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RECENTS

Dabbing in the Dark Ages: A Table of Chemical Solvent-Based Cannabis Extract Options

Updated: Dec 1, 2023

Table of Solvent-Based Extract Options Included At The End (scrolls left to right).


I haven’t had a lot to say lately, with so many voices, they can sometimes drown out my own. Then I hit the DM's hard and remembered who I was writing for again: all of those coming to it, are new to it, are shifting product categories, or those who finally decided to pull their heads above water and take a hard look around. And boom! Clean hash, or clean BHO rather, became the topic of conversation with a question I’ve encountered many times before:

Is “distillate" clean … (um, gulp) - hash?

As is usually the case, people come to me with half truths and the bits and pieces of information they picked-up and patched together along the way. Hashwriter.org ties up the loose ends and connects the dots for consumers, however minor comments in conversation revealed Florida budtenders marketing Distillate as “clean hash.” I should have known. Everyone is going to experience the same growing pains and ugly marketing trends of retail cannabis in new market states, the way California did two or three years before. Don’t feel bad, however. I envied Colorado’s maturing solventless scene as it was just rolling out in California back in 2018-2019, helping to fuel the spontaneous arrival of @Hashwriter and hashwriter.org. The market can change and change fast.

Let’s just break it down, why don’t we?


There’s a conspiracy out there keeping solvent extracts relevant. Now I'm not into conspiracy theories, but common sense says chemical solvent extractors make far too much money on the largest scale not to make every attempt to control the narrative. They infiltrate new market states and their uniformed consumers to allegedly "educate" with their biased canna-propaganda. An article for another day, will reveal the parent companies of cannabis-colleges and classes, disarming us with their generosity to educate, but failing to provide meaningful product information. Bud-Tenders are taught marketing trends and terms, not cannabis or product insight.


Is distillate clean hash?

Despite any number of possible definitions of cleanliness, let’s focus on two. One for solventless hash-making real fast and one entirely different meaning for “clean” in the solvent-based industry.

Solventless Clean


Solventless clean is classified by a system of 1 through 6 stars for ice water hash and couldn’t be any further away from what bud-tenders in Florida are currently talking about. Cleanliness is one crucial aspect to grading ice water hashish, and determining whether the hash can be dabbed as normal, or if it simply contains too much plant material to dab. Since water hash is refined using only ice and water, it's a different topic altogether, but the inklings of where I think some confusion about "cleanliness" may originally stem.

Solvent-Clean


Is distillate clean hash?

Distillates, or short-path distillation is nothing original to cannabis. Before the distilling is accomplished however, another method of chemical solvent extraction is required. This initial extraction uses Co2, Propane, Butane, Hexane, or Ethanol, all safely referred to as simply "BHO" today. After the initial BHO extraction (which contains traces of residual solvents) distillation can be accomplished, eliminating 100% of the residual, or leftover solvent used in the first extraction phase. Is a distillate clean of residual solvents? Yes, but only at the greatest expense of all...



When distillation was first put to use, the resulting product was often referred to as being "Solvent-Free," not to be confused with "Solventless." Today solvent-free is used interchangeably to describe solventless extracts and the older definition has fallen out of use.




Distilled down into THC, distillates and isolates are missing everything pertinent to the Entourage Effect. The latest cannabis research and knowledge points to a combined effect, known as the Entourage Effect, when cannabinoids interact with terpenes. A plant's unique range of cannabinoids and terpenes is what defines the genetic, with terpenes also providing the smell and taste.


Distillate Defined

We should probably define a distillate. "Distillate" is pure THC, or pure CBD depending on the goal. It is either the 99.99% distillate, no different than a THC isolate, or a grade lower, still testing well over 95 percent. Anything made up of 99% itself, I’d say was pretty clean, but clean of what?


It's true that it's clean of residual solvents. It’s also clean of 200 and counting cannabinoids identified in cannabis already, aside from THC or CBD. It's true it's clean of another 200 and counting terpenes. Is it “clean”? Yes. Sure is. But compared to other forms of cannabis, such as whole flower or solventless hash, distillates are totally ineffective, and by far the least medicinal or therapeutic version of cannabis on the market today. I argue THC distillate alone is like, 1/400th cannabis and a sorry excuse for a product. It is a bulk option for bargain access, making use of waste, but you will never hear this.


The Dirtiest of Sourcing


Let's not overlook the quality of cannabis eligible for distillation: quite literally, any! Moldy, mildew-stricken, bug infested, contaminated biomass, made up of the trimmings and trash from harvest becomes the distillates sold and consumed industry-wide. Distillates are used to infuse today's vape cartridges, where non-cannabis derived terpenes are added for an artificial taste. Distillate is also clear or white, without a scent, making it perfect for edible infusions of the cheapest kind. While terpenes may not play a role when consuming cannabis edibles, the other cannabinoids play a key role in making solventless edibles entirely more effective.


What To Turn To


Those of you in newly accessible states, still without solventless options in sight, I recommend Live Resin BHO as the best product available to dab. While it will contain minimal traces of butane (we're talking less than the butane used when lighting a joint or a bowl of cannabis), the spectrum of cannabinoids and terpenes that survive the harsh chemical extraction make Live Resin BHO undoubtedly your best bet. I will gladly consume trace amounts of butane, before sacrificing the Entourage Effect and the quality of cannabis, missing from distillate based products.


What is Ideal and What are we after in Cannabis?


The whole idea is to consume the plant's trichome glands and everything contained within them. It wasn't until 6-Star Ice Water hashish was achieved in very recent years, that the trichome could be removed and preserved for consumption by dabbing. Each method of chemical extraction that led up to it, improved on prior techniques by containing greater segments of the trichome gland. Live Resin BHO, made from fresh-frozen cannabis was the furthest extent of chemical extraction progress, before the solventless game took hold. Be patient and get by, because the solventless evolution will continue to spread.


A Final Word On Solventless

On a final note, don't expect to see the best cannabis products available today sitting on any or every store shelf, as this is far from the case. Still in 2022 living in Humboldt County California, not every retail store carries solventless products. This is changing and changing in a hurry, but keep in mind it will take some effort to locate the best products on the market. Online menus are a consumer's best friend. Hash-on!


Table of Solvent-Based Extract Options (scrolls to the right).



Solvent-Extracts

Quality To Be Expected

Commonly Made From:

First Introduced

Consistency/ Variations

​Color/Hue

Value/ Price Point

​6.

Distillate or Isolate

​Clean of Solvents, but missing terpenes and cannabinoids other than THC or CBD. Effect is known to be short, fleeting, and anxiety inducing. Medicinal properties severely limited.

Biomass, trim, trash, contaminated biomass in need of remediation. Or bulk extracts of BHO/CO2 Crude Oil. Any quality will work.

2012-2014 (roughly) ((for cannabis))

Clear Liquid/White Powder

Clear/White

Mass Produced-Low Value

5.

Wax

Co2/BHO . Mostly THC. Butane-Open Blasting meant spraying whole cans of butane through a glass tube packed with weed.

Used trim and scrap to create a salvageable product, which allowed dabbing and dabs to be invented.

2010

Wax/Earwax/Swiss Cheese

Tan-Brown

​Highly Affordable (if options exist)

4.

Shatter

Sheets of blarf, from blarf. High THC content, but little else

Trim Run (Lowers/Smalls)

2013

​thin-flat sheets. Glass-like texture.

Semi-Translucent Yellow to Brown

​Low-end extract pricing

3.

Crumble

Usually Better than shatter.

Made from trim (lowers/smalls).

2014

Crumbly Sugar/Badder

Yellowish Hues-Brown

Mid-range value

2.

Cured Resin BHO*

Quality ranges drastically. (closed loop hydrocarbon extracts)

Dried and trimmed cannabis flower. Made from dried flower &/or trim.

2015

Badder/Sugar/Budders

Dark Tan to Brown

More affordable than live resin.

1.

Live Resin BHO*

Best Quality-quality can range drastically depending on the starting material and the amount of residual solvents in final product.

Made from WPFF (whole plant fresh frozen) usually quality frozen material or B-grades.

2016

Live Resin: Sugar, Sauce, Badder, or Diamonds

Bright Yellow or Bright Orange w/ clear/white crystallization

Highest Valued Solvent Extraction (prices from lowest end to high end)

*C.R.C (Color Remediation Column) can be used as an additional filtration column on a standard closed-loop solvent extraction set-up.


*Live Resin BHO comes in wildly different qualities making it difficult to decipher who is running trim and who is using quality frozen cannabis. Well made live resin can purge nearly all of the butane, making for a consistency similar to rosin. I like it mixed into a live resin badder, rather than the crystalized THC and liquid terpenes sold as Live Resin Sauce.



 







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