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What are Cannabis Extracts?
Legal cannabis is in full bloom in Canada. There is no clearer evidence of this change than the expanding world of cannabis extracts. Taking up one-third of most dispensary menus, extracts can offer the best of cannabis’ effects and flavors, without the plant matter — allowing users to get the same impact from a fraction of smoke or no smoke at all. Extracts also offer all manner of effects, from the soaring, heart-racing mood lift of purified THC, to an intangible sense of wellbeing, courtesy of a CBD vape pen.
What are extracts of cannabis?
People used to call it “hash,” or “hashish” or “keif.” Today, we call them all cannabis extracts. They can take solid, semi-solid or liquid forms. All extracts contain concentrated amounts of cannabis’ main active ingredients — cannabinoids.
The active ingredients in cannabis come from trichomes — tiny, crystal-like resinous external plant glands. Manufacturers produce extracts by literally “extracting” the molecules in trichomes using a variety of mechanical or solvent-based processes. The results are among the most potent forms of cannabis available and come in a variety of forms.
Why should I care about extracts?
If you hate smoke or feeling high, extracts can be helpful. Extracts unlock far more uses than smoking raw flower and we are just now seeing all the benefits of controlling the individual compounds in cannabis. Some like CBN can be used for sleep. Some like THC-A offer pain relief without effects on mood. Extracts can offer more precise dosing and isolations of specific molecules to better dial in effects.
What do extracts look like and how do they differ from marijuana?
Kief is a powder of raw trichomes and trichome stalks that fall off or manually get removed and collected by sifting cured buds through mesh or screens (sometimes called dry sift). Kief can be sprinkled onto buds when smoking or compressed into balls or blocks called pressed kief, or hashish. Hashish made from live cannabis plant resin is called charas.
Ice-water and special narrow screens can be used to create so-called “bubble hash.” Makers submerge trichome-rich plant trim in ice water and agitate the slurry, separating the trichome from the plant. Then, makers use screens to isolate the trichomes from the ice water. After it’s dried, bubble hash can be consumed as a fine powder or compressed into hash balls. Hash’s quality depends on the proportion of plant material to trichomes; the less plant material, the better. These varying qualities can be visually measured when the hash is heated —it will either bubble (good) or melt (better) after it’s heated. The color of bubble hash also indicates quality. High-grade bubble hash is light blond. The lowest grades tend to be black, brown and green.
Rosin pressers use heat and pressure to squeeze out and collect the plant’s resin. This method can be used with either bud and/or trim (flower rosin) or hash (hash rosin).
Waxes and Oils
These highly potent concentrates are produced using a complex process involving solvents and lab equipment to extract the resins from the plant. Waxes and oils can come in many different options usually named for their extraction process and/or overall consistency, including wax, shatter, budder and so on.