New discoveries in marijuana extracts are quickly coming into fashion as an alternative to burning flower.
When many people think of consuming cannabis, they envision the traditional flower-based smoking method, with the only variations based on what they might use to smoke it, such as pipes or rolling papers. But rising in popularity over the last decade or so are concentrates, in which scientific processes are used to extract the plant’s cannabinoids (such as THC or CBD) and terpenes (essential oils that determine the scent and effect), leaving the rest of the material behind. This not only delivers a purer form of the content to your mind and body, but also can yield cannabinoid levels of up to 80%, whereas the typical flower usually maxes out somewhere in high 20’s. This delivers an incredibly potent effect from a small quantity.
“It is healthier in the sense that you’re getting a purer product that’s been refined off of the plant,” says Darin Carpenter, Director of Cultivation for Tryke Companies. “The reason that flower is not as healthy is that you are not filtering it and might be getting tar build up.”
Concentrates come in strange new forms; the most commonly known are resin and hash oil, while new ones popping up on the scene include shatter, budder, and crumble. With the extracts market growing rapidly, we spoke with both Darin Carpenter and Tryke Companies Director of Production Jessie Carter to help explain this intriguing new corner of the cannabis industry.
Jessie Carter and Darin Carpenter of Tryke Companies examine cannabis in distillate form.
Mike Pizzo: When did cannabis extracts come into fashion as an alternative way to consume marijuana?
Jessie Carter: I saw it pop up on the scene around two or three years ago. First there was the butane hash oil dabs, then it was the crumble, and then in the last few years it has evolved into solvent-less and rosin forms of concentrates.
Darin Carpenter: I think you can go even further back when you are talking about hash. There was the finger hash in the Hindu Kush, in which they were literally rubbing stalks to create these balls to smoke and consume it that way. This is an old school medicine, that method is probably hundreds of years old, if you were to look back. What Jessie is talking about is the last few years where it has blown up into all of these different types of concentrates and consumable forms.
What is the main difference between ingesting a concentrated form of cannabis rather than smoking it?
Jessie: Smoking flower will not deliver as high of a percentage of THC or CBD, whatever you’re trying to deliver or go after. With a concentrate, you can ingest a higher dosage at one time.
Darin: The big difference is that you are not getting all of the plant matter by-products. So what Jessie does in the lab is he strips all of the pockets or cells that contain the cannabinoids and terpenes and flavors and all that and concentrates it, removing all of the green matter, which would otherwise be combusted, to deliver a purer product.
What do you do with all of that extra stuff when you are purifying it?
Jessie: When we’re distilling or purifying an oil, we start with a crude oil and we dilute it and then we winterize it. It helps strip the fats, lipids, all the junk and by-product in the oil itself. Then we filter it, separating it from all that. When we run it through our still, it actually boils out the different compounds. So first we’re getting out the alcohol that we dilute it with, then we’re boiling out the fats, lipids, and little bit of chlorophyll that’s left over. That leaves behind the clean THC or CBD, which can start at 70% or 80%.
So this is essentially better for you?
Jessie: It’s a lot better because you are stripping out all of the solvents, any leftover gasses from making the crude oil, and isolating the cannabinoid content. It’s a lot healthier.
Darin: It’s a refinery process.
But what if you want to ingest the cleanest cannabis, but you don’t want 80% THC. What is the way to do that with a concentrate?
Darin: You can dilute it, but concentration doesn’t necessarily mean that it will impact you the same way. So if you have a more concentrated vape pen, you might not want to take a huge drag like you would off of a joint or large glass pipe. Only you know your best dosage, really.
I’ve heard someone say that if cannabis was legalized decades ago, that more people would be using concentrated extracts rather than smoking flower. Do you agree?
Jessie: I think there is always going to be people that enjoy smoking flower. Me, personally, I enjoy the taste of flower. It gives me a different kind of feel than a concentrate. Concentrates are easy to overdo it with, especially for a novice.
Darin: There’s definitely both sides, it depends on the experience you’re trying to have. I think smoking flower is more social. Then again, nowadays people are passing vape pens, rather than pulling out a full rig and butane torch. There’ll always be people that enjoy flower. I’m a lightweight and I prefer flower.
Do you think if scientists were studying cannabis without restriction for the past 100 years that it would be more popular to use concentrates?
Darin: I think it goes both ways. It’s also the ease of consumption, the ritual of the whole deal. People get off work, they get home, sit on the couch, and like breaking up flower, then grinding it up and rolling a joint. It’s kind of like a ritualistic thing. It’s hard to say if it would be more popular or not, but it’s definitely on the rise. People are understanding what it is and different ways to consume.
Jessie: It would definitely be more developed. The next five years for extractions are going to be crazy because there will be more LHO (limonene hash oil) extractions. That’s a new one coming out. With all of the isolation of the THC and CBD, the terpene extractions, if this had been federally legal five or ten years ago, we’d be ahead of time, but now we are just figuring all of this stuff out.
Darin: I think one of the biggest reasons that it is on the rise is that the lab can make products that people can consume discreetly in public. Vape pens, etc. Some of them you can’t even smell anything come out of it.
What are some of the ways people can ingest a concentrate?
Jessie: You can dab it. With dabbing, you basically get a large glass pipe with a glass or titanium nail and super heat it with a torch or an enail. Then you take your material — shatter, crumble, resin, whatever you got — drop it in the bucket and inhale it. A little bead of concentrate will make it feel like your whole chest is filled up and about to cave in.
Then there are trans-dermal patches, which is basically like a nicotine patch that you can stick on that will give you micro-dosages throughout the day. It’s mostly used for joint pain. You don’t really feel the head change, it just numbs the area. It’s almost like an Icy-Hot patch.
Then there are gel-caps, which is basically like eating a marijuana-infused edible. They look like little gold capsules, like a Tylenol. Depending on the milligram, they can be anywhere from 5 to 500 mg. Because it is a distillate, your body processes it a lot faster than a regular edible, so you’ll feel the effect within 15 to 20 minutes. This is different than making edibles with ethanol or regular cooking butter, because those take a while for your liver to break down.
You have vape pens, which people like because of the discretion. It looks like a little electronic cigarette. You screw the cartridge on the battery, so as soon as you start pulling, it vapes the oil and releases the THC or CBD. You get these really flavorful hits and when you blow it out it smells like bubblegum or green apples. No one knows what it is, it’s discreet. Most people just think you are vaping e-juice or whatever. There’s soda, wine, beer…Pretty much anything you can think of, there’s a cannabis infused version of it.
What is the most popular form of concentrate right now?
Jessie: Right now, the vape pens because of the discreetness of it. A lot of professional people and soccer moms use them. Anyone that doesn’t want people to know that they are smoking, they buy them. The next thing is the shatter and crumble. People like that for the high potency.
Are variables like THC content level, terpenes, and indica vs sativa important when talking about concentrates like they are with flower?
Jessie: Yes, because people still want the medicine that’s going to do the best for them, whether that’s to put them to sleep, keep them happy, etc.
Darin: That’s the nice thing about what we can do in the extracts lab, we can control all of that or strip it down to just THC or CBD, or pull all of the terpenes out and create a different mix. But because all of the strains are different, a strain that might not work for me, might work for Jessie.
Do each of the extract consistencies provide the same effect?
Jessie: The strain will have a different effect, but really it is personal preference as far as the consistency. Some people like the hard shatter, some people like the creamy butter, some people like crumble that they can pick it up with their hand and dunk it.
Different Forms of Concentrated Extracts, Explained by Jessie Carter
Shatter: “Shatter is made with a butane and propane mix. We take the gas, wash the cannabis material with the gas, recover the gas and collect the material left in the pot. Then we put it in our purging ovens and purge off the leftover solvents. From that point, it’s based on temperature. If we’re going for shatter, we set a certain temperature and let it bake, flip it, then after use a vacuum to pull the solvents off. Then after three or four flips it is pretty much done and it looks like a sheet of glass. If you drop it, it will shatter, literally.
“With shatter, really the only way you can ingest it is to dab it, or you can heat it up with coconut oil in process called de-carbing and you can add it to your own edibles as well.”
C is for crumble.
Crumble: “Crumble is made the same way as shatter with the butane hash oil, but what we do with crumble is we take the shatter and raise the heat up a lot. Then when it melts down, we stir it repeatedly, which is called whipping. Then we put it back in the oven and when it comes out it looks like a sugar cookie. People like that because they like to break it off and throw it in the rig, without having to use a dab tool.”
Distillate is taking a crude oil and putting it through a refinery process and getting it to the 70% to 90% cannabinoid content. From there, you can dab it like shatter, or it is put it in vape pens and one can smoke it like a cigarette. Or it is put in syringes, which you can use to dose your own edibles. I personally like doing that better than buying medicated edibles because there is a lot of misleading advertising out there. With a syringe, you can do a little simple math and you can make a really well dosed edible that tastes like nothing.”
Budder “With budder, we’re taking the shatter and melting it down, but just letting it set without putting it back in the oven. It saves a lot of the terpenes because you are not baking those terpenes off. It’s a little creamier and a lot more flavorful.”
“Live Sugar is the same process as shatter, but the material you start with is cut fresh, flash frozen, cured and then extracted. So you get higher cannabinoid counts, better color, more terpenes and flavor and it yields really well. People like that fresh tasting, more plant-y, more organic flavor. It literally looks like sugar or glittery shatter.”
“Rosin is when you take the bud and use heat and pressure, like a 20-ton press, which squishes the bud and heats all of the cannabinoid content off of it. You collect the THC or CBD and dab it. People like that because it is a solvent free process, made with just heat and pressure.
“Dry sift is when you take the plant through a series of screens and you’re working the plant through the screens. It separates the THC or CBD heads through the stalks and you’re isolating cannabinoid content. People use that to top bowls, put in joints. You can actually put it in parchment and heat it up and dab it, as well. The benefit of that is that it’s solvent-less. It’s really fresh and organic.”
“With bubble hash, you take the plant material and wash it with water and ice. Then you filter it through a series of screens so you got different levels of THC or CBD. It’s solvent free and a lot healthier.”