Smoking a joint might soon be a thing of the past…thanks to cannabis concentrates.
Step aside joints and bongs, there's a new kid in town. Well, several new kids. There's hash, oil, vapes, shatters and rosin. In fact, the list is growing so quickly that smoking herb may soon be a thing of the past.
Last year in California, cannabis concentrates outsold flower for the first time in history, comprising 37 percent of all cannabis sales. According to figures from BDS Analytics, concentrates outperformed flower by 4 percent in 2018. This is a huge jump from 2014, when flower dominated 67 percent of the then nascent Colorado market.
At this point, you might be wondering why people are abandoning the "au naturel" approach of smoking cannabis and flocking to concentrates instead. So, let's find out.
Healthy Highness: The Move Towards Concentrates
There are two central reasons for the move toward concentrates. Firstly, the shift in the market is actually being driven primarily by vaporisers. This can be seen in sales data taken from the Colorado cannabis industry, where vapes accounted for 30 percent of all concentrate sales in the state.
This movement towards vapes has been sparked by growing health concerns and the increasing reluctance for individuals to put smoke into their bodies. A 2015 BBC study of 3,000 vape users revealed that the number one reason that people switched to vaping was to avoid the harms associated with cigarettes.
And vaping isn't the only way to get high without smoking. Other forms of cannabis concentrates such as tinctures and edibles can also sidestep smoking by going straight into the bloodstream or through the digestive tract.
The second driver behind the movement towards concentrates is efficiency. As the name suggests, concentrates are a concentrated form of marijuana, and will get you higher using less product. In essence, concentrates are the equivalent of a vodka shot of THC.
It's these desires to get both healthier and higher simultaneously that are ultimately pushing the concentrates market forward.
Now let's take a look at what concentrates people are using.
Time to Concentrate: Different Forms of Cannabis Concentrates
Cannabis concentrates aren't for the faint of heart. If you've ever found yourself feeling way too high off of a joint, you might want to steer clear of concentrates. Boasting THC levels up to four times higher than joints, concentrates will send you to outer-space if you aren't a regular user.
However, for the experienced cannabis users in our audience, here are some of the hottest concentrates that people can't keep their hands off.
Hashish is potentially the oldest cannabis concentrate there is. Appearing throughout Arabia as early as 900 AD, hash has been said to translate to either "grass" or "assassin" in Arabic. (Perhaps it means both?) Either way, this concentrate was first made by rubbing the marijuana plant in your hands until you had resin all throughout your palms and fingers. At this stage the resin would be rolled into balls called "charas" which could then be added to joints or smoked in pipes to achieve a stronger high than just smoking flower.
Nowadays, hash is made using sieves, sometimes mechanically, which is referred to as "drysifting".
If you've ever used a grinder, chances are you've done some drysifting yourself. The finer powder that you are sometimes left with at the bottom of your grinder is known as kief and is its own form of mild cannabis concentrate.
From there, one only needs to heat and compress the kief into a block shape to create hash. Hash is a milder concentrate, but can still have 2-3 times higher THC levels than the traditional plant.
And if regular hash doesn't do it for you, you can also separate the cannabinoids from your plant using ice cold water, which will lead to bubble hash.
As we mentioned, the expansion of the concentrates market is actually mostly due to vaping.
Because vaporizers don't reach the point of burning plant matter, vape users can avoid the harmful effects that come with smoking. The second you burn the plant, you're not only inhaling cannabis, but also carcinogens and other toxins. These can lead to respiratory issues and even cancer. In short, vaping gives you all of the good, with none of the bad.
Another benefit to not burning the plant is also the smell which follows. While some may love the smell of a burning joint, those around you might not. Vapor isn't as pungent as smoke which means vaping will leave less of a scent behind for those around you.
To get high using a vape you'll need what is referred to as "THC vape juice." In essence this is just concentrated THC mixed with flavouring and propylene glycol. Be warned though, THC vape juices can have THC content levels up to 90%.
Tinctures are a convenient and inoffensive way to consume cannabis, and are sold in a dropper bottle containing a mixture of alcohol and THC extract. Despite their ease in usage and dosing, tinctures actually remain fairly rare.
More people opt for CBD tinctures that are low in THC to achieve the medicinal benefits of cannabis without the high.
Tinctures have the benefit of being not only quick-acting, but also highly versatile. You can add tinctures to most foods or beverages, and they'll essentially become edibles.
BHO's: Butane Hash Oils
The term BHO covers a wide range of cannabis concentrates, such as shatter, budder and crumble. When one thinks of cannabis concentrates, these are what people will typically envision. They're also what people are trying to make when you hear horror stories of lab explosions. You'd best leave these ones to the professionals.
BHO's are created through a solvent, usually either butane or CO2, mixed with freshly ground plant matter. Then, using a technique known as solvent extraction, the essential oils are stripped from the plant, and the butane is boiled off. This leaves you with a highly concentrated honey-like substance. This concentrated substance can contain upwards of 80% THC, which is a far cry from the 20% THC you get from plant matter.
Depending on how you handle the concentrate from here, you can make slight tweaks to the consistency, leading you to different products.
If you agitate the crystalized cannabinoids and then proceed to whip it as you would cream or batter, you are left with "budder" wax. The concentrate gets its name from its creamy, butter-like texture.
And, if you perform this method on a lower heat without the whipping, you're left with "crumble" wax.
Last, but certainly not least under the BHO umbrella is shatter. Resembling a golden piece of glass, shatter is one of the more popular concentrates on the market simply because it looks good. Shatter is achieved by avoiding agitation with the compound and leaving the concentrate thinly laid out on a tray to harden.
Each BHO is essentially made up from the same materials, and then ingested through the use of a dabbing rig. You can learn more about using dabbing rigs here.
Rosin is one of the newer concentrates to hit the market, but it's quickly rising in popularity. The main reason for the surge in rosin is the fact that you can safely make it at home without the use of a solvent.
To make rosin, you simply need some well ground flower, or kief ideally, sandwiched in the fold of a piece of parchment paper. From there, you use a hair straightener on the sandwiched material on a low heat for roughly 7 seconds. Once you hear the sizzle, you've got the rosin. You can use rosin the same way you would smoke hash or shatter.
The Future of Concentrates
As we're seeing with the growing concentrate market, people are slowly edging away from the faithful flower and moving toward better priced, more potent concentrates. Couple this with growing health concerns around smoking and it seems as though we're on the precipice of a new age.
According to a report by Zion Market Research, the global cannabis concentrate market sat at USD $3.73 billion in 2018, and is expected to generate around USD $13.78 billion by 2026.
Though as the wave of cannabis concentrates continues to crash in, people are quickly finding out they can't swim.
Due to the heightened amounts of THC in cannabis concentrates, and the fact that they're such a new phenomenon, many are unknowingly taking more THC than they can handle. This inability to know how much to take is leading a lot of new concentrate users to the emergency room.
As a result, some doctors are calling for bans on concentrates, and some judges are cracking down on users, even those with medical marijuana cards. It's early days in the concentrates game, and people are clearly still finding their feet.
Though with any new phenomena there's always a learning curve, and it's clear we're only at the beginning of our relationship with concentrates. One thing is for sure though, concentrates are here to stay.