Source: William M. Welch, USA TODAY
Twenty-six states plus the District of Columbia have enacted laws that allow people to use medical marijuana with a doctor’s recommendation. Two of those states – Colorado and Washington – have legalized marijuana for recreational use. Marijuana is still illegal under federal law, but the Justice Department said it will not challenge states’ marijuana laws as long as they do not run counter to certain federal enforcement priorities, such as selling pot to minors.
LOS ANGELES — Chris Folkerts started selling electronic cigarette-like devices from the trunk of his car two years ago. Now he and two partners own one of the biggest brands in the business, with products in 4,000 stores nationally, an art deco office on the city’s fashionable Miracle Mile and an endorsement deal with rapper Snoop Dogg.
The rapid success of Grenco Science, the privately held company Folkerts founded, mirrors the fast growth of the business it is in — marketing devices that allow marijuana users to vaporize their psychoactive weed rather than smoke it.
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“This is a big industry — it is the future,” Folkerts, 31, says. “We’re really on the cusp of exploding.”
With Grenco’s “G Pen” line and a vast marketplace of competitors, marijuana users can avoid the hassles, hazards and telltale smell that goes with lighting up a pot pipe or cigarette, as well as the uncertain dosage and delayed effects that come with ingesting marijuana-infused food and drink.
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Just as e-cigarettes have transformed the business and national debate over tobacco smoking, e-cig technology and vaping are bringing major change to cannabis culture and business — even altering the way pot is packaged and sold in states where it is legal for medical or recreational purposes.
Steve DeAngelo, a marijuana entrepreneur and activist who founded the Harborside Health Center medical marijuana dispensary in Oakland, says the arrival of compact, portable, microprocessor-controlled vaporizers and advances in extracting active ingredients from cannabis plants have caused a shift in consumer demand.
Some dispensaries such as his and many in Colorado, where recreational pot is legal, now do roughly 50% of their business in raw marijuana leaf or flowers, and the rest in edibles and concentrates, some prepackaged in cartridges for use in vape pens, he says.
“The percentage of raw (pot) flowers we sell has been dropping steadily,” DeAngelo said. “The percent of extracts and concentrates … has been rising steadily.”
Grenco Science is headquartered in the fashionable Deco Building in the Miracle Mile area of Los Angeles. Chris Folkert started selling electronic cigarette-like devices from the trunk of his car two years ago. Now he and two partners own one of the biggest brands in the business, with products in 4,000 stores nationally.(Photo: Dan MacMedan, USA TODAY)
A TRUE GROWTH INDUSTRY
The transformative technology comes at a time when marijuana is gaining in legal and public acceptance.
While marijuana remains illegal under federal law, Colorado and Washington have made it legal to possess and use, and 20 states have made it legal for medical uses. Alaska has scheduled a vote on full legalization in August, and legal changes for pot are afoot in several other states. Recent public opinion polls for the first time show majority support for ending pot prohibition, and President Obama recently said marijuana was no worse than alcohol.
The rise of marijuana e-cigs coincides with the development in recent years of potent new forms of concentrated marijuana extractions in liquid, viscous and waxy forms. Those concentrates lend themselves easily to vaporization and are used to fuel many of the vape pens on the market, though there also are many vaporizers made for consuming marijuana leaves and flowers.
Vaping’s growth, ease of discreet use and high-strength concentrates raise alarms among pot’s opponents.
“This really portends the next generation of marijuana use,” says John Lovell, a Sacramento attorney and lobbyist for the California Narcotics Officers’ Association and California Police Chiefs Association.
Those law enforcement groups remain strongly opposed to marijuana legalization, and Lovell says the rise of high-strength concentrates for vaporizing “gives the lie to the allegation that somehow marijuana use is benign.” Home manufacturing of the concentrates can be dangerous if flammable solvents such as butane are used, he notes, and their potency can deliver a fast and powerful high to the user.
The concentrates can be composed of as much as 80% or even 90% THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the psychoactive ingredient of the cannabis plant. Advocates such as DeAngelo say the extraction process can be designed to concentrate another ingredient, CBD (cannabidiol), for non-psychoactive medical uses.
A DANGER FOR CHILDREN?
Some parents are alarmed that pot concentrates may be discreetly vaporized by children.
“It’s a perfect combination — it’s so easy (and) there’s no odor,” says Marcie Beckett, a San Diego mother of two who is part of a coalition opposing marijuana legalization. “People beware: Kids can now use these vaping devices to use marijuana, and you’ll never know.”
So far there’s been little scientific research on the use of vaporizers, though the federal Food and Drug Administration has announced its intention to examine and regulate e-cigarettes. Many cities, including Los Angeles, have moved to prohibit e-cig use in public.
Some doctors who support marijuana’s medical use recommend vaping with reservations.
Bob Blake, a San Diego-area physician, says he advises patients against vaporizing concentrates because of unknown health risks with some types of vape pens. He says the long-term health effects of smoking marijuana are far less than smoking tobacco, but he recommends vaporizing cannabis flowers and leaves to many patients who don’t smoke. He hands out an informational paper on vaporizing to patients, including some in their 80s, and recommends certain vaporizers he thinks are safest.
Read full article: http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2014/03/15/marijuana-vaporizing-gains/6042675/