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What you need to know about marijuana concentrates

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By Vjiced (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

For both medical patients and recreational users, marijuana concentrates are becoming more and more popular. So popular, in fact, that new and exciting technologies are being developed specifically for their use and manufacture. Why are marijuana concentrates so popular? Is it simply a fad? And what exactly constitutes a concentrate?

What is a marijuana concentrate?

A marijuana concentrate is a substance that is the result of breaking down the cannabis flower to remove the leafy plant matter, while leaving behind the desired chemicals (THC, CBD, and others). There are many different methods of production for cannabis concentrates, and we’ll try to cover all of them. Let us know if we’ve missed any in the comments!

C02 hash oil concentrates

For most cannabis consumers, flower is instantly recognizable. Its aroma and color can tell you a lot about the plant, and it generally feels like a “natural” product. So why is C02 Hash Oil considered a “natural” product? Well, that’s because of you! You produce C02 when you breathe. It is considered non-toxic by the federal government’s regulatory commission, the FDA, and is used in or used to produce many everyday products, including soda, coffee, perfumes, and beer.

How is C02 hash oil produced?

The process of making C02 hash oil is pretty complicated and full of large words, very low temperatures, and high pressures. It all starts with dry ice.

Dry ice is the solid form of C02, and as it melts at room temperature, it releases gas instead of liquid. Why does this happen? When an ice cube melts, it turns into water! Well, C02 in its solid form is extremely cold (that’s why it feels like it burns your skin when you touch it), and in order to convert it into a liquid, not only does the temperature need to change, but the pressure surrounding the cube of dry ice needs to, as well. Currently, the earth’s atmospheric pressure does not allow dry ice to convert to liquid before reaching a gaseous state, so lab technicians that manufacture C02 hash oil use specialized equipment to control the temperature and pressure of dry ice to make a supercritical version of C02, which is a fancy word for “somewhere between gas and liquid.”


Everything you need to start using hash oils and concentrates

What’s important here is that the C02 has now become a compound that can be used to extract chemicals without causing damage to the end product, or denaturing it and making it unable to be consumed. Once the supercritical C02 has been prepared, more lab equipment is used to pass the supercritical C02 through dry marijuana. As it passes through the marijuana, it strips out oils, cannabinoids, and other compounds like terpenes from the flower.

This process is extremely efficient for producing marijuana concentrates because it leaves no trace of C02 behind in the end product. The supercritical C02 that now contains THC, CBD, and other desirable chemicals from marijuana is placed in another temperature-controlled chamber in the lab, and it is here that the temperature is raised and the pressure changed to force the C02 to become a gas. As it evaporates, it leaves behind only the C02 hash oil and the C02 itself returns to the atmosphere.

Butane hash oil concentrates

Butane hash oil, or BHO, is a common form of concentrated cannabis. It is made by using butane, a solvent, to break down the plant matter in the cannabis flower and strip it of its essential oils, psychoactive chemicals, and terpenes.

Butane hash oil: how is it made?

Note: the process of making butane hash oil is very dangerous, and we do not recommend trying it at home.

Butane, a highly flammable solvent, is shot into a tube that contains densely packed dry herb buds. Depending upon the type of BHO manufacture setup being used, the gas can be trapped inside the chamber, or allowed to release immediately as the dry herb is blasted with a can of butane. The same goes for the oil, but commonly it is blasted into pyrex dishes, onto special types of parchment paper, etc. to collect it.

Unlike C02, butane is not going to evaporate completely into the atmosphere during this process, and the resulting wax or shatter will contain butane. A process called purging is used by commercial and some private manufacturers to remove all traces of the butane from the end product. Purging requires the use of a vacuum chamber to speed up the evaporation of the butane trapped inside the produced oil.

In order to keep this article short, we outline the process only briefly and skipped a LOT of what needs to be done in order to maintain safety while preparing butane hash oil, as well as properly produce high-yield BHO. If you want to read an in-depth article about making BHO, check out this article on how to make BHO.

Are marijuana concentrates dangerous?

Concentrated marijuana products can have a much higher THC percentage than dried herb, and because of this, even long-time marijuana users may find it difficult to titrate their dosage. Even so, cannabis concentrates aren’t really all that dangerous when consumed in moderation.

(By Vjiced (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons)

(By Vjiced (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons)