If Colorado’s statistics are any indicator, concentrates are quickly becoming the next big thing in the cannabis industry.
In the first quarter of 2016, retail sales of concentrates in the state’s medical and recreational markets saw a 125 percent increase from the same period the year before, Marijuana Business Daily reported. This sudden uptick in demand provides “a window into trends that will likely play out in the larger marijuana industry over time,” the website added.
However, this rising star in the cannabis industry poses unique challenges to the uninitiated customer. The equipment necessary to consume concentrates can make for a costly investment, and their potency can give even experienced cannabis customers a stronger dose than they bargained for. With these factors in mind, customer education is essential for any operation that decides to enter this booming market. We spoke with industry professionals in both the medicinal and recreational markets for tips on educating first-time customer, as well as helping them find the best product for their needs and budget.
Concentrates can be a highly effective delivery method for the medicinal properties of cannabis. However, preparing them for use and using them to the best effect takes some training.
Concentrate oils “can really do wonders” for patients suffering from conditions like seizure disorders and the pain associated with fibromyalgia, said Joseph Friedman, the chief operating officer at PDI Medical, a medical dispensary based in Buffalo Grove, Ill. As an added benefit, concentrates eliminate the need to inhale burning plant matter, making them an ideal choice for patients with upper respiratory issues or those who simply prefer not to smoke.
When introducing concentrates, the staff at PDI Medical make sure their patients know that “a little will go a long way,” Friedman said.
For example, when instructing patients on how to use Rick Simpson oil — a cannabinoid-rich solvent solution used for medicinal purposes—they advise patients to start with one drop, or even less. “Otherwise, it can be too much,” he said.
Friedman shows his patients how to manipulate various types of concentrates in preparation for their use. For instance, he demonstrates how a syringe of cannabis oil can be warmed between the hands to reduce its viscosity and make it easier to produce a single drop.
Technique, or how the concentrate is consumed, is also important. For patients who prefer to vape, he advises them to wait five to seven minutes between inhalations. “We always caution to start low and go slow,” he said.
And since vaping equipment can be pricey, the dispensary also offers a disposable, inexpensive vaping device for patients who want to decide if vaping is right for them.
In the recreational market, vaping and dabbing concentrates are often considered the healthy alternative to smoking cannabis, said Dave Munn, vice president and chief operating officer of The Spot, a recreational store with locations in Pueblo and Trinidad, Colo.
The smoke-free aspect of concentrates is part of their appeal. Another factor is their high potency. “For example, 1-gram units are testing in the 60 percent THC range on the low end and nearing 90 percent THC on the higher end,” Munn said. “This is a large swing from your flower potency ranges of 14 percent THC on the low end to 28 percent THC range on the higher end of the spectrum.”
As in the medicinal industry, the high potency of concentrate products can take first-time customers unaware. For staff at The Spot, customer education is a high priority.
“A very small amount of these concentrates will more than do the job,” Munn said. “So, much like anything else we sell, we take a lot of time and care educating the customer. We feel that this is key and crucial to awareness, expectations, and the safety of our customers.”
Concentrates are unique in other ways. Different extraction methods can impact a product’s purity, flavor and, in some cases, the price. Customers’ preferences and budgets vary, so educating them on the various extraction processes is also essential.
Finally, since many concentrates require specialized equipment, helping customers find the right products for their budget is crucial. The tools required for using waxes and shatters tend to be more expensive. However, concentrate uses vary from the simple to the complex, creating more options for the new customer. New technologies, such as concentrate pens, can be a fairly inexpensive option for customers who want to try concentrates without making a large up-front investment.
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