Organizing the products available in a dispensary is difficult because the distinctions between categories can be very fluid and often the organizing principles that make sense in cultivation or production are different from those being used by the consumer at the dispensary. While you would like to craft a product line in full consideration of the patient’s demands, you have to ensure compliance with regulations that are not always aligned with medication needs of your consumers.
The quality of dried and cured flowers of the cannabis plant are sorted into three tiers. The first tier will be the best quality product that is displayed on the sales floor and sold by weight.
The second tier is essentially as efficacious as the first tier, but is aesthetically inferior in some way (typically less dense bud structure or leafier, also called “larfy”). This second tier can be either processed into pre-rolled joints or sold at a discounted rate (ex: Weekly Eighth Special).
The third tier is what is commonly called “shake” or “trim.” “Shake” is the small pieces that fall off the cannabis bud as a result of regular handling. “Trim” is the pieces that are removed from the cannabis plant before it is cured. This third tier can be sold as discounted, pre-rolled joints or as a bulk special (ex: Roll Your Own Special). Many people turn this third tier into extracts in order to optimize the phytochemical content.
There are a multitude of processes through which compounds can be extracted from cannabis, and often you will see extracts in dispensaries allude to these differing methodologies. The process used will affect the compounds more likely to be present, but ultimately end product potency testing is most reliable. The solvents used for extraction should not be found in the end product. Full spectrum extracts, such as RSO, include compounds such as chlorophyll and plant lipids and are best for oral consumption. Other extracts are almost exclusively cannabinoids that will vaporize completely when used on a dab rig. These extracts can also be put into a vaporizer cartridge that includes a heating element to deliver small puffs of vapor in a convenient mobile device.
Cannabis can be combined with almost any food item, given that a few core principles are followed in their creation. Heat can be applied directly to the cannabis flower which can then be used as the base material in an edible or capsule, or one of the extraction processes can be utilized wherein heat is applied and the end extract is ready for oral consumption as is. Often, the extracts are created with food grade oils or emulsified into them to increase their efficacy. This is because cannabinoids bind to fat molecules, and binding them to healthy Omega 3’s (like coconut oil) helps them pass the blood/brain barrier.
Cannabis topicals can be prepared as lotions, salves, balms, chapsticks, bath salts, roll-on oils, and rubs, among others. Each of these preparations will have a different level of therapeutic effect based on the absorption rate of the base, potency of cannabinoids, and application method used. Note that some mild psychoactive effect can be achieved if a permeable membrane interacts with the topical solution, such as when soaking in bath salts.
Transdermal patches are a relatively new delivery method in cannabis medicine. Transdermal patches are applied topically to the skin to allow the medication to be absorbed in a time-release fashion (typically over a 24 hour period). Transdermal patches offer a more consistent effect than edible forms of medical marijuana. This is due to the release rate being controlled by the patch itself and not the body’s metabolism. They require specialized equipment, tend to be more expensive than equivalent options, and are prone to irritation when removed, but can provide a stable, long-term relief when alternate forms of consumption are insufficient.