Sunday, September 8, 2019

Cannabis Concentrates 101

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As a fair-weather pot smoker I had no idea just how many concentrates there are on the market today.  Back in my day we had weed & hash....that's it.  The weed was brown-tinged bricks and you only got hash if your friend went to Amsterdam & had the balls to mail or smuggle some back to you.  Today the list of concentrates & extracts is so long it could make a new medical marijuana patient's head spin.  Mine sure is.

Since getting my medical card I've been researching every form of concentrate in the dispensaries, and this is a very basic rundown of what I've found.  If you're a noob like me you may find it somewhat helpful.  If you're an expert, not so much.  Keep in mind this is the Concentrates & Extracts 101 version so don't expect any new or exciting epiphanies here:


Distillate:  This is the distilled liquid cannabis extract that's used in most vape cartridges & edibles.  It's usually pale to honey-colored & thick in viscosity.  Distillate generally contains mostly THC with a dash of CBD & plant-derived terpenes, which produces an effect different from the actual strain of the flower itself.  Some companies use full-spectrum & cannabis-derived terpenes but they're less common.  Distillate produces an effect that's an approximation of whole cannabis at best, which some users prefer as it's clearer-headed & has less of a drowsy comedown.

Shatter:  This one is exactly what it sounds like:  a glass-like concentrate that "shatters" when pressure is applied.  Sometimes.  It can also be more taffy-like in consistency depending on the THC vs. THCa content.  Either way, shatter is extremely high in THC & should be used with caution by new cannabis heads.  Storing it in the fridge or another cool, dry place is recommended to preserve its brittle texture & avoid a melted mess.

Rosin:  Rosin is a solvent-free extract that's produced when cannabis buds are compressed & heated.  It can be made with a commercial press or even a hair straightener.  It has a gooey consistency somewhat like distillate.  Properly made rosin rivals shatter in its flavor, aroma & terpene-profile.  Since it requires no solvents, rosin can be made safely at home using fully dried/cured cannabis flowers.

Budder/Badder:  These concentrates have a cake batter-like texture & can almost be stirred due to their softness.  They are produced by whipping high-quality cannabis extract under heat.  The difference between the two is a matter of subjective preference & spelling.  They're essentially one & the same.

Live Resin:  This is made by flash freezing the whole plant right after harvest to preserve terpenes, resulting in a more full-bodied experience.  Live resins can range in thickness from saps to jellies & butters or even shatter depending on how they're made.  It's called "live" resin because it smells just like the living cannabis plant.  Resin is slightly weaker than shatter or wax but has a more well-rounded effect due to its complex cannabinoid content.  It's as close to 'full-spectrum' as you can get with concentrates. 

Crumble:  Crumble is a type of wax with a honeycomb consistency that crumbles easily upon handling.  It's the driest extract on the market & is made by whipping the extract under extreme heat.  It generally comes pre-broken into small pieces & ready to vape, smoke or dab.

Crystalline:  This is the purest form of concentrate, consisting only of one cannabinoid such as THCa or CBD.  It contains no plant matter or terpenes & is sometimes referred to as "diamonds" or, in the CBD market, "isolate".  The THCa converts to THC at the time of decarboxylation (heating).


The main difference between all these concentrates is texture & terpene content...not potency or effects.  It's like comparing hard candy to soft candy--both are sweet & will satisfy your sugar craving but they each have a unique look & feel.  Most importantly, all of these options will get you effed up due to their high THC content so proceed with caution if you're used to working with plain flower or haven't smoked in a few years (or decades).


How To Consume

The above isn't a conclusive list of concentrates by any means.  I simply chose to focus on these because they can be vaped with a contraption like my Yocan Evolve Plus (or a cheap 510-threaded battery in the case of distillate).  This is my chosen method of consumption so yeah, I'm biased.  Dabbing is a whole other can of worms that I haven't gotten into so I'll leave that subject to the pros.  Not a huge fan of smoking either now that I know vaping comes with fewer side effects (for me anyway) & is much stealthier.  But everyone's different.  If one method of ingestion doesn't work for you, try another.  Play around with the dose but start low to avoid a freak-out.  Weed's never killed anyone but it has caused some absolutely terrifying panic attacks.

Some more concentrates & tips from Leafly

To vape the concentrates I listed above, simply scoop them up on your dabbing tool & place them on the heating element (coil or donut) of your vape.  Then press the button & inhale.  It's really that simple.  If you're using a vape cartridge full of distillate, you may not need to press a button at all.  The texture of some of them, such as badder & rosin, may be messier to handle than crystalline or shatter but it's definitely doable.  Start with a rice-sized piece of concentrate & work your way up to a pea-sized one if that's not enough.  Just be sure to keep your vape parts clean & replaced as needed to prevent clogging.  Some of these concentrates can really gum up your heating elements over time.  Everclear, distilled water or 90%+ isopropyl alcohol is recommended for cleaning vape parts, but they'll eventually need to be replaced in most cases.  Make sure to burn off the remnants of the alcohol or water before using the vape again so you get a clean hit.

As stated above, some of the concentrates can be smoked on a bowl or joint (crumble) or dabbed (shatter, crumble, rosin) as well as vaped.  Most don't work when ingested as-is, as they require heat to activate the active components.  The stealth-factor will vary depending on how terpene-rich the concentrate is & how hot you let the vape get.  Vaping distillate in a typical cartridge set-up is generally very stealthy while attempting to vape live resin at high temperatures in public might be a mistake due to the smell.  I'm not entirely sure as I haven't experimented with all of these.  Test it out in private at home before venturing out to a cannabis-unfriendly space to be safe. 

Vape cartridges full of distillate

The stealthiest options would be edibles, tinctures, Rick Simpson Oil (RSO) & capsules as these can all be ingested orally & leave no scent.  There are also topical & rectal options but I'll let you look into those yourself if you're interested.  They tend to produce fewer psychoactive effects than either vaped, smoked or eaten cannabis but may still provide therapeutic effects.  For all my endometriosis & PCOS sufferers, there are even weed vaginal suppositories that supposedly help with cramps!  I've seen mixed reviews on those, so it might be better to stick with other less messy routes.       

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Rick Simpson Oil ("RSO") - Usually comes in a syringe

I think that about covers it!  Anything I left out?  What's your favorite method of cannabis consumption & why?  I value stealth, lack of side effects like sedation & safety above all else.  It can be a balancing act finding a strain & product that is neither too paranoia/anxiety-inducing nor too drowsy.  That's my biggest challenge.  Any tips appreciated.  😎

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