Dec. 30 2015 09:45 AM

Looking back on 2015’s medical marijuana developments

Looking back on 2015’s medical marijuana developments

As 2015 comes to an end, it seems like a good time to look back at how far the Michigan medical marijuana industry has come this year. There are also several important trends that emerged this year in medical marijuana sales and consumption.

This year, the number of medical marijuana dispensaries in the state has really blossomed.

With that, we saw the emergence of a major trend: the transformation of pre-rolls (ready-to-smoke rolled joints). When the first dispensaries opened in Michigan, most offered pre-rolls for convenience. At first, shops would use scraps from the bottoms of their jars or whatever was not moving off the shelves to pack into their pre-rolls. Many even used leaves or trimmings in them.

Now, with a growing market, more competition and a better informed customer base, stores have shifted toward premium, single-strain pre-rolls. Shops often offer dozens of strain-specific prerolls, made as blunts, in cones or with filters. Some are even rolled in 24-karat gold rolling papers.

Even the federal government, which provides medical marijuana to a few approved patients through the Compassionate Investigational New Drug program, supplies the weed as prerolled joints. Pre-rolled joints are not always just about convenience, however. Patients with arthritis, muscle spasms or other medical conditions may be unable to roll their own joints and benefit immensely from joints that are ready to smoke.

Another big trend in 2015 was the process of creating “rosin,” a specialized version of marijuana resin. Resin, which can be harvested from plants or made synthetically, is a sticky, viscous substance that can be used to make adhesives, varnishes or other products. Rosin is extracted from marijuana flowers without the use of solvents to create a concentrate that is a solid and amber colored. The rosin is obtained by applying pressure and heat to the buds.

The simplest way to create rosin is to place a marijuana bud between folded parchment paper, then put that inside a two-surface iron to apply heat. Press it together and hold it for several seconds, then unfold the parchment paper and scrape off the rosin. Early producers created rosin with consumer irons like one might use to straighten hair, but the process is becoming more sophisticated. This week at a Detroit dispensary, I saw a digitally operated pneumatic press for making rosin that was mounted behind the counter. It was pretty impressive.

Last, but certainly not the least trendy, is “live resin.” This product is made using butane gas, but it is vastly from the dewaxed shatter that has been on the market for years. The main difference is the flavor. Most shatter extracts are made after the flower or trim has thoroughly dried and cured. Live resin differs because it is extracted from fresh, frozen, whole cannabis flowers. Extracting the oil from the fresh plant better captures the smell and flavor of the strain and boasts higher terpene profiles. Live resin made a big splash at the Michigan Medical Cannabis Cup (a High Times magazine-sponsored marijuana trade show) where the first, second, and third place winners in both the Indica and Sativa concentrate categories were live resins. The live resins didn’t test higher in THC, but the robust flavor gave live resin the advantage. I’m excited to see how these products fare in upcoming competitions.

On a personal note, I sincerely hope that next year’s trends will include the legalization of recreational marijuana in our state. Here’s to a green 2016.

Steve Green, who writes this column every two weeks, uses marijuana to prevent seizures. He has no business ties to any dispensaries or products.