EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT MARIJUANA CONCENTRATES
Have you ever wondered:
why people prefer concentrates to plant marijuana?
why some concentrates make you sleepy and the other ones keep you up?
whether water-based concentrates are truly healthier?
whether it is possible to treat cancer with cannabis oil?
which concentrate kind has the highest THC level?
Find answers to these and many other questions in the article!
Marijuana concentrate is a highly potent cannabis-derived extract, which looks like butter or honey in outward appearance (that is why it is sometimes referred as ‘budder’ or ‘honey’). The main player in such an extract is the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) that is highly psychoactive; in different kinds of cannabis concentrates there might be up to 80 percent THC whereas in plant marijuana it cannot be more than 20 percent. (Drug Enforcement Administration, 2014).
More and more modern technologies and methods of extraction appear every new day to produce marijuana concentrates. So what is the reason of this growing popularity and demand in the market? Check the main advantages that cannabis concentrates have over the plant marijuana:
Higher potency. This is a direct consequence of a high THC level in the concentrate. Such characteristic is highly valued by medical cannabis users since it leads to the fast relief and pain dejection of the patient. However, recreational users value high THC for the possibility to get into the euphoric state.
Speed of delivery. When dealing with concentrates, cannabis is delivered almost instantly. This quality is specifically valued by those who is limited in time or who suffers from pain that is difficult to bear.
Economy. Despite the fact that marijuana concentrates are much more expensive than the common cannabis flowers, considering the amount used, the use of concentrates end to be significantly more economical.
Less odour. Many users prefer concentrated forms because they are smokeless and it is more difficult to smell them in the air. It is explained by the popular form of abuse called ‘dabbing’ when a piece of concentrate (so-called ‘dab’) is heated with the help of an electronic cigarette or vaporizer (Raber, Elzinga and Kaplan, 2015).
Greater variety. Kinds of cannabis concentrates vary greatly in taste, effect and shape so the consumers are almost unlimited in their choices.
Better flavor. In addition to cannabinoids, marijuana extracts also include tasty terpenes. When smoking cannabis flower, these terpenes get mixed with the plant matter, but in concentrates users claim to get a ‘clear flavor’ (Elzinga, Fischedick, Podkolinski and Raber, 2015)
So how are marijuana concentrates produced? To achieve such high level of THC, it is necessary to separate resin glands from the cannabis flower. As a result of this separation, plenty of kinds of marijuana concentrates appear. But despite the fact they all differ in taste and appearance, the principal difference is in the method of extraction.
There are two main methods of extraction: solvent and non-solvent. Main differences between these two methods lie in the field of chemical and biological changes in the product and are not visible to the eye. Nevertheless, they might have absolutely different effect on the body so the choice must be well-considered.
The extraction that is based on a solvent used can be made with the help of butane, propane, CO2 (carbon dioxide) or alcohol. These liquids are used to extract the active THC from the cannabis flower, and the manner of separation is more biologically aggressive in comparison with non-solvent methods (Raber et al, 2015). This category of cannabis concentrates includes many kinds, the most popular of which are the following:
Wax. It is currently the most popular marijuana concentrate. It is produced by blasting the cannabis plant via the closed-loop separation system, usually with propane or butane. The molten mass gets heated and then the remaining solvent gets removed by hand whipping. This method of producing makes the final product have airy peaks and dry surface. There is also another sort of wax called budder. The main difference between the mentioned two kinds is only that budder is less whipped and, consequently, less solid and a little oilier.
Shatter. The first stage of preparation is similar to the one with wax: blasting in the closed-loop system. After that, the product gets solvent-purged in the vacuum oven being packed in the paper. Having been heated for a long time, the substance spreads over the paper and obtains its final shape. This concentrate kind is very valuable for its taste and aroma due to the rich terpene content.
Live Resin. This concentrate is produced exactly the same way as wax with the only difference in the initial state of the material — for live resin the plant gets frozen first. This product is valued for its resemblance to original marijuana plant taste.
Carbon Dioxide Oil. The name of this concentrate indicates the solvent type used for the extraction. With the help of high pressure and CO2, the plant material gets turned to the oil condition. This concentrate type is often preferred to the other ones because it is believed to be purer and healthier. This belief is explained by the fact that unlike other solvents, CO2 is naturally produced by the human body (Romano and Hazekamp, 2013)
Distillates and isolates. Distillation is the process of separating the clean cannabinoids from the terpene content and the other plant components. It is highly recommended for medical purposes because this method allows to prescribe the correct doses of cannabinoids. As for the isolation — it is a laboratory-grade complicated procedure aimed at producing the pure CBD (cannabidiol) crystals from the initial distillate (Drug Enforcement Administration, 2014).
It is important to note that the production of solvent-based concentrates requires special conditions and can be performed only by qualified specialists. Government report many cases where THC extraction labs were organized by amateurs and the processes often resulted in violent explosions. It is necessary to consider that heating gas is a dangerous process that requires a professional approach and laboratory conditions.
Non-solvent concentrate products
Extractions that do not require a solvent are usually made with the help of water in its frozen state (resin glands are easily detached from the epidermis of frozen marijuana plants), pressure, and heat. Due to the fact that these methods do not require biological and chemical changes in the organic plant matter, the non-solvent concentrates have natural aroma and flavor and are generally believed to be heathier. Among the most popular products in this category, there are the following:
Kief. This is a very natural and traditional type of getting a potent concentrate. The marijuana flower gets manually filtered with a screen to collect the trichomes. The process is very time-consuming but the final product is fine in taste and texture.
Dry sift. This is the sort of refined kief that gets repeatedly filtered through the micron screens. There might be different grades of melting, where kief is the lowest grade and full-melt dry sift is the highest (this one might be used for ‘dabbing’).
Bubble Hash or Cold Water Hash. Marijuana, ice and cold water get placed into the different-grade mesh holder where the trichomes are knocked off. collected into the bubble bags and dried. With knowledge and preparation, this procedure can be made under home conditions (Drug Enforcement Administration, 2014).
Unlike solvent-based concentrates, some of the non-solvent based products may be safely produced at home on condition of careful preparation and legal permission.
Marijuana consumers are always trying to find out which concentrate kind is the most potent. Which cannabis product has the highest THC level? Modern researches prove that this question has no definite answer. The secret is that the production of marijuana concentrates is the field where different lots of the same product may have significantly different THC level (testing labs fixed five times more THC level in the highest sample in comparison with the lowest one). That is why, unfortunately, the name of the concentrate cannot serve as an indication of its potency (Elzinga et al, 2015).
The most powerful components in cannabis are THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol). THC is much more well-known and popular since it is greatly psychoactive and leads a person into the state of euphoria quickly. In addition, to these effects, marijuana concentrates with high THC let people stay in elated mood. However, CBD is gaining its popularity these days. Being chemically almost the same as THC, it is much milder, less psychoactive and intoxicating. Unlike THC, it has a sedative and anticonvulsant effect. It is interesting that CBD is even used as a recreative treatment after THC overdosage. Having minimal side effects, CBD is widely used for medical purposes — to treat anxiety, fight pain attacks, etc. (Englund, Freeman, Murray and McGuire, 2017)
Therapeutic Effects of Cannabis-Based Medicine.
Cannabis oil is generally believed a very healthy concentrate and even a cure to many health problems. The brightest example is Rick Simpson oil the powerful effect of which is believed to have cured cancer. Nowadays, cannabis oil is a widespread self-medication that is not recognized by therapists or scientifically proved. It is interesting that the cannabis oil is produced with the help of solvents (mostly ethanol, naphtha and petroleum ether) which is not the healthy way of production itself. The research by Romano, and Hazekamp concludes that there are no reasons to recommend cannabis oil for treatment of cancer or any other diseases; moreover, the risk of taking unnatural solvents appear to be higher than any possible profit gained from the use of marijuana concentrate (2013).
Safety of Use of Marijuana Concentrates.
During the last decade, consuming marijuana products is considered a natural and helpful way to treat medical problems and indulge the emotional state. Being a profitable business, marijuana trading requires a positive opinion of the society that is strengthened by various advertisements, affirmative Internet content and stories of successful cure from various diseases. However, scientists attract social attention to more reliable sources of information — researches that show how the use cannabis plants or marijuana concentrates affects the human body. One of the bright examples is the study of Pierre, Gandal, and Son, which proves that there truly is the difference of use between the plant smoking and dabbing of a concentrate. According to the study, consuming marijuana concentrates may have a significant side effect: due to the high potency of THC and greater dose of consuming, cases of cannabis-induced psychosis appear. This kind of psychosis is strongly associated exactly with consuming cannabis wax and oils (2016). This is one argument against the concentrated forms of marijuana.
In addition to this, there begin to appear plenty of researches that prove that the imagined safety of marijuana involves more and more 8th to 12th graders become active users. Another research shows that the use of cannabis plant and concentrates on the regular basis leads to significant reduce of IQ level of teens (Drug Enforcement Administration, 2014).
How to Make Cannabis Safer?
The round-the world tendency of cannabis legalization is obvious. On the other side, it is impossible not to consider the researches that prove strong negative effects of cannabis use: psychoses, cognitive changes, addiction. Most of these negative effects are closely connected with high level of THC that is the most psychoactive component in the cannabis flower. The solution that the scientists offer these days is to make a turn towards CBD. It was previously not much recognized due to its less intense effects. However, modern requirements put CBD to the foreground. It is not toxic, it has proven therapeutic effect, and it can even diminish the negative effect of the previous use of cannabis types with high THC. For medical patients, CBD is the best solution that helps to combine the maximal effect with minimal negative consequences for health (Englund et al, 2017).
That is why the governments of many countries are now legalizing cannabidiol containing marijuana products for proven medical marijuana patients.
Drug Enforcement Administration. (2014). What You Should Know About Marijuana Concentrates. United States Department of Justice (Accessed 17.11.2018)
Elzinga, S., Fischedick, J., Podkolinski, R., & Raber, J. C. (2015). Cannabinoids and terpenes as chemotaxonomic markers in cannabis. Nat Prod Chem Res, 3(181), 2.
Englund, A., Freeman, T. P., Murray, R. M., & McGuire, P. (2017). Can we make cannabis safer?. The Lancet Psychiatry, 4(8), 643-648.
Pierre, J. M., Gandal, M., & Son, M. (2016). Cannabis-induced psychosis associated with high potency «wax dabs». Schizophrenia research, 172(1-3), 211-212.
Raber, J. C., Elzinga, S., & Kaplan, C. (2015). Understanding dabs: contamination concerns of cannabis concentrates and cannabinoid transfer during the act of dabbing. The Journal of toxicological sciences, 40(6), 797-803.
Romano, L. L., & Hazekamp, A. (2013). Cannabis oil: chemical evaluation of an upcoming cannabis-based medicine. Cannabinoids, 1(1), 1-11.