As cannabis goes mainstream, there is more and more focus on cleaner, stronger, and just straight-up cooler methods of getting high—cannabis concentrates are arguably the apex of this development. In so many words, “cannabis concentrates” refers to a range of products that feature cannabis extracts such as THC and CBD in higher concentrations than that found in flower. These concentrates come in a variety of shapes and monikers: shatter, hash, oils, tinctures, etc. One thing that all concentrates have in common is potency: on average, THC concentrates range from 50-80% potency, compared to 10-25% for flower.
These new techniques and products have led to seemingly endless (and perhaps endlessly confusing) options which may leave both first-timers and experienced smokers feeling overwhelmed. Don’t despair! We’ve got you covered with this introduction to some of the more popular concentrates out there.
Shatter is one of the more popular incarnations of cannabis concentrates. This concentrate often has a honey-like colour and translucence, and the consistency of glass when cold—like glass, it can be shattered, hence the name. Shatter is produced by running a solvent such as CO2, butane, or propane through the buds in order to extract cannabinoids. This solvent is then evaporated, leaving only the good stuff behind.
While shatter can be smoked in a pipe or otherwise mixed with flower, it is most efficiently consumed using a purpose-built “oil rig.” These rigs are similar to water bongs, though with a glass nail in the place of a traditional bowl. This nail is heated with a blowtorch, and then shatter is applied. The shatter vaporizes on contact and is inhaled. This process is known as “dabbing.”
PROS: Potent; minimal combustion by-products
CONS: Employs chemical solvents; consumption equipment is relatively expensive and advanced
Rosin looks and acts very much like shatter—indeed, it is extremely similar to shatter—with the exception that it is not extracted using chemical solvents. Instead, rosin is extracted using a combination of heat and pressure, which effective squeezes the cannabinoids from buds. Even better, it is super easy to make, and can be safely produced at home using cannabis flower, a hair straightener, parchment paper, and a collection tool.
PROS: Potent; minimal combustion by-products
CONS: Consumption equipment is relatively expensive and advanced
Bubblehash is a feat of Canadian ingenuity that utilizes ice water (as opposed to heat, pressure, or chemical solvents) to isolate resin glands, and therefore cannabinoids. It is produced by placing busted up buds in a fine-pored bag, such as cheese cloth, and then submerging it in ice water to “wash” the cannabis. Using temperature and friction, this washing process separates resin glands from the rest of the plant matter. The after washing, the mixture is allowed to settle for fifteen to thirty minutes. The bag is then squeezed, causing a slurry of water and resin glands to be sifted through the pores into another bag. Resin glands are collected from the inside of the bag. The process is then repeated, passing the resin slurry through progressively finer-pored bags until the desired amount of resin glands has been achieved. These are then allowed to dry.
Bubblehash can be consumed using virtually any traditional method of smoking, including mixing with flower in a joint.
PROS: Potent; safest production method of any concentrate
CONS: Requires smoking
Hash oil, often referred to as honey oil because of its colour, is basically pre-cooled shatter. Like shatter, it is a cannabis extraction garnered through the use of chemical solvents—the only real difference is that it maintains a liquid consistency.
Hash oil’s liquid consistency makes it ideal for a variety of applications, including use in cartridges for vape pens. It can also be applied to flower or other products for smoking.
PROS: Potent; minimal combustion by-products; flexible applications
CONS: Employs chemical solvents
Ingestible oils act like edibles—indeed, ingestible oils are essentially the active ingredient in edibles. They are made by busting up cannabis flower and placing it in oil, such as olive oil, sunflower oil, or coconut oil. Heat is then applied, and cannabinoids are dissolved into the oil. The plant matter is often strained out, leaving cannabis-infused oils which can then be ingested on their own or mixed into a variety of recipes, either pre- or post-cooking.
The high produced by ingestible oils takes longer to come into effect than smoking methods because of the way in which the cannabinoids are metabolized through the liver. For the same reason, the high also lasts longer.
PROS: Potent; does not require smoking; produces longer-lasting effects
CONS: Takes longer than other methods to take effect
Tinctures are unique in this list as they are sublingual—that mean that they are dropped under the tongue and absorbed through the bloodstream, as opposed to the lungs or liver. In terms of non-smoking methods, tinctures are one of the faster acting; they act much faster than ingestible oils. However, due to the nature of this product, they are often less potent than other concentrates.
Tinctures come in bottles, often with a dropper provided. Simply use the dropper to place a drop (or two) under the tongue and wait for the magic to happen.
PROS: Simple application; accurate dose; fast-acting
CONS: Often lacks potency
CONCENTRATES AND YOU
With all the variety of concentrates available, there is something to suit every need. Are you looking for a longer lasting effect, and willing to wait for it? Try ingestible oils. Want something super potent, hard-hitting, and that you can toss into an interesting apparatus? Shatter’s probably for you. Want shatter that’s optimal for use in your shiny new vape pen? Check out hash oil. Looking for something simpler and more reliable? Tinctures. Want to make your own at home? Look up instructional videos for bubblehash or rosin.
There is a whole world of cannabis concentrates out there for you to try. Start testing them out, and find what works best for your particular needs. Or hey, why not try them all?