Marijuana Concentrates Buyer’s Guide

marijuana concentrates

image courtesy of High Times

With marijuana concentrates more popular than ever before, it’s easy for the average consumer to get lost in trying to navigate the many options available on the market. While price is generally a reliable indicator of quality relative to similar products, its hardly an empirical method for determining how good a concentrate will be before you have a chance to try it. In this article, we’ll discuss what experienced connoisseurs look for in their concentrates so you can be better prepared the next time you head to the dispensary to pick up some dabs.

Use Your Senses

You have five senses at your disposal— sight, smell, taste, touch, and hearing. You should use as many of these tools as you possibly can when shopping for concentrates! Of course, the easiest way to accomplish this is to test a sample but since that’s rarely an option for the average consumer, it often falls on sight and smell to do the bulk of the investigation. No worries! These two very powerful tools… if you know how to use them.

Color, Clarity, Consistency

A shattercareful visual inspection of a concentrate can determine a lot right off the bat. Better concentrates will have a lighter color to them and will take on a color similar to blondehash. Darkness or a green tinge is usually a sign of impurities pulled from the plant as a result of poor-quality butane / technique (though darker-colored purple strains seem to come out a little darker). Good shatter is filtered and should be mostly translucent— there should be no discernible particles trapped anywhere.

Consistency should be as advertised, So, if you’re paying for shatter, you shouldn’t be getting sugar. More liquid, sappy shatter will either be poorly purged or have a high terpene content whereas more solid, stable shatter will always have substantially fewer terpenes leading to a less pleasant flavor.

Sugaring can be caused by prolonged improper storage, a rushed purge, or from substantially high volatile terpene content so additional inspection is usually required. Its generally harder to determine how good sugar will be before sampling which is why it tends to be cheaper.

If you can, be careful to observe if the concentrate sticks to whatever its on or if it breaks apart easily— drier, more crumbly concentrates are usually over-purged and lack the flavor profile of “wetter” looking concentrates.

Follow Your Nose

According to Dr Alan Hirsch of the Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago, 90% of what is perceived as taste is actually smell. That means that a solid whiff of your concentrate in question should be a good indicator of how said concentrate will taste. That’s two senses in one… you should always smell your concentrates before you buy! A stronger smelling concentrate is bound to have more flavor and be more enjoyable than a mild-smelling concentrate.

And while there is really no way to determine if one flavor profile is “better” than another (to each her own), there are some smells that you want to avoid; you should be skeptical if you detect any unpleasant or chemical smells, especially if the concentrate has a more liquid consistency or a strange color. Be wary of liquid-like “solvent-less” concentrates available in different fruity flavors, these are often achieved with flavor additives (same with pre-filled cartridges that use e-juice). If you can’t smell anything, you can expect the concentrate to not taste so great.

Nug Run vs. Trim Run vs. Popcorn Nug Run

nugsFinally, we have to address the different qualities of plant matter that go into making concentrates. Obviously nug runs are going to offer the most potent, flavorful concentrates because those buds have higher concentrations of cannabinoids and terpenes. This is what you want if you’re looking to get the full concentrate experience.

Popcorn nug runs and trim runs, thotrim runugh still potent, contain considerably
fewer terpenes than nug runs and more impurities— these always tend to be darker and more “stable” with much less impressive flavor (even though some will pass the “smell test”). Is there good, tasty PNR or TR shatter? Sure! You’re just going to be disappointed many, many times looking for it. If you’re going to spend the money, its almost always worth it to spring for the nug run.

It’s a lot to remember… but after enjoying higher-quality concentrates for a while, these considerations become second-nature. Perhaps the best way to get started is to treat yourself to the nicest concentrate you can get your hands on and enjoy it… really enjoy it. Make yourself familiar with what a really good concentrate is like and work your way backward… that way you’ll be ready to pounce next time you see a deal at the dispensary (and avoid the disappointing traps)!

Growing Marijuana: The Fringe Benefits of Saving Trim

Why-Farmers-Who-Grow-Marijuana-Save-Trim-Now

There was a time in the not-too-distant past when a weed farmer would grow marijuana simply for the bud, trashing the brittle, dry leaf trim like common waste. These were the days before the popularity of shatter, marijuana edibles, and concentrates. The popularity of dabbing and marijuana oils has shed new light on the way a savvy farmer chooses to grow marijuana in that less goes to waste. That’s because the once overlooked trim is now bringing in upwards of $400.00 a pound.

The Massive Appeal of THC Concentrates

Companies working in edibles and weed concentrates like shatters and hash oils are now asking farmers who grow marijuana Shatter-Marijuana-Concentrateto sell them their trim. It only takes ten pounds of trim to make a pound of concentrated marijuana oil or hash oil. Concentrates are forged using an extraction system that brings with it risks due to the gases used in the process. Producers are left with a thin sheet of amber-colored concentrate ranging in consistency from gooey to brittle. The goo can be sold as concentrated hash oil or wax while the brittle sheets are appropriately dubbed “shatter”.  These concentrates boast between 80% – 90% THC content versus the 15% – 25% consumers get from flower.

Trim: A New Fringe Benefit to Grow Marijuana

Marijuana-Trim-Another-Benefit-to-Grow-Marijuana

When farmers grow marijuana, the focus remains firmly on the flower. Flower can still bring in more cash to the grower than bags of trim. But until recently, it was common for a farmer to dispose of the trim completely. Finally, farmers who grow marijuana are realizing the value of a commodity once regarded as garbage.

Concentrates are the fastest growing facet of Colorado’s marijuana industry. The average weed shop credits anywhere between 30% – 50% of sales on concentrates of some form. Adding onto that a sale price of between $40.00 and $50.00 per gram and it’s obvious why those who grow marijuana are changing the way they handle their harvests to save the trim.

A Rabid Demand for Trim

But concentrate production companies are hitting a glass ceiling when it comes to their need for trim. The suppliers that grow marijuana for these companies can’t always provide them the amount of trim that they need. Many concentrate companies now grow marijuana themselves in addition to buying from farmers to guarantee production expectations are met.

Making-Hash-Oil-from-Marijuana-Trim

In addition to maintaining supply, concentrate companies that grow marijuana on their own have the added bonus of quality control. High demand doesn’t mean that companies will always buy whatever trim is available. Customers are more drawn to buy concentrates in a lighter shade of amber with a clear appearance as opposed to cloudy. Such an appearance comes when the trim is newly harvested and at its freshest. This market nuance means those who grow marijuana can’t collect the trim and store it over long periods of time before turning it over to the concentrate companies.

The lean market for trim still leaves plenty of room for rejection. Concentrate companies turn away trim bags peppered with fan leaves and stems. In addition, with autumn on the horizon, farms that grow marijuana are preparing for a big harvest that is likely to flood companies with quality trim options, driving those top dollar trim bag prices down. Yet farmers are now aware that when they grow marijuana, tossing trim in the trash is throwing away good money. Everyone wins with less waste.

Choosing The Right Dab Tool

wax dabberYou’ve picked out some glass, you’ve decided on a style of nail, you’ve got a torch and some high-quality concentrate… but how are you going to get that concentrate on to the rig? Though its often overlooked, choosing the right dab tool can mean the difference between a pleasant and unpleasant dabbing experience. A good dab tool should be thermally insulated, make it easy to handle your preference of concentrate, and should carry little residue upon delivering the concentrate to the rig. Let’s take a look at the most popular styles of dab tools below:

Pointed / Skinny Tipspointy dabbers

These incorporate the stainless steel dental picks everyone is familiar with as well as small flexible spatulas (like Skillet Tools Flexy) and glass (borosilicate) dabbers pulled to a point. These tools are excellent for traditional “shatter” type concentrates because of their ability to cut individual hits away from a larger piece of shatter and the very small amount of residue that gets left behind on the tool itself (thanks to its low surface area). The small spatula is particularly useful because it can also be used for more “sugary” concentrates as well so long as the concentrate is not too dry… then it’s like trying to eat soup with a fork. It’s also not a great choice for very hard, stable shatter which can create hash shrapnel upon piercing with such a fine tip.

Good for: Shatter, Sap, Sugar, Oil

Bad for: Crumble / honeycomb, harder shatter

Spatulas / Scoopsscoop dabbers

These are the second most common type of concentrate tools on the market and are particularly useful for harder, dryer concentrates that don’t stick as well to the dabber tool. If you tend to prefer crumbles, the scoop is an essential part of the arsenal… especially if you’ve opted for a “banger” or “side-car” style nail— just scoop and go. The spatula is most useful for waxy concentrates which can be pressed into a hit though these tend to create the most “holdup” residue with their large surface area and require regular cleaning to avoid getting that stale “recycled” flavor. They also make a spatula with a sharpened edge that is the perfect tool for breaking apart small hits from stubborn harder shatter.

Good for: Crumbles, wax, harder shatter, sugar

Bad for: Sappy shatter, less viscous concentrates

Carb Caps

Sometimes (for whatever reason) you just don’ttitanium carb cap heat your rig up enough and end up creating a pool of concentrate that vaporizes weakly and slowly… too slow to take-in in one hit. In the old days, this “cold hit” would be weak, hurried, unpleasant, and you would have to watch your expensive concentrate literally go up in smoke. The carb cap fixed this problem by covering the nail (or whatever) and allowing vapor to collect so it can be consumed in a second or third hit. These are a must-have for everyone with a nail. Some of them even come attached to the nail itself.

Wether you’re considering a new rig or just looking for a way to make life easier, we hope you’ll use these considerations when buying your next dab tool! Since most dabbers work as 2-in-1 tools (using both ends), you should try to choose something that best fits your preference of concentrate. Remember, the dab tool is an essential part of your rig!

Happy dabbing!

How Clean Is Your Cannabis Extract?

how clean is your cannabis extractThough we don’t often think about it, consuming marijuana means you’re ingesting more than just THC. The process of growing and curing weed often subjects the plant to numerous chemicals and pathogens, and without any oversight or regulation, consumers are forced to rely on growers to be responsible in their use of pesticides and fertilizers.

Unfortunately, most marijuana growers lack a proper understanding of agriculture science.

One example is the widespread use of the fungicide “Eagle 20 EW” which has been detected in commercial grows in Colorado. Though its commonly used on hops and grape crops, the compound has been banned for use on tobacco because the residue left behind becomes toxic when burned.

A recent independent study in the state found that nearly every sample of medicinal marijuana obtained contained trace amounts of harmful, potentially carcinogenic pesticides. Even though these chemicals were only present in very low concentrations, regular long-term exposure could pose a health concern, especially to patients with already compromised immune systems.

Concentrating Cannabis

marijuana sprayed with pesticidesThe improper use of pesticides becomes an even bigger problem when we begin to look at cannabis extracts. By concentrating the marijuana plant, one can also unintentionally concentrate any residual pesticides left behind in the plant. As any toxicologist will be happy to tell you, “the danger is in the dose,” the more concentrated a toxin is, the greater a threat it poses to peoples’ health.

Additionally, though butane itself is considered generally non-toxic at mild concentrations, 99.99% pure butane is nearly impossible to obtain without ordering from a specialized, regulated scientific supply company leaving most “extract artists” to rely on disposable butane canisters that use any number of toxic adulterants as a carrier gas (some of these canisters may advertise themselves as “pure” but even the most expensive lab-grade reagents can only assure a >95% purity as the gas can decompose into primary products).

Outsourcing CBD

One last concern specifically addresses CBDchina agricultural runoff concentrates which are often manufactured from industrial hemp. As these concentrates have risen in popularity, China has begun exporting extracts made from Chinese hemp which could pose a health risk. The New York Times and BBC recently published several articles covering how heavy metal runoff from mining operations has made its way into the food supply, skyrocketing cancer rates by as much as 500% (maybe more, its hard to determine exactly how bad things have gotten with a lack of reliable self-reporting from China). It’s been well established that plants like hemp readily absorb these heavy metals and that Chinese environmental authorities cannot be trusted for proper analysis or certification of such materials. Consumers must be cautious and make sure to only purchase extracts produced in countries with  strong regulations like the U.S. and Canada.

So how clean is your cannabis concentrate? It’s impossible to know without thorough independent chemical analysis. The extract industry has exploded largely unchecked and only now have we begun to realize that these concentrates pose a new set of concerns previously unknown with consuming the marijuana plant alone. As places like Canada and Colorado begin to adopt policies that regulate the marijuana industry, there’s no doubt we’ll gain a better understanding of exactly how these substances actually affect our health.