Marijuana Concentrates

Cannabis plants are covered by microscopic, mushroom-shaped, hair-like compounds called trichomes. These outgrowths surround the budding marijuana flower and produce the plant’s cannabinoids. Different varieties of trichomes can be collected. The resulting products—collectively called cannabis concentrates

can contain very high levels of tetrahydrocannabinol, commonly referred to as THC, the psychotropic ingredient in marijuana. These THC-rich marijuana products may be vaporized and inhaled using a vape pen or through a process called dabbing.1

How are concentrates made?

Marijuana concentrates can be made in a commercial environment with modern equipment or prepared in a home setting.2 They are produced in various ways, including:

  • dry processing
  • dry ice processing
  • water-based processing
  • combining pressure with heat
  • using nonflammable carbon dioxide solvents
  • using flammable solvents, including butane (lighter fluid), propane, ether or alcohol1

Using flammable solvents is popular because the products have high THC levels,1 users report longer-lasting effects,1 and it is a relatively inexpensive and efficient production method.2 Butane is a commonly used solvent, producing the potent marijuana concentrate butane hash oil (BHO).2

What does the final product look like?

The products resulting from these methods may be:

  • a gooey liquid wax
  • a soft solid with a texture like lip balm
  • a hard, amber-colored solid

Hash oil and waxes can be consumed using vape pens. Solids can also be placed on a heated platform usually made of titanium, quartz, or ceramic, where they are vaporized by high heat and inhaled through a dabbing tool, often called a rig.2

What’s the difference between concentrates, extracts, and dabs?

The terms used to describe these products vary. Concentrates is a broad term referring to all products that have been extracted from the plant. Although extracts and concentrates are often used interchangeably, some people define extracts as products manufactured using solvents, but not those pulled from the plant with non-solvent methods. Dabs may refer to products made exclusively from butane hash oil; however, the term is sometimes used colloquially for concentrates extracted in other ways. There are also post-production methods that lead to further variations in products and terms.3

What are the health effects of concentrates?

There are adverse effects associated with marijuana use in any form,3 though additional research is needed to understand how the use of concentrate may differ from smoking dried marijuana buds. Marijuana concentrates have very high levels of THC. Solvent-based products tend to be especially potent, with THC levels documented at an average of about 54-69% and reported to exceed 80%, while non-solvent based extraction methods produce average THC levels between 39-60%.4 In comparison, the THC content in marijuana plant material, which is often used in marijuana cigarettes, is lower—with samples seized by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency averaging just over 15%.5 Not only do concentrates have high levels of THC, but dabbers inhale the entire amount all at once—in a single breath.2 As a result, concentrates can deliver extremely large amounts of THC to the body quickly. The risks of physical dependence and addiction increase with exposure to high concentrations of THC, and higher doses of THC are more likely to produce anxiety, agitation, paranoia, and psychosis.6 Additional research is needed to understand how the use of concentrate affects these risks.


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