Colorado Dispensaries Prepare for 7/10

Has it been almost three months since 4/20? Time to get out the dab rig.

The exact origin of the 7/10 celebration is murky, but it's widely agreed that the inspiration was a date whose numbers look like the word "oil" when turned upside down. While July 10 is a relatively new day of festivities for the cannabis community, 7/10 has evolved quickly as extraction technology progresses. But not all of that evolution has been appreciated.

To learn more about 7/10 and how dispensaries approach it in Colorado, we spoke with Brent McDonald, marketing director for Apothecary Farms. One of the few dispensaries that focuses more on hash than anything else, Apothecary Farms has a handful of dispensaries in Colorado and Oklahoma and supplies concentrates to stores across both states.

Westword: When did you first hear of 7/10, and how were you celebrating it?

Brent McDonald: It's obviously "oil" spelled backwards, which is sort of the gist of it [laughs]. The first time I heard about 7/10 was about seven or eight years ago, when I was in California. Out here in Colorado, I grew up in the time of the Secret Cup days. Back then, 7/10 culture was almost outpacing 4/20 culture. We were seeing this huge rise in popularity in concentrates six or seven years ago, and we knew this was going to be the future of cannabis use. Back in the days of the 710 Cup and Secret Cup from Daniel de Sailles, I wasn't competing in them, but I was definitely attending and idolizing the folks competing in them.

How does the hash you were smoking back then compare to what's on the market today?

It was definitely butane hash oil (BHO), shatters and budders. Back then, all the connoisseurs were smoking was nug-run [not from shake] BHO. Live resin was still very much in its infancy and just wasn't accessible or attainable for everyone. I remember these nug-run shatters from the Pink House and the Clinic were some of the best concentrates on the market at the time. They were nug-run, and the flavors and highs were incredible.

That was before the rise of rosin and resin tech, though, and now we're very solventless-focused. I'll be smoking live hash rosin on 7/10 this year, and it's definitely one of our most popular products that we sell in Colorado and Oklahoma. It has changed our focus from hydrocarbon extract to mainly solventless. We still do a lot of hydrocarbon extraction, but we've shifted to solventless, for sure.

Given how quickly cannabis extraction technology evolves in the space, how much of an undertaking is to go from a butane or solvent-focused extraction system to rosin techniques?

It's a huge undertaking. Solventless extraction, in general, is not a large-scale production technique. The solution we needed to find was how to produce more. For us, that took more shifts and a second machine, which is essentially a closed-loop solventless system. So now we're not in there running it by hand anymore, at least, but it can still only run at about three times less capacity than BHO.

It doesn't just end there with rosin, either. After that run, you still need to put the bubble hash in the freeze-dryer, let it dry overnight and then take it to the rosin press. Whereas on the BHO side, you can whip up a shatter or budder in a fraction of the time. We had to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on new equipment, so it was a big undertaking. We were sort of forward-thinking on this four or five years ago and knew cannabis extraction was going in that direction because things were changing so fast, yearly and monthly. It probably took a year or year and a half to get it running the way we wanted.

How does 7/10 stack up against 4/20 from a cultural impact nowadays?

7/10 has kind of fizzled out if I'm being honest, and 4/20 is similar. In Colorado, specifically, the state kind of did away with these large events that really attracted cannabis tourism, like the 710, High Times and Secret cups — and that scared all of us away from building true community. We were worried about losing our business licenses for just smoking and hanging out. I get that side of things, but it definitely has degraded the culture in Colorado. There's just not a lot going on here anymore. I know of maybe three events in Colorado for 7/10 this year, and they're all fairly small. I'm talking a few hundred people, tops, and not something attracting the masses.

Given declining cannabis prices and sales in Colorado, how do you view 7/10's potential this year? Will it provide a good shot in the arm for dispensaries?

We're running some of the most aggressive deals we've ever run on 7/10. We run bigger sales on 7/10 than on 4/20 because we're a concentrate-focused dispensary. It's also a big sale opportunity, because the Fourth of July is a few days before that. The fact that it's on a Sunday allows us to run aggressive sales all weekend long, too. It's still a huge opportunity to boost and increase sales, but I think some stores miss out on it because they don't view it as impactful. That's all in the eyes of the beholder, though.

We're throwing some parties, too. We're throwing a party at a glassblowing studio in Colorado Springs, and then another party at our dispensary in Denver, where we'll have a mural painting. We're participating in a festival in Pueblo with some cool vendors involved, also, but this is nothing more than a few cool companies getting together

Do you see cannabis extraction evolving much more than it already has?

Not at the moment. What pushed us toward solventless was really the advancement of tech in BHO making. The color remediation column process can essentially take the worst-quality product and make it look beautiful by removing undesirable colors. But that put some tomfoolery in the concentrate market, which pushed people toward a more natural product. If people can afford it, they're switching over to solventless, and there will continue to be advancement in solventless tech. I don't want to say we've regressed, because solventless is the pinnacle, but I don't feel like we're going to get beyond that. Hydrocarbon extraction sure won't; we've already gone down that road.

I think we're just going to get better at solventless tech, and now we're seeing breeders breed strains that are made for solventless extraction, too. I'm looking forward to new flavor profiles on the solventless side, because right now it's all Papaya, GOM and Trop on that side. More unique and exotic terps is the chase we're on right now as cannabis processors and growers.