A Quick Rundown
What are Cannabis Concentrates?
Cannabis Concentrates are simply cannabinoids (usually THCA, or CBDA which turn to THC and CBD with heat) extracted and concentrated from dried or fresh marijuana.
How are they made?
Separation can be done with sifters (Hash), presses (rosin), or solvents (tinctures, wax, oils, crumble, shatter). Solvents include alcohol to make products like Rick Simpson oil, CO2 (Co2 Oil), Butane (BHO or Butane Hash Oil), Hexane (HHO or Hexane Honey Oil), and Propane (PHO, Propane Hash Oil) which can yield Wax, Resin, Shatters, and oils depending on processing.
Although these products can reach 3-5 times the potency of cannabis at 60-80% THC, they can be further distilled using short path distillation to 99% purity, resulting in a clear or slightly yellow substance called Distillate. Distillate contains almost pure THC and has almost no odor or taste when smoked or vaped. Liquidizers (solvents like propylene glycol), Terpenes (dissolved and concentrated flavor profiles), or other flavorings are needed to flavor distillate and make it combustible (vapable) as it does not vape on its own in most cartridges.
Hash, made of kief, (powdered cannabis trichomes) heated and pressed into bricks appeared at least a thousand years ago. In the early 2000’s, concentrates were consumed in a few small circles. They started to appear more frequently as a result of the internet, efforts from clandestine chemists starting in the 70’s, and the first know article of the dangerous “open blasting” method of butane extraction in 1999. Today, concentrates have taken over dispensaries and the black market, with most mainstream products appearing about 6 years ago.
How are concentrates consumed?
Concentrates like wax, shatter, crumble, distillate, and resin are often smoked out of “rigs” which utilize a heated element (metal “nail” or glass surface) attached to a pipe. A “dab” of concentrate is placed on the heated surface instantly incinerating it and allowing the THC to be inhaled. Battery powered metal coils to vaporize the concentrate can also be used in smaller vaporizer style devices. Concentrates can also be dissolved with liquidizers like Propylene Glycol or terpenes and smoked from empty vape tanks or cartridges similar to nicotine vape juice.
Concentrates can be decarboxylated (heating to change THCA to THC so your body can absorb it) like cannabis and made into edibles. The process to make distillate decarboxylates it so it can be eaten in its raw form or cooked with. Concentrates can also be applied topically.
What are some of the concerns?
Although concentrates offer a powerful product with many medicinal properties for individuals with medical and psychological disorders/ diseases (depending on their jurisdiction), higher concentrations of THC leads to higher tolerance and a wider range of psychoactive effect. The desired effects are also of a shorter duration and can lead to habitual use. This can lead to higher rates of dependence. Concentrates and distillates also have little to no smell and can be easily abused by minors. The solvents and chemicals used in manufacturing are most likely of concern, although long-term effects are not yet known. Black markets create increased risk for poor quality control.