Even if you’ve just begun to explore the world of cannabis, you’ve undoubtedly discovered that there are a wide variety of ways to enjoy this popular plant. However, having such a broad range of options can be a double-edged sword: even though it’s great to have the flexibility to find the form of cannabis that suits you, it can also be challenging to know where to begin. Learn more with our Concentrates Style Guide.
At Canna Provisions Group, we’re passionate about our role in the cannabis community. We see ourselves as guides that are well-equipped to support the unique cannabis journey of each of our customers, tapping into our expertise to offer education and information along the way. As such, it only made sense that we start breaking down some of the most talked-about topics in cannabis and create easy-to-use guides to answer commonly-asked questions.
In this guide, we’re going to take a deep dive into cannabis concentrates. As one of the most widely consumed forms of cannabis, concentrates are enjoyed by medical and recreational consumers alike. Like all types of marijuana, there are plenty of options to consider when you’re shopping for concentrates. But if you’re feeling unsure about choosing the right type of concentrate to suit your desired experience – or even if you’re still trying to figure out exactly what a concentrate is – you’ve come to the right place.
What is a Cannabis Concentrate?
First things first, we’re going to answer an important question: what is a concentrate? As you might have guessed from the name, it is a product that is a concentrated form of marijuana.
Using a variety of extraction methods (which we’ll talk about later), excess cannabis plant matter is removed. The result is a rich mixture of cannabinoids and terpenes, the key “active ingredients” that are responsible for delivering the effects that cannabis is known for.
The two primary cannabinoids that naturally occur in the cannabis flower are THC and CBD. THC is the cannabinoid responsible for the psychoactive effects often associated with cannabis, while CBD is becoming increasingly well-known for its potential therapeutic benefits. For cannabis consumers, each cannabinoid has something to offer – it all comes down to individual goals and desired experiences.
Even though different marijuana strains can carry widely varying levels of THC, most concentrated extracts are very high in THC. Depending on your preferences, you can also opt for concentrates that have a balanced mix of THC and CBD or CBD-only concentrates.
Terpenes are the other half of the cannabis concentrate equation, serving to enhance the overall experience with a variety of distinctive aromas and flavors. If you’ve ever heard a fellow cannabis consumer describe a strain as “citrusy,” sour,” “sweet,” “earthy,” or “spicy,” they were talking about terpenes.
There are more than 100 different terpenes that we know about now, and many consumers report that terpenes play a role in the effects of a specific strain. Like cannabinoids, terpenes are an important factor that can impact the specific products or strains that you gravitate towards most often.
So, just to review: when you’re shopping for the best concentrates for you, two of the factors you’ll use to make your decision are:
But we’re not done yet – there’s still more to learn before you can consider yourself a connoisseur of concentrates.
Another defining characteristic of concentrates is the way in which the excess plant material is removed and the extract obtained. This process is known as the “extraction method,” and there are two main types:
- Solvent-based extraction
- Non-solvent extraction
Like most things in the world of cannabis, the best extract method is a matter of personal preference. There’s been plenty of debate about solvent vs. non-solvent extract, with many different opinions on the topic. Ultimately, it’s up to you to choose the cannabis products (and the extraction method) that lines up with your own beliefs.
Solvent-based extraction utilizes chemical solvents (such as CO2, butane, propane, and alcohol) to separate the plant’s resin glands from the rest of the cannabis flower. Because the resin glands contain THC, the process is ideal for creating a highly-concentrated form of cannabis. Here is a basic breakdown of the process:
- The selected chemical solvent(s) are applied to the cannabis flowers, where they pass through and acquire cannabinoids. Once that is complete, the result is called “slurry.”
- Because slurry still contains a high level of residual solvents, it cannot be consumed. First, a purging process must take place. Purging can be completed through hand-whipping, evaporation, or vacuuming. Depending on the purging method, the final product will have a unique consistency (though vacuuming is the most commonly used).
Non-solvent extraction manipulates water, temperature, and pressure in order to achieve a similar final result. The process is generally more straightforward than solvent-based extraction, with fewer steps to complete:
- Generally, ice will be used to bring the cannabis flowers to sub-zero temperatures. As a result, the resin glands detach from the flowers.
- In some cases, pressure and/or heat will also be used to move the process forward.
- No purging is needed because this extraction process is free from harmful chemicals.
Until modern requirements for extraction labs were implemented, many people thought that non-solvent extracts were safer. However, today’s solvent-based extracts are made under careful conditions. There’s no shortage of people within the cannabis community that believe that solvent-based extracts are more potent, offering a wider spectrum of cannabinoids of terpenes (which, in turn, amps up the flavor, aroma, and expected effects). At the same time, there are plenty of individuals that argue the exact same advantages in enjoying non-solvent based extractions.
Ultimately, there are many outstanding options for both solvent- and non-solvent-based cannabis extraction methods. It may or may not be a factor in the type of concentrate you end up selecting.
Types of concentrates
At this point, it might not look like there are that many choices to make when you’re ready to try marijuana concentrates. But actually, this is where the experience of exploring your options really gets interesting – and fun!
There are many different types of concentrates, differing according to the extraction process, the strain used to make them, how you consume it, and even the physical form it takes. When you’re just starting out with concentrates, the huge variety of different types can be intimidating. But with the help of a knowledgeable budtender (and the information we’re about to cover), you can find an excellent, high-quality option to suit your ideal experience.
Here are some of the most popular concentrate types out there:
- Kief: One of the most traditional cannabis concentrates, kief is made using specialized filtering screens or tumblers. The flower is gently rubbed against the screen, which isolates the trichomes and results in a very fine texture. Live kief is a specific type that uses fresh-frozen flower, which was cut at harvest and then immediately frozen to preserve the most cannabinoids and terpenes possible. The frozen flower is defrosted with a nitrogen bath, and then the same process with the screen or tumbler is performed. Many consumers prefer live kief for its highly potent, flavorful, and aromatic characteristics.
- Shatter: Easily recognizable by its glass-like consistency, shatter is named for the way it breaks easily into small pieces. Usually clear or amber in color, shatter is one of purest forms of cannabis. The thin sheets sometimes look like hard candy, and are made with BHO (butane) extraction. Extra filtration measures produce a final result that’s impressively pure and potent, making it a good match for the seasoned cannabis consumer that wants an intense experience.
- Wax: As its name suggests, wax has a waxy consistency that can be extremely sticky. Many types require you to use a tool known as a dab rig to avoid making a massive mess. Wax concentrates can vary from thick and honey-like to those with crumbly textures. The variances in this type of concentrate come down to the moisture and heat levels applied during the non-solvent extraction process.
- Budder is a gooey wax made from oils rich in moisture
- Honeycomb or crumble are the waxes that are drier and more brittle
- Rosin: The extraction method for rosin relies entirely on heat and pressure, with high-grade rosin made using professional-grade hydraulic presses. With a golden color and thick, oil-like texture, rosin can offer the benefit of rich terpene profiles.
- Oil: Oils, sometimes referred to as CO2 oil, are produced via CO2 extraction rather than butane. They are called oils primarily because of their runny but thick consistency, making them ideal for use in vape pen cartridges and syringes. One of the unique aspects of CO2 oils is that they are often richer in terpenes because the extraction method doesn’t require such high temperatures (which can destroy a certain amount of terpenes). Oil is also the most common type of concentrate offered in CBD-only varieties and is also a favorite product for consumers that enjoy making edibles.
- Rick Simpson Oil (RSO) is a specific type of oil concentrate intended for consumers who want a highly-potent product. Named for Rick Simpson, who incorporated it in his journey to fight cancer, RSO is typically reserved for medicinal uses. Usually, you won’t see RSO in commercial dispensaries, mainly because newer cannabis extraction methods opt for far cleaner solvents.
- THCA Crystalline (“Diamonds”): THCA crystalline forms into crystal-like formations, which is what earned it the gemstone-inspired nickname. It is a very pure and refined form of cannabis that contains the THCA cannabinoid (isolated through a solvent-based method). There are virtually no terpenes in THCA crystalline, which is why many consumers report a completely different experience when comparing it to other THC preparations.
- Distillate: One of newest types of concentrates, distillate is made by vaporizing the THC and CBD within the flowers of the cannabis plant. The vapor is then transferred to a cooling system, where it is consolidated and collected in beakers. These steps are repeated until a completely pure form of cannabinoids (with zero residual solvents or plant matter) has been achieved. Even though this highly-scientific process tends to destroy terpenes, they can be added back in to create special flavors.
- Hash: Hash is one of the original forms of marijuana concentrate, existing long before we had such a plethora of complex extraction methods to take advantage of. Hash can be made by compressing kief into small discs, while other types of hash are produced through a process that uses ice water and sifting screens (often called “bubble hash” or “water hash”). All hash products are more potent than standard cannabis flower, and can be consumed on their own or as a mix-in for regular bud.
If you can believe it, this doesn’t even cover every single kind of concentrate. However, the long list above includes the types you’re most likely to encounter when you visit your local dispensary.
Ways to Enjoy Cannabis Concentrates
Once you’ve picked the perfect concentrate, it’s time to figure out your next step: how to actually enjoy it. There are many ways to consume concentrates, and your method will depend both on the type of concentrate you’ve chosen and your own personal preferences.
Here are a few of the most common ways to consume cannabis concentrates:
- Dab rigs: The majority of concentrate enthusiasts choose to dab, a method that offers many options for customization. The tool you’ll use when dabbing is called a “dab rig” and can take a few different forms. If you decide to try dabbing for yourself, we recommend taking the time to learn how to use a dab rig properly to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.
- Vaporizers: Vaping has become increasingly popular across the world, including in the cannabis community. There are desktop and portable vaporizers available, and you’re probably most familiar with vape pens. One of the biggest benefits of vaping concentrates is versatility because you’ll have the freedom to choose from a variety of factors to customize your experience.
- With cannabis: Finally, you can always keep things simple and add concentrate to your flower. Nicknamed “bowl topping,” this method involves literally sprinkling the concentrate on top of a bowl (or bong or pipe) filled with flower. Some consumers like to layer concentrate between layers of flower, or place a small amount inside a joint before rolling it. Keep in mind that not all concentrate consistencies will work with this consumption method, especially the sticker types.
Massachusetts Cannabis Laws: Concentrates
Of course, one of the most important parts of learning about cannabis concentrates is making sure you understand the laws that regulate them. Otherwise, you run the risk of completely ruining your experience altogether.
In the state of Massachusetts, the regulations for cannabis concentrates are as follows:
- Consumers must be at least 21 years of age
- You can possess up to 5 grams of concentrate and hash for personal use (you can possess up to 1 ounce of cannabis total, but only 5 grams of that can be concentrate)
Shopping only at reputable Massachusetts dispensaries is a good way to make sure you stay in line with cannabis concentrate purchase limits.
Shop Premium Cannabis Concentrates at Our Massachusetts Dispensaries
Looking for the best place to buy marijuana concentrates in Massachusetts? Let your journey take you to Canna Provisions Group, a leader in the industry and a trusted source in the cannabis community. With three Massachusetts recreational dispensaries in Lee, Holyoke, and Easthampton, Canna Provisions Group is an easy stop on even the busiest day.
We’ve built a solid reputation for our carefully-curated selection of cannabis, including concentrates, flower, topicals, edibles, and more. Our team works hard to select on the best concentrates from the most respected brands in the business, all while keeping our prices affordable. Whether you know exactly what you’re shopping for or it’s your first time at a dispensary, you’re welcome here: the Canna Provisions Group budtenders are friendly, knowledgeable, and always happy to help.
Explore an exciting new cannabis adventure by visiting Canna Provisions Group to shop for concentrates today!