You know those ideas you get when you are really high? The ideas you think could actually be something. You stay up all night smoking more weed, planning every little detail only to wake up the next morning and realize you can’t remember half of what you planned. The great highdeas.
This isn’t one of those highdeas. This vision burns much brighter. So bright in fact that you need safety glasses to properly utilize the technology SilconCali is producing. The Bay Area startup is building a more exciting future and they’re doing it by combining the mechanics of a conventional glass bong with app-enabled, laser technology and other exciting approaches to firing up a bowl.
B-LAZE Laser Bong: Never Smoke a Boring Bowl Again
The flagship technology from SiliconCali is the B-LAZE Laser Bong; a hand-blown, glass bong lit by LEDs that uses a laser to ignite the bowl while leveraging other automation to optimize the experience. The battery-powered laser bong uses wireless induction charging to recharge the device using an electromagnetic field from a charging dock. The B-LAZE is a highdea so incredibly inventive that only true stoner ingenuity could bring it to life.
So why would you ever need a laser bong? To find out why you would ever need a laser bong and what inspired its creation I sat down for a chat with SiliconCali founder and B-LAZE creator, Justin Zelaya.
“It’s simple!” Zelaya explains. “I was tired of boring products.” He wanted to create a fun, unique way to enjoy cannabis but more than anything this project is about creating an exciting future. It’s less about getting high or jumping into the booming cannabis industry.
Not long ago, Zelaya was operating a headshop-technology shop hybrid in San Francisco’s renowned Haight Ashbury. In a city known for disruptive technology, in a neighborhood rooted as the epicenter of the counterculture. What better place could cannabis and technology collide so fantastically?
Zelaya’s passion for the project and company comes from his enthusiasm for all things tech. He’s a self-taught electrical engineer who wanted to learn how to build drones. So he studied ways to engineer everything from microcontrollers to batteries and more. He explains that “learning how to make drones taught me how to build pretty much every electrical component I could imagine.”
To secure funding and build a proper foundation for the company Zelaya got his idea backed by bitcoin billionaires. Which is necessary because combining modern laser technology with traditional functional art glass is no small feat. Innovation like this takes heavy investment in time, energy, and resources. The different glass designs alone cost thousands of dollars and countless hours devoted to building functional versions of different concepts.
Zelaya has spent the last year and a half iterating on different design prototypes. He shared his vision with fifty or sixty different glassblowers before finding one willing to give it a shot. All of them saying similar things. ‘It’s too complicated.’ ‘It can’t be done.’ It wasn’t until he met N3rd Glass that he found someone to work with. “N3rd was the first to say, ‘It won’t work, but what if we redesign?”
Since finalizing the initial the design with N3rd, SilconCali has turned to Santa Cruz Glass to efficiently scale production and help them bring the B-LAZE to market. Zelaya does some of the glasswork, too. Adding abrasion, sandblasting, and other final coldworking details during the final stages of production.
How Does the Laser Bong Work?
Just like any other bong… sort of. You load the bowl with your flower of choice like you normally would but then instead of sparking a lighter, you use the mobile app to fire the specially-tuned laser. But not before you put on the safety glasses that the B-LAZE comes with. Once the laser is engaged the bowl slowly spins thanks to a small set of gears; spinning and combusting the material as it turns. Using a wider optical setting you can diffuse the pinpoint heat of the laser to effectively vaporize flower.
How hot the laser actually gets is somewhat impossible to answer because it only gets as hot as the material it interacts with. The heat from the 2w laser is designed for flower and programmed to target cannabinoids specifically. The color and consistency of your flower can affect the way the laser works. Zelaya gave the example that red lasers don’t burn red material well. Luckily for us, good weed is mostly green and purple.
It’s not a lightsaber either, so it won’t slice your limbs off but you still should be careful with it. The laser can sting if it hits your skin and the bright spectrum of light is not good for your eyesight. Hence the need to use safety glasses.
Using the mobile app, you can fire the laser and control its color, choosing from over six million color combinations. You can adjust the speed the bowl spins and with constant updates to the firmware more features are on the way.
When asked how to clean it, Zelaya claims it’s the first thing people want to know and that keeping the piece clean is simple. It is essentially the same as any other bong except you don’t ever want to put it under running water to flush it out. Instead, drain the water chamber from the small cap on the bottom of the bong and give it a simple rinse with isopropyl alcohol or whatever cleaner you prefer for your glassware.
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To Infiniti and Beyond
With a bong so technically advanced, the only thing left to do is tackle the final frontier, space. Zelaya was excited to share that in a way they are already working towards that future.
Currently, you can only fire the laser on the B-LAZE using Bluetooth technology. But soon you’ll be able to engage the laser using WiFi. To take it one step further, SiliconCali is building a satellite internet hub for their new facility that will allow them to centralize all signals being sent to and from laser bongs from around the globe.
So, anytime a B-LAZE is fired the activation signal will be sent to satellites in space and beamed back down to the precise location of the laser bong. That means even if you’re a world apart you’ll be able to fire a friend’s laser bong with the tap of your phone screen by beaming the signal off satellites as they orbit the planet. Which basically gives you the most futuristic way to enjoy cannabis. What a time to be alive!
Beside bong tokes from space, SiliconCali is making ongoing updates to the B-LAZE as well as designing other new, exciting laser-powered products. Some of the new features they are working on include full gimbaling of the bowl which will you more control over where you want to fire the laser as well as play with shapes and messages as you burn your herb
Other application and firmware updates like voice command are on the horizon, too. Zelaya’s excitement peaks as he imagines coming home to a pre-packed bowl and saying the command, “SIRI, light my bowl.” His laughter trailing off as he describes some additional games and data capabilities he’s building so that you can compete with friends for the longest rip and other data measuring competitions.
Right now, the required safety glasses block out the intense laser beam altogether, but soon the mobile app will give you the ability to view the laser in full color directly on your phone’s screen.
Currently, the laser bong is not designed for concentrates. That would require a different and more powerful laser but SiliconCali is already working on a version that will make laser dabs a reality.
Development is also underway to essentially turn any bong into a fantasy future bong with the use of their plasma bowl — a plasma-powered bowl piece that functions like the B-LAZE and fits most standard size glass fittings.
Want Your Own Laser Bong?
You can preorder your own B-LAZE on the SiliconCali’s website and for $2,400 you can get one of the 45 originals from the first production run. After they’re gone new models will be released but this is your chance to get the laser bong as it was originally designed. You can also find them in a few headshops sprinkled throughout the states.
If you want to check out some of the features for the B-LAZE you can download the app for free in the Google Play and Apple App stores. Download it now to control the laser bong and new devices as they get released.
5 Tips for Owning and Operating Successful Cannabis Dispensaries
The cannabis retail landscape has changed. Once regarded as somewhat of a novelty, legalization has allowed cannabis dispensaries to evolve into modern and innovative retail storefronts more akin to an Apple Store than the dark, secretive spaces they used to be. Some, like Shiny Bud, are proving to be leaders in the space, setting an exemplary standard of a contemporary cannabis retail experience.
Shiny Bud is one of Canada’s most successful dispensary chains. They pride themselves on offering customers a premium experience from the moment they enter, from a contemporary and inviting store design to highly trained staff, and of course, premium products.
Co-founder Alex Ledesma joined the cannabis industry when the Canadian government passed the Cannabis Act in 2018. She comes from a forward-thinking family of entrepreneurs, so the move to cannabis was an obvious next step.
“I saw an opportunity to be part of something big in Canada’s history, so we started following the industry, and applied for an application,” said Ledesma.
Shiny Bud opened its first dispensary in Toronto on February 14. Fast forward only a few months, and the company has opened the doors to its fifth location in a small town called Orleans, just outside of Ottawa.
“We have a pretty aggressive rollout,” said Ledesma. “Coming from a quick-service industry, we’re quite comfortable with builds and finding locations. We took our expertise from that and put it into cannabis. And it’s all completely within the family.”
Shiny Bud was awarded 75 dispensary licenses by the Canadian government. The company’s expansion plans include two more Ontario store openings this year, bringing the total number of store openings to seven. And they have no plans to slow down.
“We should be hitting 30 stores by the end of 2021. And we’re planning on maxing out to 75 stores allocated. When we stop to think about it, it can take our breath away.”
The constant march forward of legalization has created an ever-growing interest in dispensary ownership. Below, Ledesma offers up five pieces of advice for those looking to enter the cannabis game.
1. Have a Well-Trained Team That’s Focused on Customer Experience
As the industry is still so young, formal education in cannabis is still relatively scarce amongst prospective employees. For Shiny Bud, this presents an opportunity to reinforce one of their most important business objectives: provide cannabis education and training for their budtenders to pass on to their customers.
“Education is everything because the industry’s so new,” Ledesma said. “We truly believe that we’re an industry where we need to listen to our guests. This is one of the first things we teach our budtenders, along with providing a safe and educational experience for our customers in-store.”
For many customers, the biggest value in going to a dispensary is learning which products are best suited for a specific condition or effect, whether they’re seasoned cannabis consumers or newly curious.
“The goal for budtenders at Shiny Bud is to ensure customers are choosing the right product for them to provide a safe experience both in-store and at home,” Ledesma said.
2. Create a Guest Centric Environment
This goes without saying, but customer service is critical to the success of any retail operation. Ledesma attributes Shiny Bud’s success to the brand’s core vision of providing a “fast and friendly cannabis retail destination.”
“We strive to offer our customers a unique and memorable experience — this has stayed with us since day one,” Ledesma said. “When you walk into any of our Shiny Bud cannabis dispensaries, they’re bright, they’re big, and there’s a lot of education. The budtenders are dressed uniformly, and there’s personality — it’s not what people expect.”
Watching the change in customer demographic has been encouraging to Ledesma, who notes the increase in the 60+ demographic looking to add cannabis to their health and wellness, whether it be recreational, or to aid with a specific ailment.
“As a disclaimer, we always have to tell them that we’re not doctors and we can’t give them medical advice, so to start low and go slow,” Ledesma said. “It’s nice to see people like my mom, my dad, and grandparents come through the door, because you also know you’re helping break down the stigma.”
3. Stock the Best Inventory
With so many quality products now available, choosing which ones to bring to Shiny Bud is quite a lengthy process.
“We carry out a lot of research in terms of what’s new or trending, and what our customers are looking for in each location,” Ledesma said. “I wish I knew consumers’ buying preferences before our initial order was placed. We ended up buying too much!”
“We also use recommendations from our team members, our budtenders, and our customers. A lot of times we bring in representatives of the licensed producers to educate our budtenders about the products we’re selling.”
The three most popular purchases across three Shiny Bud locations are dried flower, vapes, and pre-rolls. “Our most frequently asked question is, ‘what is your highest THC or CBD?’” Ledesma said.
4. Have a Great Location
The age-old proverb of “location, location, location” rings true in the cannabis industry, too. Finding the right real estate is arguably the most important part of retail success. Plus, because of the industry’s prohibition history and the nature of the products being sold, it’s important to find understanding landlords.
“Initially, landlords have said to us, ‘absolutely not, we will not entertain the idea of having a cannabis retailer here,’ so I invite them to take a look at one of our dispensaries so they can see the vision of what and who we are as a company and as an industry.”
5. Ensure Your Cannabis Dispensaries Connect with the Community
Dispensaries are already major focal points in their communities. For Ledesma, giving back and helping break down old stigmas related to cannabis is a top priority.
Shiny Bud is in the process of launching a collaboration with Tsaichedelic to create a line of tie-dyed tees and other merchandise. The proceeds will go towards supporting Cannabis Amnesty projects, like providing legal counsel to get those with criminal records over minor cannabis charges expunged.
“Being a woman and a person of color in the cannabis space, I really believe in the fact that it needs to be the same playing fields for everybody,” Ledesma said. “Teaming up with Cannabis Amnesty just felt right.”
With the regulated cannabis market still so new, it’s important that business owners are able to adapt to changes and weather the ever-changing landscape of cannabis and the regulations.
“It’s ever-changing, so we’re constantly learning and growing from it,” Ledesma said. “Regulations are always changing, so being fluid helps a lot.”
Look for Shiny Bud cannabis dispensaries in Canada and keep an eye out for their expansion into America in 2021.
Gwyneth Paltrow and a Slew of Celebs Invest in ‘Social Tonic’ Brand, Cann
Gwyneth Paltrow is one of several high-profile celebrities investing in cannabis-infused beverage company, Cann.
Rebel Wilson, Ruby Rose, Darren Criss, Tove Lo, Casey Neistat, former NBA star Baron Davis and Bre-Z have also invested in the company.
The actress and Goop CEO and founder calls cannabis a “hero ingredient of the future” for wellness and says she was drawn to Cann’s drinks, which are infused with small doses of THC and CBD, as an appealing alternative to alcohol.
“There’s a whole sober-curious movement that’s going on and the cannabis-curious movement that’s going on, this is kind of at the intersection of those things in a way,” said Paltrow.
Cann is not the health and wellness moguls’ first cannabis investment. Paltrow admitted that while she’s not a big cannabis user personally, she acknowledges its “amazing medicinal qualities.”
“There’s no reason why alcohol should be so much easier to purchase than Cann, and I’m confident the founders will lead the charge in finding ways to integrate it into the same purchasing channels and drinking environments,” she said via a news release.
Cann founder Luke Anderson called the comments made by Gwyneth Paltrow “a sign that Cann (and microdose beverages more broadly) are a viable answer to that very common consumer pain point.”
He added that when people think of Paltrow, “they don’t think of ‘weed’ – they think of cutting-edge solutions for today’s health and wellness needs.”
Cann has positioned itself as a “healthy” and hangover-free alternative to alcohol. Most of Cann’s “social tonics” contain roughly 30 calories and are “microdosed” with 2 milligrams of THC and 4 milligrams of CBD. A recently introduced Pineapple Jalapeño flavor contains 50 calories and 5 milligrams of THC.
Earlier this year, Cann secured $5 million in funding as part of the company’s 2020 production and distribution expansion plans for 2020.
According to TechCrunch, the beverage startup has sold 150,000 cans, which retail for $4 each, since last May. Cann products are available at just 60 dispensaries in California, and online via the Eaze cannabis marketplace, making the $600,000 in revenue the company generated in less than a year even more impressive.
Miss Marijuana: Canadian Beauty Queen Alyssa Boston Is on a Mission to End Stigmas
Alyssa Boston is a woman on a mission. The 24-year-old Canadian beauty queen is using her platform to start a conversation on ending stigmas around mental illness, competing in pageants — and cannabis.
While she doesn’t actually smoke weed, Canada’s crowned Miss Universe caused a media uproar when she wore a sparkling cannabis-inspired look during the 2019 Miss Universe competition in Atlanta, Georgia.
Cannabis Aficionado spoke to her about breaking stigmas, social media and of course, that costume.
CA: How was your Miss Universe experience?