difference. If there was one thing that correlated to strength in effect for me, it was strength of flavor and aroma. And since I picked a strain that I knew I enjoyed, I was satisfied no matter the size of the impact.

Think of it this way; terpenes are records if THC is a volume knob. You could play any song as loud as you want, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good song, or that you’ll even enjoy listening to it (it might not even be appropriate at high volume). That said, your favorite song of all time is going to hit perfect no matter how loud it’s playing. So, why ask for the loudest record on the shelf when you could let us know what you like to listen to, or how you like music to make you feel? Perhaps you could ask for our highest-fidelity record, or our most dynamic record, or any other analogy for experience-based questions. In other words, which strain has a high quality terpene profile? Which has intense effects? Which has this effect, or that effect, at this sort of strength? The volume knob does not change the quality of the music. Yeah? Everybody following?

You must understand that it can be a little frustrating when you are passionate about finding your customers the right product, but potentially perfect choices are turned down because of a number nobody knew or cared about in the decades before brick-and-mortar pot shops. The current method of cannabinoid testing has only existed for a year and change – and we are learning that current testing methods are taken from an average of multiple plants in the grow room, and are allowed a pretty significant margin of error. Even if we told you a strain is labeled at 20%, it could be 17%, or 23%, and regardless – it may not be the super-strong strain you think it must be. Our heaviest indica right now is 16%. That doesn’t mean we don’t have anything with a bigger number, it means the indica we have with the heaviest, most sedative effects is 16%. Additionally, testing has been moving to a stage in the grow process when there is less water content in the plant, and the result is that these listed percentages are going to appear noticeably lower. So, when you ask us those classic questions about THC content, expect some of our new favourite responses:

“Do you mean you want a strain with strong effects?”
“What are you trying to accomplish or feel?”
“We’re happy to tell you, but do know this is not the best way to find a perfect fit.”

Please trust your server at cannabis stores! Ask us to help you find what’s right, and we will. Ask us what has the highest THC%, and we will sell you some. We’re happy as long as you are, but everyone on both sides of these transactions would be much happier if we were open to unlearning some common misconceptions. Cannabis is an ongoing experiment, and trying new product is supposed to be exciting and educational. Don’t stop your adventure short, and be open to new information and experiences. We love you!

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Micro-Dosing and Deep Listening Sessions

In an attempt to keep myself entertained during the pandemic lockdown, I have really gotten into Deep Listening Sessions. Too often we have our music on in the background, half listening while we go about our day. With all the free time I’ve been listening to my old records with new ears as well as filling my concert void with live albums.

I’ve said it for years: The wrong dose of an edible can be the worst thing ever, but once you’ve found your sweet spot they are wonderful. Because of the all too common “green out”, most people expect an edible to knock them off their feet. As an adult cannabis user I do not want to get blasted out of my skull – I just want to have a good time. When I was a teenager I learned what happens when you down a whole bottle of liquor, now I find it way more pleasant to enjoy a libation or two… and the same thing goes for cannabis. The magic word here is : Intent.

Here’s how I enjoyed last Thursday night:

For the past 30 years the majority of my leisure time has been spent enjoying live music. I miss it a lot right now, so I’ve been trying to fill the void by purchasing live albums and watching concert videos.

As stated in a previous post, I am not a fan of gummies so I started with a 2mg square of auora dark chocolate. If I were going out I would definitely take a larger dose, but let’s face it – I’m sitting on the couch on a weeknight. I played online backgammon with a buddy for about an hour (he won but I’m convinced the app was cheating) and then put an hour into my favorite at home past time: collage. I can’t explain it but zoning out while cutting and pasting magazine images over each other can be very zen. My main goal is to make myself laugh so I make at least one collage a week, then wake up to see my wife’s reaction when she finds it on our fridge in the morning.

By the time I was done my art I was starting to feel a little silly so I knew it was time to start the show. I filled my vape with Pedro’s Sweet Sativa and put on a record that I had never heard before: The Tragically Hip Live Between Us, an unedited full concert recorded in Detroit, 1996. I turned out the lights, lit some candles, fired up the PAX and started the record.

I think a habit of all of ours at concerts is to drink beer… while I do love the frothy amber stuff I have learnt my lesson about mixing alcohol and edibles (even small doses) so I filled my favorite beer mug with club soda and chugged sparkling water with lemon and lime all night.

As I sat in the dark listening to Gord Downie bestow his wisdom with nothing to look at except for the light on the turntable and the candles, I found myself extremely focused. I’m not sure if you’ve ever sat and listened to music but it is very easy for your mind to wander… this was definitely not the case. I’m not going to exaggerate and say I felt like was part of the crowd at Cobo Hall but I definitely appreciated the concert as an event on it’s own. I was truly in the moment.

The music took a pause as I switched from LP1 to LP2 and it gave me a breather to pay attention to my buzz. It was about three hours after I had first eaten the chocolate and my brain was feeling extremely tingly. I was happy, I was enjoying myself, I was in no danger of being too high and I was having a great Thursday night.

And thats what it’s all about.

What’s The Big Deal with Gummies?

We have the same conversation almost every day at Evergreen: “Do you have gummies?” “Sorry, we are waiting for more to arrive, may I offer you some high quality chocolate?” “No, I like gummies.”

I get it, up until a few years ago the edible story was “I was at a party, there was a plate of delicious brownies… I ate a few and later found out they were weed brownies! I almost had to go to the hospital!” Recently, the new story became “I normally don’t use cannabis but my aunt showed me these gummies, I had a tiny bite and felt great!”

The choice of food isn’t why you didn’t “green out”, the dosage is.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying not to eat gummies, just please keep in mind that eating 2mg of THC will have the same effect whether eaten in a gummie, chocolate, capsule or even a plate of peirogies. It’s really about figuring out how much you need to hit your sweet spot and then not exceeding that. Like we always say: “Start low and go slow”.

Let’s look at the ingredients in your average gummie: Water, Gelatine, Corn syrup, Sugar, Citric Acid, Flavour, Blue Raspberry Colour – FD&C Blue #1 Aluminum Lake, 28-31% Beetex wax, MCT oil and THC . Gelatine is a non-vegan, non-kosher, non-halal product made from animal hooves and nails. The next ingredients are three different types of processed sugar followed by artificial flavouring, a chemical colour, some kind of wax and finally your THC extract. The majority of the gummies on the market also contain some form of palm oil.

Now, let’s look at your average chocolate: Cocoa beans, organic cane sugar, cocoa butter, milk powder and cannabis distillate. That’s five ingredients, and all are natural.

Most of the chocolates we carry are also ethically sourced. We even have vegan options. And, if you bought this same quality of chocolate at an upscale grocery store, it would be more expensive and it wouldn’t even get you high!

“But gummies are more fun!”. Is your fun based on the thirty seconds of chewing or the five hour buzz that ensues? If you just want an excuse to eat candy, save your money and buy a jar of capsules, then stop at the corner store for a bag of jujubes on the way home.

Look at it this way: It’s Valentine’s Day, you’ve planned a big night for your sweetheart. You made the dinner reservations, picked up the roses, got all cleaned up and have enough room left in your budget for either salted chocolate caramels or some jelly beans. If you get the jelly beans, you’ll be sleeping on the couch.

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