NEW YORK (MainStreet) In January when recreational marijuana use was legalized in Colorado, Ed Dickens noticed the numbers 710 posting on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. He couldn't help but ask his Denver friends what it meant. Turns out, 710 backwards and upside spells OIL, which is a reference to marijuana oil.
"You can take one hit and you will be as high as if you had taken a couple of bowl hits of marijuana," said Dickens, who lives in Washington DC. "It's a cleaner, purer high but you can build tolerance and become accustomed to it."
Dickens has been smoking marijuana oil for nearly 18 months.
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"My friends in Denver and I are completely converted," Dickens told MainStreet. "I prefer 710 over the flowers."
Unlike in Denver, recreational use is not yet legal in the capitol city and when Dickens buys oil on the street, he pays $40 to $80 a gram. That's more than double the price for street marijuana, which is an estimated $20 a gram.
"The head rush is more intense, immediate and instant," said the 28-year-old music promoter. "It feels like I'm smoking marijuana for the first time."
The use of marijuana oil has come under fire in Colorado, literally this year, after a rise in explosions and injuries from pot users trying to extract oil from marijuana at home.
In the first five months of 2014, fire departments across the state reported more than 30 oil explosions.
"Rather than butane, we use a CO2 extractor," said GFarmaLabs CEO Ata Gonzalez, who launched a line of marijuana oil called Liquid Gold in November 2013. "We put no additives or cuts in it."
Butane is a highly flammable solvent that when passed through a tube filled with marijuana flower, crystallizes the resins. As the butane-tainted resins exit the tube, the solvent is collected in a glass cup.
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While the use of flammable solvents, such as butane, can make the oil extraction process dangerous, possession of marijuana oil typically carries more severe punishment than possession of flowers depending on the state.
"The rational is a loose argument based on increased potency and dangers associated with concentrates," said Tae Darnell, an attorney who specializes in marijuana law. "Most of the arguments are unfounded and irrational; however, punishment for concentrates is typically more severe than punishment for flower in states without marijuana laws and sometimes even in states with marijuana laws."
Dickens looks forward to the day when the capitol city legalizes marijuana or when he moves to a legal state, whichever comes first.
"The oil lasts as long as an eighth depending on what type of smoker you are but oil is more potent so you need lesser of it," Dickens said. "It's a cleaner, purer high and a novelty. When you get bored of marijuana flowers, you splurge on oil."
With a THC concentration of 70%, sales of Liquid Gold in California have increased by 10% monthly, according to Gonzalez. Half a gram retails for $30, and a full gram sells for $60.
"Our Liquid Gold oil is a fairly new product and sales are on the rise because smoking it is something you can do anywhere with a vaporizing pen," Gonzalez told MainStreet. "You can be at the movies, vape it and nobody knows because it doesn't have the smell."
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Sales of the oil have been so brisk that GFarmaLabs is launching flavored marijuana oil, such as cherry, vanilla, blueberries and pineapple. "People use the oil to enhance the euphoric experience created by THC," Gonzalez told MainStreet. "You can put it on the outside of a joint or put it on a flower in a bong."
--Written by Juliette Fairley for MainStreet