Between edibles and extracts, there’s a new product on the shelves every time I walk into a dispensary, often replacing one that floundered just weeks before. As I tell this to Guy Rocourt, he just smiles and explains why that’s an advantage for the products pushed by Neos, the hash-infused pen cartridge and battery company he founded in March 2014 after moving to Denver.
Rocourt, 43, was born and raised in New York City and has a colorful past brightened by his gregarious personality. He’d been cultivating cannabis in California for almost fifteen years before deciding in 2010 to focus most of his efforts on extraction. Rocourt worked for seven years for TV host Montel Williams, who is fighting multiple sclerosis; he says he grew cannabis for Williams, who became a medical marijuana advocate in the process. Rocourt has been robbed at gunpoint and experiments with marijuana packaging and transdermal solutions on the side — but all he really wants to talk about is his Electronic Vaporization Oil, a mixture of cannabis oil and propylene glycol vaping solution.
“Our first priorities are taste and consistency,” he says as he goes off into an excitable speech about the progress China has made in vapor-liquid packaging. “We’re coming a long way, but I still think it can be better.”
One of the rapidly growing niches of the cannabis industry, disposable hash-pen cartridges have become trendy for their convenience and subtlety. Despite their popularity, however, leaking cartridges and potency variance have plagued almost all who try to manufacture them. With a steady reputation and wide availability, O.penVAPE seems to have taken control of the young market — but Rocourt thinks there’s still room for those who take a different approach. “Everyone in the cannabis industry, not just my area, is concerned with high THC content,” he explains. “Keep it. I’ll gladly trade a little THC for more terpenes, plant fats and CBDs for a fuller, more flavorful hit.”
Instead of relying on trim for extractions, as most infused-product companies do, Neos uses strain-specific nugs along with Rocourt’s secret mixture of hydrocarbon and other natural gases to create a palatable rip, with evident notes left over from the strain. Comparing his ingredient shopping to that of a sous-chef perusing local markets for fresh ingredients, Rocourt says that he or an employee will visit multiple grows to find the best-smelling and frostiest buds to extract — which is why his Bordello and Agent Orange cartridges taste as good as fresh bowls of the buds themselves.
Try to talk to Rocourt about his methods and there’s a good chance you’ll end up chatting (and learning) about a dozen trangential subjects, too. Did you know that mold from excessive 2012 rains in Northern California scared growers to the point of mass-scale wax production, helping create the dab culture hat exists today? Or that Colorado is the only state in which Rocourt operates where sales employees can cold-call dispensaries? (Medical-only states require face-to-face meetings to ensure compliance.) Rocourt still has the excitement of a startup bottled inside his pens, and if you let him, he’ll talk for hours about his inspiration and plans for the future.
“Why can’t we be like the craft-beer industry? There’s plenty of room,” he says. “Wax is like eggs: You can ask around or search YouTube and find 1,000 different ways to make it. You’ll never be ever to duplicate what you study, but it’s just a fucking egg. Cook it.”
Rocourt’s future plans for Neos include naturally flavored hash cartridges, such as a “Cough Drop” cartridge with clove and menthol flavors, or “The Energizer,” with orange, sage and peppermint. He’s hoping to introduce a line of disposable pens sometime soon, but won’t commit to that release until he’s happy with the taste that comes with them.
A year ago, Neos sold 3,000 cartridges in its first month; Rocourt says his company is now moving 15,000 a month — and he sees unlimited opportunity. “I never thought I’d be sitting here with a reporter talking about my extraction process,” he says. “But I truly believe this is the next incarnation of cannabis as a product and medicine.”
HASH-PEN CARTRIDGES: WHAT ARE YOUR OPTIONS?
Are your weed-hating parents in town and you need to burn some stress without stinking up your bathroom? Over the past few years, hash-pen vaporizers have made discreet consumption ridiculously easier for potheads worried about displaying their true colors. There’s no arguing the convenience that pre-loaded cartridges provide, but issues with consistency in both price and quality remain. As the Chronicle’s resident stoner, I tried out four of the more common brands.
O.penVAPE Co2 150 milligram cartridge
The grandaddy of them all, O.pen provides both BHO and Co2 cartridges in 150, 250 and 500 milligrams of indica, sativa and hybrid strains. I’ve used O.pen products dozens of times, and the company gives strong credence to the saying “The best ability is availability.” You can find O.pen cartridges in almost every Denver dispensary, and there are dozens, if not hundreds, of strain flavors to choose from. The hits are steady and strong, but I can’t remember any one cartridge tasting different from another, including the more expensive Co2 version.
Despite the lack of taste, O.pen’s effects usually hold true to form: Its indicas are relaxing, its sativas are uplifting, and the hybrids bring the head/body funk you expect. Unless you leave them out in the sun, leaking is rare for O.pen cartridges, though it’s been to known to occur after a week of use. Pricing varies among dispensaries.
710 Labs BHO 250-milligram fillable kit
Taking more of a do-it-yourself approach, 710 Labs provides an empty cartridge, funnel and syringe along with 250 milligrams of THC mixed with vaping solution so that you can fill up as you go. The process is extremely easy and provides some useful tools if you ever want to fill a cartridge again, but with only 18 percent THC, the liquid was thin and its potency wasn’t quite as strong as I’d hoped. It took at least four hits to feel any sort of high off the hybrid I purchased, which might make this product better for those looking to medicate an upset stomach rather than get baked. The cartridge began leaking five days after purchase despite limited sun exposure. Although these aren’t strong enough for my taste, if you have a lower tolerance or need some discreet medication, you can grab them at Tru Cannabis dispensaries.
Neos EVO BHO 1-milliliter cartridge
A little more expensive than the rest, Neos is trying to bridge the gap between hash connoisseurs and vape enthusiasts. Measured in liquid volume instead of THC content, each batch of BHO is strain-specific and nug-run, which made my Sensi Star cartridge taste like the sweet Georgia Pines every time I took a puff. Cartridge quality and potency were also superior: The two I purchased give me a clean high and have yet to leak, even after I accidentally left them in my car for two days. As time went on, though, both cartridges became harder to draw from, making me wonder if the EVO needed a little more glycol. Neos isn’t cheap — but once you try one, it’s hard to go back to anything else.
Infusionz Nectar Bee BHO 500-milligram cartridge
Infusionz is the infused-product line owned by the Green Solution dispensary chain, though Infusionz products are carried by other Colorado dispensaries. As the BHO pen cartridge for Infusionz, the Nectar Bee packs a very strong punch for its size, so don’t approach it like every other cartridge out there, or you’ll be hacking up a lung. (The 500-milligram cartridge was smaller than O.penVape’s 150-milligram, meaning the short Nectar Bee has a serious concentration of THC.) The hybrid cartridge I bought lifted my head in the clouds, and hours later I was out cold. Because the cartridges aren’t strain-specific, don’t expect any full flavors to pop out — but they do leave a strong, hashy aftertaste that dabbers might enjoy. After five days of careful use and no heat, my cartridge has yet to leak. If you’re looking for potency and fast hits, the Nectar Bee is worth a try.