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Extracts Explained

We break down some key differentiators and common misconceptions surrounding the increasingly popular cannabis extract market.

From vaping liquid extracts (see our previous Session article) to dabbing something denser, you’re probably aware of the ever-expanding lineup of extract products out there. As they vary in potency, mode of consumption, and price, we’ve extracted some basic bits of information to know before delving into this complex group of cannabis offerings.

What’s the difference between “concentrates” and “extracts?”

These two terms are often used interchangeably, creating confusion amongst even the highest of cannabis connoisseurs. Technically speaking, anything that “concentrates” compounds of the cannabis plant – through any multitude of methods – is a concentrate.   The differentiation of “extract” comes into play when discussing the mode of – you guessed it – extracting the cannabinoids from the flower. Using solvents is the most popular way to do this, and likely the reason for misunderstandings in nomenclature.

To be considered an “extract,” the process must use either a) a hydrocarbon or alcohol-based solvent or b) carbon dioxide (CO2) combined with heat and/or pressure, to separate THC, CBD or other cannabinoids from the plant matter. Residual solvents are removed through a very precise process (i.e., flammable; do not try at home!), resulting in a cannabis extract that contains significantly higher amounts of THC and/or other cannabinoids.

What are the most common extracts?

Now that we’ve grounded ourselves in the broad land of extracts, there are more layers to unpack in terms of consistency, potency, and ways to consume. All these characteristics are dependent upon which solvent is used, and how much heat and/or pressure is applied during the extraction process. Below are some of the more popular forms of cannabis extracts, all of which we offer here at Marigold:

OIL: Pressure is used to turn the plant’s naturally occurring CO2 (in gas form) into a liquid that then separates cannabinoids and terpenes. Most vape cartridges on the market utilize a CO2 extraction method, making it a relatively cost-effective option with potency levels between 50-70%. Butane, propane and ethanol also produce cannabis extract oils.

WAX: Named for its consistency, cannabis wax can come in a variety of “waxy” forms (budder and shatter, for example, are technically waxes), but its claim to fame results from its ability to retain more of the plants’ original cannabinoids and terpenes – and therefore – achieve higher levels of THC content. Waxes can be dabbed, vaped or even added to a joint, bowl or bong.

BADDER/BATTER/BUDDER: Derived from an extract process that uses either butane, propane or alcohol and high levels of heat, it is whipped to form its (varying) textures, often noted to be a slightly softer and tackier wax. Consumers heat the extract and inhale its vapors through dabbing. Cannabinoid content is generally between 70-80% and its effects are felt more quickly than smoking raw flower.

SHATTER: Noted for its solid, translucent nature that cracks easily (like glass), shatter is often enjoyed by more experienced extract enthusiasts (budder is arguably easier to handle). Like many of its wax equivalents, it can be up to 90% THC, making it one of the most potent extracts on the market.

SUGAR: Made similarly to shatter, it gets its name because it resembles wet brown sugar. After a butane extraction method (in most cases), sugar wax is refined using heat purging and vacuum techniques. This essentially crystallizes the THC and CBD, giving it its signature texture and a rich flavor profile. Because it is less sticky than other waxes and less delicate than shatter, it’s less of an extract mess.

DIAMONDS & SAUCE: Perhaps the most “mad-scientist” of them all, diamonds and sauce essentially consists of pure THC “diamonds” floating in a sea of terpene-rich “sauce.” After butane extraction (again, usually), and the solvent is removed, the extract is stored in a dark room. Within a few weeks, the terpenes and cannabinoids separate; the “mined” THC diamonds and terpene sauce are purified individually before joining together again in the final product, which can top out at a wild 99% THC level. Expert extract-ers choose diamonds and sauce for its obvious potency and the ability to customize their high with pure THC and flavorful terpenes.

Why choose an extract?

More cannabis enthusiasts are turning to extracts because of their potency, customizability, quick on-set of effects, and nature of retaining the plants’ original cannabinoids and terpenes.

Extracts are often three times as potent as raw flower, with the ability to be nearly pure THC. This higher high is also felt more quickly than raw flower, so there’s the opportunity to customize your experience more instantaneously. Whichever strength or consistency you choose, you’ll get the benefit of basking in the complex terpene flavors of popular strains.

Where should I start?

If you’re looking to take your tolerance to a new level, opt for a wax or oil. While they can be powerfully potent, many start at roughly 40% THC. Waxes or budder are also easier to work with (compared to shatter) and can be either dabbed or added to raw flower.

The most important mantra to keep in mind when consuming cannabis extracts: low and slow. It takes reflective trial and error to find that perfect euphoria, so be patient. Because most extract effects happen very quickly, as opposed to an edible, for example, incrementally dosing can help you land in your sweet spot.

What about non-“extract” concentrates then?

Understanding the slight differences in classification can get rather…sticky. As mentioned above, all products that compound (or “concentrate”) cannabinoids and terpenes are in fact – concentrates. When done so with a solvent, they are classified as extracts, but not all concentrates utilize a solvent.

Concentrates can also be made via mechanical techniques (i.e., by hand or tools), with CO2 (minus the high heat and/or pressure), or with other vegetable oils, fats, or even water. In fact, humans have been creating cannabis concentrates this way for thousands of years, as evidenced by findings across multiple cultures dating back to 900 AD. Rosin and live resin are examples of concentrates (not extract ones) gaining momentum in the market. We will delve into those more in future, so be sure to stay tuned.

Until then, stop into the shop and chat with us about the extract experience you’re seeking. We know there’s a lot to explore, and we’re happy to pass along our collective wisdom for all things weed.