The wave of adult use cannabis legalization sweeping North America has introduced the various benefits and efficacies of this nuanced and controversial herb to tens of millions of consumers. From suburban soccer moms in Seattle to software developers in Boston to artists in Los Angeles, America is discovering the cannabis plant. Many consumers, however, either aren’t comfortable with or simply can’t tolerate the psychoactive properties of the most infamous molecule in cannabis, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). This is where THC’s non-psychotropic chemical cousin, cannabidiol (CBD), plays a starring role.
Despite this major difference, CBD and THC have many characteristics in common, including their anti-inflammation, anti-cancer, and pain killing properties. Many products offer special ratios of THC and CBD, purported to deliver optimal effects for particular lifestyle consumers and patients.
The Details of CBD
CBD, one of the most discussed and marketed elements of the cannabis plant, offers significant appeal to consumers based on its wide-ranging medicinal efficacy and lack of overt psychoactive effect. This major cannabinoid has been shown, via clinical research studies and anecdotal evidence, to help those suffering from anxiety, chronic pain, depression, inflammation, psychosis, and seizures—as well as their associated diseases.
CBD’s promise extends beyond life-threatening conditions such as cancer to arthritis, diabetes, chronic pain, epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, PTSD, and even schizophrenia. This special molecule features neuroprotective qualities, including anti-cancer properties.
For nearly a century, cannabis has been cultivated on the black market to enhance its THC content and potency, not for CBD. The emergence of legal markets, however, has featured much activity among cannabis breeders, cultivators, and companies wanting to provide consumers with many of the health benefits of THC, but without the “high.” Cannabis strains rich in CBD include ACDC, Charlotte’s Web, Dancehall, Dance World, Hawaiian Dream, Nordie, Remedy, Ringo’s Gift, Sour Tsunami, and Suzy Q.
A 2016 study entitled “CBD-enriched Medical Cannabis for Intractable Pediatric Epilepsy” and published in the journal Seizure found CBD to be “a promising treatment for intractable epilepsy.” The study concluded that CBD delivered only minor and infrequent side effects and provides relief for epilepsy patients who gain little or no value from traditional therapies and pharmaceutical drugs.
A 2014 study entitled “The Case for Medical Marijuana in Epilepsy” and published in the journal Epilepsia illustrated some of the nuances of bioavailability and cannabis consumption. The study pointed out the fact that “smoked and vaporized cannabis requires heat, which may alter the putative antiepileptic substance(s), whereas ingested cannabis must survive the acidic environment of the stomach and metabolism [by the liver].”
The study concluded, “Part of the challenge of understanding why cannabis has apparently contradictory effects in epilepsy likely has to do with the complexity of the plant itself. Cannabis sativa has 489 known constituents, only  of which are cannabinoids, with the remainder including potentially neuroactive substances such as terpenes, hydrocarbons, ketones, aldehydes, and other small hydrophobic compounds capable of crossing the blood-brain barrier.”
Wizard Stones: The Magic of Making Cannabis Diamonds
Aaron Palmer and Graham Jennings, founders of Oleum Extracts in Washington State, talk about Wizard Stones, their THCA isolate product.
Heat, pressure, and time. The three components required to form a diamond from carbon. But what about diamonds made from cannabis? The founders of Oleum Extracts, Aaron Palmer and Graham Jennings both agree that a good cannabis diamond aka Wizard Stones ultimately comes down to the flavor provided by its terpene fraction.
‘Diamonds’ is a slang term for the crystal formations of the cannabinoid THCA. The molecule’s lattice structure builds upon itself naturally as individual molecules clump together creating the faceted formations that resemble diamond or quartz.
When most people talk about cannabis diamonds, they’re talking about THCA structures that form in their own terpene sauce. So, it’s a little different technique than other isolation methods.
While their chemical composition is the same, the process to make them is slightly different than the traditional diamonds mined from a raw extract. Instead, they use a specially formulated solvent mix to create a solution with a composition that encourages crystallization.
Due to Washington state’s regulations, Oleum is limited in the chemical solvents they can use. So that blend is the crucial variable to isolating THCA into their Wizard Stones product.
Growing cannabis diamonds within their original terpene fraction comes down to creating an environment with the right amounts of pressure and heat to encourage crystal growth.
Within the raw extract, the terpene and cannabinoid compounds are homogenized together, but as they settle and separate the mixture “crashes” — which is the start of crystallization.
Palmer explains that this process “helps to create a seed because if there’s nothing for the THCA molecules to grab onto then they have a harder time starting the diamond formation.”
There are a few ways extractors seed a solution to start diamond growth, but Oleum prefers to use freezing temperatures to solidify and then thaw their extract, helping to create small groupings of THCA for other molecules to stack off.
Another common seeding technique is to drop a previously grown crystal into the extracted mixture of cannabis compounds, giving the THCA something to grow off.
This technique is especially useful when filming a time-lapse of the crystal growth because it gives the camera a focal point knowing where the formation will grow from.
Creating Wizard Stones
The above timelapse video was photographed over a four day period by Dankshire. We can see diamonds begin to form almost immediately. However, the crystallization process can take a month if not longer to complete once a raw extract is jarred and waiting to crash.
Oleum utilizes custom-built isolation vessels for their production diamond runs but admits that the jar tech allows more visibility into the process.
Jennings points out, “You see the jars, we even do the jar stuff a lot. It’s more popular… and people know what it is compared to a large isolation vessel that no one can see into it but you know it’s growing 2,000 grams of crystals.”
Each batch can present a different ratio of diamonds to sauce and it seems like everyone wants a little different combination. “We just give ‘em what it makes,” Jennings said.
That’s the beauty of isolated products like cannabis diamonds and sauce; you can mix your own cocktail of cannabis compounds and really dial in the flavors and feelings that you’re after.
Wizard Stones grown in their own sauce create a potent, refined, and pronounce expression of the strain they are extracted from.
Celebrate 710 with the Aficionado Guide to Cannabis Concentrates
For many enthusiasts, concentrates are among the most enjoyable and versatile of cannabis products. While a little concentrate goes a long way, these extracts are easily vaporized, smoked, or used to make infused topicals, edibles, and more. Not all concentrates, however, are created equal. The way that different cannabis concentrates are prepared has an impact on the end result.
In order to delve deeper into the past, present and future of cannabis concentrates this 710, we have called in the expertise of the team from Oleum Extracts. The Washington-based, multi-award-winning processor company is considered to be one of the best in the industry, developing consistently innovative products — like their THCA crystalline Wizard Stones — and producing high-quality extracts.
Here’s what every aficionado needs to know about cannabis concentrates.
The Evolution of Cannabis Concentrates
Oleum Extracts believe that the evolution of cannabis concentrates has seen a shift away from the wants and needs of producers towards those of the consumers.
“As consumers become more educated, they are asking better and more meaningful questions regarding the products they are ingesting/consuming, which is a good thing,” said Team Oleum. “New topics such as cannabinoid profiles, terpene profiles, how the products made, what kind of materials are used, and knowledge of the manufacturers are making their way into the purchasing decisions of consumers.”
They also think that as consumers become savvier to which companies and products have the most stringent production policies and consistent products, “brand trust and loyalty are beginning to make their presence felt.”
When purchasing cannabis concentrates, asking for the cheapest products with the highest THC levels should not be at the forefront of consumers minds and Team Oleum believes “we’re starting to see this shift happen away from that type of thinking.”
Oleum’s THCA Crystalline Wizard Stones are a good example of this. They pride themselves in the purity of their extracts, and test results of the Wizard Stones “often come back at 99.8%+ pure,” they said.
“We are anxious to see what comes out of the isolation of these other cannabinoids, as these compounds are often only found in trace amounts in flower form (less than 1%). Now that we are able to isolate them, we will be able to see the implications of larger doses and combinations of these cannabinoids and/or cannabis-derived terpenes on the human vessel.”
All About Solvents
The majority of cannabis concentrates require a solvent to extract. A solvent is a substance, usually a liquid or a gas, that separates trichome resin glands from unwanted plant material. The separated essential oil is then collected and further processed to create the high-potency oils and products that are so popular today.
Many different solvents can be used to make cannabis concentrates. Of these, however, there are three solvents that dominate the market: butane, carbon dioxide, and ethanol. Each of these solvents is used to effectively remove cannabis resin from the plant and concentrate the resin into the sap-like oil aficionado’s everywhere have come to know and love.
Butane is one of the cheapest solvents to use when making cannabis concentrates. It was also the first solvent to be used to make concentrates for dabbing, and concentrates made with this solvent are often referred to as butane hash oil (BHO). In general, concentrates extracted with butane tend to preserve more aromatic qualities than those extracted with carbon dioxide. For this reason, butane is used to make live resin, a concentrate rich in aromatic molecules called terpenes. No other solvent can be used to make live resin.
Carbon dioxide (CO2) is most commonly used to make syrupy extracts for vapor pens. The solvent, however, can also be used to make other forms of concentrates. Oils extracted with carbon dioxide can be dabbed, used to fill capsules, or used as oils put underneath the tongue. Unlike butane, however, carbon dioxide tends to remove much of the terpene aroma molecules found in cannabis flower. As such, CO2 oil can feature a strikingly different chemical composition than the cannabis plant from which it came.
Concentrates extracted with ethanol are among the most expensive around. And yet, this solvent is perhaps one of the best to use during cannabis extractions. For those hoping to maintain aromatic terpenes in their concentrate, products made with ethanol are typically the way to go. Ethanol captures more terpenes and pigment molecules called flavonoids than other concentrates. Concentrates made with ethanol are sometimes processed into full spectrum cannabis oil (FECO), while others are used to make products for dabbing.
How To Spot Quality Concentrates
Searching for truly high-quality material? There are three basic factors to keep in mind: color, consistency, and lab reports. A hallmark sign of quality in almost all cannabis concentrates is a golden-amber coloration. Most solvent-based concentrates should appear amber, although the color can range a light gold to warm rust.
Some concentrates, like FECO and RSO, may look almost black. The deep coloration in these products indicates that greater amounts of chlorophyll were extracted along with other cannabis compounds. While more chlorophyll may provide a bitter, herbal taste, the inclusion of a greater variety of plant chemicals may make these types of concentrates more appealing to medical consumers.
The introduction of alternative methods and new equipment has resulted in an improvement in cannabis concentrates — good news for the aforementioned medical patients and dabbing enthusiasts alike.
“Equipment manufacturer’s from other industries are now tailoring their businesses to accommodate cannabism, which has been a great thing to experience,” said Team Oleum. “I’m sure we will continue to see this trend moving forward, especially as extraction and processing evolve to service high volume needs as the market expands.”
Concentrates should feature a fairly consistent constitution. No one, for example, wants to find hard chunks in their budder, nor do they want to find leaf matter or stem fragments in their hash. If a concentrate doesn’t take on the form that is advertised, chances are it is a low-quality product.
“In the beginning, good concentrates were known pretty much by aesthetics and the way they looked,” said Team Oleum. “Followed up with a sniff, the color and smell of the product were the easiest ways to spot a good concentrate back in the day. Now, a concentrate can look great, and even smell ok, but once dabbed or vaped might taste horrendous.”
Team Oleum believe that regulations and laws in Washington’s market are making people purchase products on looks, rather than smell.
“With the legal market here in WA, the consumer is not allowed to open the package of concentrate or smell the product before purchasing,” said Team Oleum. “This takes away what beforehand was a vital component in making a decision of what product to buy and how much to purchase. As a result, it seems to be aesthetics and brand trust that leads most in their decisions today in spotting good concentrates.”
Third-party lab reports are essential, proving the manufacturer and consumer with information on the chemical constituents in the concentrate, like the terpene profiles of the flower.
“While a concentrate may look attractive, low-quality flower with low terpene content may have been used during the extraction,” said Team Oleum. “Most lab reports list information on the potency and dominant cannabinoids in the product. Some reports, however, will also list the primary terpenes in the concentrate as well. In general, the more terpenes preserved in the concentrate, the greater the flavor and aroma.”
“The only individuals really doing any quality control of the products before going out to market are the producers and processors themselves. If these individuals are not cannabis consumers, and/or are not trying their own products it is doing a great disservice to both their brand and their consumers.
“If the owners and operators of these brands do a good enough job at this, the reward is consumer trust in both the brand and its products. When people can trust where the material is being sourced, how it is being processed and the care that goes into its production from start to finish. These are the brands that are earning the most market share and seeing the most positive feedback from consumers.”
Most Common Concentrate Preparations
Walk into any cannabis shop these days and you’re sure to find a plethora of containers filled with sticky goo. The market for cannabis concentrates is growing faster than ever, with data suggesting that concentrate sales may surpass sales for dry flower within the next four years. Here are some of the most popular cannabis concentrate products — including some specialties from Oleum Extracts.
Shatter is easy to spot in a dispensary but relatively difficult to make for extractors. Shatter is a cannabis concentrate that takes on the consistency of an amber-colored glass shard. These shards can be broken up and dabbed, although the oil’s crystalline constitution makes it slightly more difficult to work with than other concentrate preparations.
Wax and shatter are made in essentially the same way, although wax tends to be physically agitated more during processing. As a result, the preparation loses its glass-like consistency and instead develops a waxy, honeycomb-like constitution. Some individual strains may also be more inclined to “wax up” than other strains. In general, waxes tend to be softer and easier to manipulate than shatters.
Budder is whipped wax. Instead of walking on eggshells trying to create a glass-like shatter, budder is whipped automatically in order to create a smoothe yet opaque concentrate. The end result is soft, fluffy, and easy to manipulate.
Cannabis oils are concentrates that maintain a consistent liquid state. Oils are most often made with ethanol, which preserves the widest array of phytochemicals found in any cannabis extraction. Oils of this type are often referred to as full-spectrum cannabis oil (FECO) or Rick Simpson Oil (RSO). These oils are often used under the tongue or are ingested orally. Carbon dioxide, however, can also be used to make a syrupy oil, such as that found in vapor cartridges.
Live resin is a king among concentrates. Unlike all other concentrates, live resin is made using fresh cannabis flowers that have been flash-frozen in order to preserve terpene quality. These fresh flowers are then processed using butane as a solvent, creating a wet and semi-solid concentrate that features superior flavor, aroma, and overall terpene quality.
Using a solvent is the easiest way to extract cannabis concentrates. Solvents, however, are not required to make a concentrated cannabis product. Products like hash and rosin do not require solvents at all, which makes them preferable to many consumers. Although, solventless concentrates tend to be less potent than their solvent-based counterparts.
Rocks and Sauce: Oleum Extracts
“Rocks and Sauce is a product where THCA crystals grow in their own high terpene extraction,” said Team Oleum. “They are often made from fresh frozen material but can be made from dried/cured material, too.”
Honey Crystal/CryoTek: Oleum Extracts
“This product is fully dewaxed, quad filtered and highly processed,” said Team Oleum. “We make Honey Crystal/CryoTek from dried/cured material. CryoTek means that the Honey Crystal has gone through an additional stage of processing to further refine the material.”
Hash is one of the oldest cannabis preparations available. It’s also one of the simplest to make. Hash is most often made by rubbing dried cannabis flower on a screen, breaking off trichomes via agitation. The broken trichomes are then collected and compressed into hash.
Bubble hash or ice water hash is another type of concentrate made using agitation. Only, this variety of hash uses ice water to freeze trichome resin glands. The cold temperature makes trichomes more brittle, which allows them to more easily break away from plant material. The end result is grainy trichome goo that is then dried and compressed into hash.
Rosin is one of the most popular concentrates available today. Like hash, rosin is relatively easy to make. This solventless preparation uses heat and pressure to melt trichomes off of plant material. These trichomes are often melted between two solid hot plates, which compresses them into an almost shatter-like consistency. Rosin tends to be slightly translucent, although it remains mailable and soft, a stark contrast to shatter’s glass-like nature.
Terpsoline: Oleum Extracts
“Terpsoline is another one of our products that is made of up of THCA Crystalline Wizard Stones and cannabis-derived terpenes,” said Team Oleum.
Exciting Advances and New Developments in the World of Cannabis Concentrates
Team Oleum believe that isolates, the separation of cannabinoids and terpenes are exciting developments and new in the field of concentrates.
“We are now starting to understand isolation and separation on a much deeper level,” said Team Oleum. “This allows us to reconfigure ratios of cannabinoids to terpenes — to alter the experience, flavors and effects of these products.
“This has never been an option before with cannabis concentrates, we believe the future will incorporate a lot of these unique and novel combinations into the cannabis consumer’s diet. For instance, our IceWalker is a product that incorporates THCA Crystalline Wizard Stones, Delta-8-AquaTek Distillate and cannabis-derived terpenes. These types of concentrate concoctions were not possible a few years ago, we are excited to see what will come available in the next five years.
“In addition to isolations, we are also starting to retain terpenes (flavors) and their respective cannabinoids in such a way as to mimic the actual taste, smell and effect of the flower it comes from. It wasn’t too long ago that material was just put into a column and blasted with solvent, hoping for the best outcome in the end product and it was often hit or miss. Now, a lot more science, better cultivation, and preparation of materials, and better understanding and innovation of equipment have allowed us to employ much more efficient methods in cannabis extraction and processing. This, in turn, allows us to produce a much higher quality product much more consistently. Something that benefits both the producers and the consumers.
“Last but not least, CRC (Color Remediation Cartridge) seems to be making an introduction by offering solutions to the removal of unwanted colors and compounds in cannabis concentrates. These colors and compounds include lipids, chlorophyll, carotene, xanthophyll, pheophytins and lycopene,” said Team Oleum. “Due to the compounds being used in this process, it should only be done by those with proper equipment/lab and training. It definitely has its place in the concentrate industry as a means of cleaning up product, but in the same breath, good concentrates should always come from good starting material. As the tried and true saying goes, “Fire In.. Fire Out”.
“These methods of remediation can often take away from the true and original character of the strain and extract. We try to stay as close to the original cultivar as we can…in most cases it’s what we and the end consumer prefers.”
Extra Green Cannabis Is Growing in the South Pacific
The Marlborough region of New Zealand’s South Island is home to a world-famous Sauvignon Blanc industry. The unique topography creates richly fertile lands, complemented by a cool sea breeze from the rolling tides of the South Pacific. Growing among the vineyards, a new industry is emerging — medical cannabis.
Founded in 2018, Puro is the country’s largest licensed medical cannabis cultivator. Within the first two years of commercial operation, Puro established two cultivation sites in Marlborough and is growing medical cannabis at both locations — even when faced with delays and difficulties caused by the pandemic.
What really sets Puro apart from other commercial growers, both domestically and internationally, is the fact they are growing medical cannabis with organic protocols and working towards being certified organic.
“Once we achieve organic accreditation, we anticipate Puro will be the largest organic grower in Australasia and one of a very small number of organic medical cannabis cultivators worldwide,” said Managing Director Tim Aldridge. “This is going to provide Puro with a highly marketable point of difference.”
Puro’s indoor research facility grows high THC genetics, and the outdoor coastal farm in Kēkerengū grows low THC, high CBD, and CBG cultivars. The farm sees an average of 2,457 hours of sunshine per year, with a high UV rating — optimal conditions for cultivating exceptional outdoor cannabis.
“Kēkerengū provides perfect growing conditions, with a coastal microclimate that is ideal for medical cannabis production,” Aldridge said.
In December 2020, the first ten hectares of plants went into the ground at Kēkerengū. Aldridge and his cultivation team are eagerly awaiting the imminent first harvest, believing the farm’s unique terroir could produce some novel terpene and cannabinoid profiles.
Additionally, Puro’s drying facility is the largest of its kind in New Zealand. It houses the company’s drying and trimming machinery, which is being put to work during the first commercial harvest, which officially started on March 24th and is expected to last through April.
Working Towards Organic Certification
Puro is working hard to set new global standards in organic cannabis cultivation as they move closer towards obtaining organic certification with BioGro.
Growing cannabis under strict organic protocols requires the skill and determination of an internationally experienced agronomy team.
Cultivation Director and Churchill Fellow, Tom Forrest, is Puro’s cannabis cultivation specialist. His intimate knowledge and understanding of controlled pharmaceutical growing operations have been instrumental in developing Puro’s sustainable, organic and regenerative approach to growing.
“Sustainability is essential for the future of agronomy, but [it] also works to produce healthier, happier and more lucrative crops,” Forrest said.
Forrest and his cultivation team are committed to creating a healthy rhizosphere to encourage stronger, more vigorous crops.
“Although the evidence is still anecdotal, we are confident that biological, natural, organic cultivation methods will encourage healthier growth that will result in higher concentrations of terpenes, flavonoids and cannabinoids,” Forrest said.
Having a diverse soil environment is especially ideal for Puro’s six different cultivars: two auto-flowering CBD dominant varietals, two CBG dominant varietals, and two CBD dominant varietals – all sourced from leading global breeders.
“The genetics were selected in response to the evolving worldwide cannabis market and the unpredictable nature of broad-acre cultivation,” Forrest explained.
Protecting local biodiversity is a big part of Puro’s sustainability mandate, and according to Forrest, the company is “firmly focused on improving and refining our sustainability performance from season to season to be a true leader in this space.”
In its first round of investment in 2019, Puro raised $4 million on PledgeMe — the highest amount raised on the crowdfunding platform. Puro is now working to finance further developments, including the completion of its indoor breeding facility and the development of its first glasshouse in Waihopai.
These facilities will sit beside Puro’s existing research center and play an important role in continuously improving its crop genetics. At the time of writing, Puro had reached half of the $2 million investment goal.
The company is also working with New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE) to facilitate the country’s first-ever export of bulk medical cannabis. One contract is already in in place with a local buyer, and Puro is in further negotiations with other potential buyers.
As more countries around the world continue to work towards legalization, sustainability is a big part of the conversation.
Aldridge says operating with sustainable business practices is the right thing to do for the environment, the community and their collective future.
“Sustainability is a core aspect of Puro’s ethos,” Aldridge reiterated. “Our sustainable focus will also ensure Puro is here for the long-term, as we are taking responsibility to enhance and regenerate the land that nurtures our plants now and into the future.”