Consuming Concentrates: What to Know
Imagine giving a lavender plant to a chemist and telling them you go berserk over the smell. Now imagine they take that plant and hand back a liquid that smelled like lavender and felt like lavender, but could achieve the same effect without requiring you to have any of the plant materials in your home. This is where essential oils come from. Cannabis concentrate products are much the same, a result of a desire for essential extracts. It’s a form of Cannabis in which the desired cannabinoids, usually THC, are separated from the plant material and ‘concentrated’ into a smaller occupied space.
The resulting product is always higher in potency and delivers more of the intended effect, often times in a very different sensational way, with less required material. This is the biggest and most obvious benefit to a recreational consumer like myself. But it should be understood, especially by those obtaining concentrates in places without regulations in place, how these products are made.
Wax, shatter, budder, full-melt, sauce, jam, rosin, live resin, live rosin, RSO, de-carbed oil, batter, sugar, crumble and just plain old hash. It’s a lot of names for describing what are extremely similar processes for production. When making a purchase decision, what's important to understand is the processes used to arrive at the final product in front of you. Really, there are two main houses that extraction fall under.
The first is by using solvents like propane, butane, CO2 or an alcohol like ethanol. This article from Cannabis Business Times describes how the process actually works, and it’s fascinating. What’s important to take away is that in a regulated market, this process always involves a process called ‘purging’ wherein the gaseous concentrated product is heated to a point at which the gases can dissipate. A product should always come with a recorded ppm, parts per million, which will indicate the level of residual gases still bound within the material. It’s unclear at this point what levels may be safe or unsafe for human consumption, but in the Colorado market no products above ~1000 ppm are acceptable for sale to the public. This would be 0.1% residual solvents remaining.
The second camp of concentrates is that of a solvent-less process. These products are known as either hash, water hash, bubble hash, rosin, live rosin, or most obviously—solvent-less extracts. They’re extracted without using the above mentioned substances, simply by using water, ice, heat and pressure. There truly is no potential downside in terms of how the product is actually made. The equipment being used might make a slight difference in how it’s absorbed into the body, but this process doesn’t involve the same level of consideration.
At the end of the day, these products are all strong and should be taken with consideration. Much like every idea in this industry, we don’t know enough yet to make a judgement about the safety or efficacy of certain products. But it helps to know at least what you might be consuming, especially if you’re getting these products from you guy who still charged full price when you paid for a night of sifting through seeds and stems.