Scenes from the 710 Degree Cup Marijuana Awards in Phoenix

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Crowds of Arizona medical-marijuana patients braved the sun and waited in line this past Saturday to celebrate the marijuana holiday 7/10. Three thousand or more visitors filtered through the Phoenix Veterans of Foreign Wars post to attend the first-ever 710 Degree Cup and mingle with the 35 vendors involved, some of whom offered free samples of their products.

Equal parts medicated festival, patient-education event, and expo, the 710 Degree Cup is the second event presented by the Errl Cup, a Phoenix-based group that aims to steer users to the best-quality medical marijuana and away from inferior product. The group's first event, the Errl Cup, was held January 9 at the American Legion in Tempe.

A relatively new element of marijuana culture, 710 occurs on the 10th of July and celebrates marijuana concentrates. When flipped upside down, 710 resembles the word OIL — one of the many colloquial terms for marijuana concentrates. Similar to marijuana’s biggest "holiday," 4/20, observers celebrate 7/10 by consuming marijuana and attending celebrations, concerts, and parties.

Errl Cup founder Jim Morrison says his mission is twofold: patient appreciation and dispensary accountability. The Errl Cup collects voluntary submissions of flower, concentrates, and edibles from dispensaries and patients. Some dispensaries that don’t participate voluntarily are "secret shopped."

All products are sent to C4 Laboratories, an independent analytical chemistry lab specializing in cannabis, for testing and analysis. Packets containing samples from a given category are distributed to patient judges around the state who try them and rank them in terms of quality.

Winners in each category are announced based on the judges' picks, and the testing data are made available to the public on the day of the event (and in perpetuity) on the Errl Cup website.

Morrison says he has noticed changes in the Arizona medical marijuana since his last event six months ago. "I got bad feedback when I contacted dispensaries about my first event," he says. "I think people are starting to open up to this model, though." 

At the first Errl Cup event, half of the 72 samples analyzed were purchased through the secret shopping program. The other half of the samples were submitted directly by a mix of dispensaries, caregivers, and patients. For this event approximately 80 percent of the more than 160 samples analyzed were submitted by dispensaries themselves a trend Morrison hopes will continue.

Morrison hopes that the event will continue to raise awareness of the importance of independent lab testing. Arizona’s medical marijuana law has no legal requirement to test products before selling them to patients. Laboratories are able to evaluate products to provide information about potency and purity which help patients more accurately dose their medicine and be sure they are receiving consistent high quality products. Testing can also rule out the presence of mold, fungus, bacteria, growth regulators, and pesticides, all of which pose potential health hazards to patients.

Morrison says he wishes testing was mandatory already but says, “Testing is being more widely adopted than ever.”

Zacariah Hildenbrand, chief scientific officer of C4 Laboratories, believes events like the 710 Degree Cup help raise awareness about the important role testing plays in delivering safe and effective medicine to patients.

Hildenbrand says there was a wide range in the quality of samples the lab analyzed. "Some were A-plus quality with impressive terpene profiles," he says. "Others were disqualified due to the presence of fungicides and pesticides."

Hildenbrand says C4 Laboratories enjoys being a part of the marijuana industry as it works toward greater mainstream acceptance. He hopes to see larger events that are more directly focused on patient education.

He also sees a bright future for Arizona and other marijuana markets. He predicts that Arizonans will vote to legalize marijuana if, as is expected, they are presented with the choice in November. With recreational legalization, Hildenbrand sees customers demanding more research into the effects of marijuana as well as premium products.

Testing will be mandatory if the ballot initiative passes. Hildenbrand says he hopes regulators work with experts to design the standards and implement them quickly. Practically speaking, he says, standards are already being created. "There seems to be a template forming in other states," Hildenbrand says.

A number of interesting new products were on display at Saturday's event.

Rosin Tech, a company that manufactures industrial presses capable of making a new solvent-free resin extract called Rosin, offered to make the substance out of patients' meds at no charge. (Resin is made through the process of applying heat and pressure to marijuana flowers, causing the resin glands of the flower to rupture and leaving a concentrate that can be dabbed.)

Another product that won several awards is SAP, manufactured by Arizona Organix. The company's lead extractors, Jake and Kelly, say their process is similar to a CLEAR alcohol-based extraction method but also includes a proprietary refining process. The end product contains no plant lipids or waxes and contains close to 100 percent THC, the active ingredient in marijuana.

A company called A Hemp World also walked off with 710 Degree Cup honors for its CBD-only. CBD, or cannabidiol, is the second-most-prominent cannabinoid in marijuana, after THC. It is non-psychoactive and made from industrial hemp and can therefore be sold legally in all 50 states. A Hemp World makes products that can be ingested orally or dabbed like other marijuana concentrates.

The 710 Degree Cup is an example of how rapidly the Arizona medical-marijuana market is evolving. Less than six months after the Errl Cup, the event more than doubled its predecessor in size. As Arizonans consider legalizing recreational marijuana, the organizers are providing a glimpse of what responsible marijuana use might look like in the state.

More photos from Saturday's 710 Degree Cup:

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