There have been a lot of new developments in the world of concentrates within the past two years, especially right here in Colorado. If you refer back to Leafbuyer’s article, “What are Dabs? A How-To Guide?”, you can learn the basics or refresh your memory regarding the definition and types of concentrates. There has been a lot of focus and concern with relation to permissible percentages of solvents in the finished extracted product. The most common solvents used to make concentrates are propane, butane, ethanol, and CO2 (carbon dioxide). However, propane and butane have come under a lot of scrutiny, due to the dangers associated with nonprofessional extractions. In 2015, the Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division (MED) implemented contaminant testing for residual solvents and microbials (Source: https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/sites/default/files/2014%20MED%20Annual%20Report_1.pdf).
However, this implementation only impacts the recreational side of business, not the medicinal side. At first, this seems to not make sense, how could they not test medical-grade products? But once you think about it, you realize that anyone 21 and up from any state with any level of experience with cannabis can walk into a recreational shop and make a purchase. They can do so without being evaluated by a doctor, and thus, recommended certain strains or informed about the effects of edibles. To ensure product to the wide variety of consumers that compose the recreational cannabis market is consistent, it is tested and labeled with the appropriate THC and CBD percentages. It is also accompanied by a list of all nutrients used during the growing process, as well as solvents used during the extraction process. This testing does drive the price of recreational cannabis products a tad higher, in addition to the tax, but the testing is well worth it. Expect to see this on the medical side in the very near future.
As mentioned above, the most popular solvents used to make cannabis extractions are propane, butane, ethanol, and CO2. Some extractions use a propane butane combination. These two solvents cause the most alarm, but this is only if they are not properly purged in a vacuum to remove contaminants. The concern regarding solvent percentages in the finished extraction can be alleviated with adequate purging or the switch to a solventless extraction method. These “closed loop” extractions, as they are known, must be done in a professional, licensed laboratory, equipped with up-to-code ventilation, since butane and propane are highly flammable. In Colorado, after several explosions or fires in residential settings, an ordinance preventing extractions from taking place outside of licensed facilities was established, “A local government may ban the use of a compressed, flammable gas as a solvent in the extraction of THC or other cannabinoids in a residential setting.” (CO Revised Code Section 9-7-113; Source: https://csfd.coloradosprings.gov/sites/default/files/fire/files/DFM/Hazmat/MMJ/ordinance_15-55.pdf).
Acetone extractions are far more dangerous and noxious than propane or butane, namely due to the risk associated with winterization, as well as the toxic nature of said chemical (most nail polish removers are acetone-free, if that helps clarify the toxicity). The CO2 method extracts more of the viable essence of the plant, yet is associated with a bad flavor. Butane and propane have a higher probability of residuals in the finished product, and hence, should be produced and purged in the proper, professional lab setting, inspected and approved by the MED. Some of my favorite concentrate companies include: Clear Concentrates, Craft Concentrates, and Viola Extracts. Be on the look-out for Love’s Oven’s new concentrate company, Concentrated Love.
Many companies are trying their hand at solventless extractions, for example vis-à-vis a dry sieve (sifting) method, which utilizes mesh bags of varying microns (Iceolator or Bubble Bags), a dry ice method, rosin (industrial heat press), and bubble hash (ice-water separation), among others. There are infinite health advantages to solventless concentrates, for both the consumer and the producer. However, there is a higher price associated with purchasing solventless extracts on the consumer end. On the producer end, solventless methods tend to use more cannabis to yield less finished product, hence the higher cost. An industrial heat press, rather than a flat iron, is a necessity for cannabis concentrate companies in order to produce more product.
Choosing a Concentrate
There are many factors when choosing the right concentrate for you. First, decide if you would like to dab a solvent or solventless extract, then choose on shatter, wax, sugar, sap, etc., as well as whether you would like an indica or sativa strain. LeafBuyer asked and you answered check out your choices for The Best Concentrates of 2016 here: https://www.leafbuyer.com/best or see our ad for Leafbuyer.com 2016 Best of the Best Concentrates and Flower in THC The Hemp Connoisseur Magazine, featuring Boulder Extracts, available at The Farm in Boulder, among other great deals on flower and extracts.