First things first: this article is intended to explain the theory and barebones practicalities of how cannabis e-juice is produced. Read the following information with the explicit understanding that making cannabis e-juice from scratch and subsequently heating and inhaling certain types of alcohol (even in residual quantities) can be hazardous to your health, and could result in poisoning, cancer, or other definitively not-cool conditions.
Playing with chemical compounds is no joke. All things considered (and more on those hazardous things later), it is certainly wise to leave the production of cannabis e-juice from scratch to professional chemists with their fancy degrees and shiny equipment.
We do not recommend that anyone attempts to make cannabis e-juice from scratch (beginning with raw flower) using only this article, or any internet article, as their sole source of information. If you lack chemistry training and equipment, a safer, easier, and much faster alternative is to start with a ready-made concentrate, which is covered at the end of the article.
Now, what are we talking about, anyway?
It sounds like something out of science fiction, or a new health juice trend, or e-mail’s distant cousin. But it’s none of these things. So what exactly is cannabis e-juice?
In so many words, cannabis e-juice is a liquid that contains generally high (to very high) levels of THC, CBD, and/or other cannabinoids. While there are no standardized guidelines that definitively distinguish cannabis e-juice from certain cannabis oils, sources generally agree that cannabis e-juice is a concentrate with a high viscosity that has a number of applications, though it is best suited to be vaporized using electronic devices. Cannabis e-juice can be consumed in a number of ways. As its very name suggests, the most common method is by vaporization, typically in an e-cig or handheld vaporizer. However, e-juice may also be absorbed sublingually (under the tongue) like a tincture, or used to make edibles. Thus, those reading closely may have just realized that this is a very versatile concentrate—indeed, the cannabinoids in e-juice may be absorbed through the sublingual membrane, through the liver, or through the lungs.
Cannabis e-juice is becoming increasingly popular, particularly among diehard vapers. This rise in popularity has led many resourceful consumers to don their own lab coats and try to concoct some of this liquid gold themselves. E-juice is probably the cannabis product with the most complex production requirements and the most room for error. In the remainder of this article, we will discuss how one COULD make cannabis e-juice at home—though, once again, this is best left to the professionals. If you’re looking for the safest and quickest method, skip to “FROM CONCENTRATE.”
E-Juice from Scratch
You want to begin with a well-ventilated area. First, select some bud. While some DIYers use trim to make e-juice (stems, leaves, etc), the best results will come with the best flower. The highest-quality e-juice is made using nugs free of seeds. The nugs are chopped up into small pieces (grinders will make it too small) and typically heated in an oven for roughly thirty minutes, at or just below 200 degrees Fahrenheit. This baking period allows the THCA found in the plant to become decarboxylated—in so many words, it turns THCA into THC, so that consumers can achieve a psychoactive high. If it weren’t for this step in the process, you might as well be making hemp juice.
These bits of decarboxylated cannabis are then placed in a suitable vessel (like a mason jar) and covered with just enough alcohol to saturate it (too much will dilute your final product). You don’t want any of the flower sticking up above the surface of the alcohol. A variety of different kinds of alcohol can be used in this step, from Bacardi 151, to 190-proof Everclear, to food-grade vegetable glycerin, propylene glycol, or pure ethanol. However, do not confuse with this “variety” of alcohol for “any” alcohol. For example, Jack Daniels wouldn’t cut it, and isopropyl alcohol is a toxin that obviously wouldn’t be very good to inhale.
The safest bet is to use food-grade vegetable glycerin, as alternatives, such as propylene glycol, may break down into carcinogenic formaldehyde if heated inappropriately. That being said, vegetable glycerin tends to make juice of a slightly lower potency—I told you, this stuff is complicated!
Anyway, combine the alcohol and the cannabis (sounds like my kind of party), screw a lid on your jar, and shake it up. Leave your solution in a cool dark place for 2-3 months to allow the alcohol to extract all the cherished cannabinoids from the flower.
Note that this process can be greatly sped up with a carefully controlled hot bath, but this process is too complex for the purposes of this article—again, leave it to the chemists.
Shake up your cannabis/alcohol solution as often as you like—up to once a day. Vigorously stir your solution after about a month and add a fresh tablespoon of alcohol. Do this again a month later.
After the last month, use a wire mesh strainer to remove large bits of raw cannabis flower and discard. Strain the juice once more with three or four layers of cheesecloth over the strainer. Note that this straining is barely sufficient for removing vegetable glycerin and other types of alcohol require much more complex purging methods, for that a rotary evaporator or an evaporating tray is required. If everything went well, you should be left with a translucent solution. Use a syringe to add your concoction to your vape pen, and enjoy!
You can skip all of the above (tedious, potentially dangerous) steps if you are starting with shatter or wax.
Once you’ve got your desired concentrate on hand, the process is remarkably simple. Are you ready for it?
- Add your concentrate to a suitable vessel (like a Pyrex test tube).
- Add a dilutant, such as The Potion, following the manufacturers’ directions.
- Use a lighter to heat the glass for 3-4 seconds until the solution bubbles (don’t heat too long or you risk burning off the terpenes or combusting the concentrate itself).
- Mix well.
- Add to vape pen and enjoy!
Cannabis e-juice is an exciting revolution in the cannabis world, but also entails some of the most complex production methods. If you decide to do some home cooking—particularly if you’re beginning with raw cannabis flower—do your research, take care, and be sure to use the proper safety equipment. Heat is hot. Formaldehyde is bad. Alcohol can be poison. But properly-made cannabis e-juice can be oh-so-satisfying!