At last the low-slung, midnight blue sports car comes to a stop, and I am allowed to take off my blindfold, which probably hadn’t looked too weird once I’d decided to wear my sunglasses over it.
I have no clue where we are, other than inside a run-down commercial building that seems to be under renovation. We find two guys in a room with a small vat of marijuana oil, inside one of the several secret labs in northern and southern California where a company called DankTanks.Net is working on the latest in marijuana technology.
If you’re anything of a stoner, maybe you know that weed concentrates have become big lately—in the latest vernacular, you’d say a particular batch is dank as fuck, hence the name of the company. Sold in medical marijuana establishments, concentrates are a West Coast phenomenon that is slowly moving across the country. To some extent, you could say that concentrates are to marijuana as cocaine is to coca or as heroin is to opium; a natural plant once refined, though not nearly so powerful or addictive—and a potent medicine in many people’s estimation.
To make concentrate, the trimmings from the harvest of buds (previously sold cheap) are run through machines that use butane or propane (not so healthy) or CO2 (more organic) to distill out the active ingredients (cannabinoids and THC, the first known for their medicinal properties, the second known for getting you high). DankTanks uses cuttings from three strong, popular strains familiar to medical marijuana patients in California: Sour Diesel, OG Kush and Headband. Other forms differ in texture and strength depending upon the weed source and the expertise: wax, butter, oil, shatter and crumble.
There are several ways to smoke concentrates. You can be fancy and use a glass bong, a blowtorch, a special nail and a bunch of glass accessories—it’s called doing dabs. Or you can use different electronic-cigarette-like vaporizers designed to accommodate concentrates; the best models are from Grenco Science, Cloud V Enterprises and TriStick Technologies. Conveniently, DankTanks thread onto a variety of e-cigarettes. The water vapor is supposed to be better for your lungs than smoke; the high (even with sativa-based products) is a little different, more of a hash high that affects your body and makes you a little sluggish, not so cerebrally intense. There are several big differences: Concentrates don’t look like weed; products range in color from gold to dark brownish green. And concentrates don’t smell skunky like pot. In fact, they hardly smell at all. Also, the vapor is more ephemeral than smoke—it dissipates quickly into the atmosphere. Concentrates, manufacturers like to say, are stronger and more “discreet.”
We sit talking as the guys, all partners in DankTanks, melt a large, flat slice of wax, mix in grapeseed oil and vegetable glycerin and load the bullet-shaped tanks using syringes. All three men are in their early thirties. Two say they have degrees in marketing; the third says he used to own several medical marijuana stores. He has an obvious side effect of a serious medical condition, now under control. He explains how his patients, especially the older ones, especially ones who might be residents of assisted living facilities, really appreciate the DankTanks/e-cig format. One tank holds 1.6 milliliters of oil, retails in medical marijuana stores for $75 and is good for an estimated 200 hits. It also eliminates the need for grinders, lighters, ashtrays and other smoking (and cleaning) paraphernalia necessary to smoke weed. “You just screw on the tank and hit the dank,” he says with a smirk.
In time it is determined, in the way things are usually determined in these situations, that I would perhaps be amenable to, and even interested in, ahem, sampling the product. (What the hell were you waiting for?)
An e-cig is proffered. I take a few puffs. The vapor is light and pleasant smelling, though it does tend to make me cough—the medical marijuana expert explains that the molecules of water vapor tend to expand in the lungs.
A mindful silence falls over the room. The guys catch a rhythm filling the tanks, somebody’s indie rock playlist flows through portable speakers.
I watch them work. I think about how cool it is to be nearly 57 years old and still learning new things. I guess you could say that over the course of my lifetime, marijuana has been my only hobby. Granted, I go places and meet people for a living, which is what most people do in their spare time. In my own spare time I don’t play golf, collect shit or fly planes. Sports injuries have left me unable to play any more games. Writing takes a lot of hours. Factor in a lifetime, enthusiastic commitment to fatherhood, and you might conclude, as I have, that I don’t have much time for anything else. (Well, there is occasional dating, hill walking, and media viewing on a large-screen TV: Man cannot live by marijuana alone.)
Once opened to me, the doors of perception have led to more experiences and life lessons than I could ever have imagined back in 1968 or so, when my friends and I were giggling across the temple parking lot, bound for Amy Joy Donuts, smoking a joint on the way. What could be a more perfect journey? A short walk leading to a good high and a huge cinnamon roll. Later in life, those are the kinds of things you remember.
I’m not sure if our puritan nation will ever legalize pot. Legislating morality has always been a slippery slope in the United States. For now, we have Colorado and Washington, and we have medical marijuana in 20 states plus Washington, D.C. And we have the eternally unfettered imagination of humankind—always finding a new way to get high. Sitting in the folding chair in the DankTanks Production Lab, watching the guys work, I imagine myself in the future: an old man in a nursing home, puffing on my high-tech electronic pipe.
A harried woman in a white uniform sticks her head into the door of my room. The health care system is a mess. She has one of those nurse-caretaker personalities; she feels like the whole crumbling shebang is resting on her ample shoulders. She uses a patronizing tone: “How are we doing today, Mr. Sager?”
I’m sitting at my computer writing something. I can tell she doesn’t give one shit about how I’m doing. I look over and smirk.
“Dank as fuck,” I tell her.