The legalization of cannabis in many states across the US has undoubtedly led to lots of benefits. One of these is that individuals and companies are starting to investigate different ways to manufacture pure products. Cannabis distillate, often called ‘The Pure,’ is one of these new forms of the drug and it’s getting some enthusiasts quite excited.
Whether you’re a traditionalist or a realist, there’s no doubt that world of cannabis is changing. Commercialization is coming. Whether that’s for the good or bad of the industry and culture remains to be seen but the involvement of larger businesses and corporations in the manufacturing process is here to stay.
In this article, we take a closer look at cannabis distillate, how it’s made and what it means for the future of the overall cannabis culture and the market itself. If you’ve not heard of it yet, that’s no big surprise. Distillate is fairly expensive at the moment and hasn’t yet permeated fully into cannabis culture.
What is Cannabis Distillate?
Distillation has been around in one form or another for a long, long while. It is used in a variety of manufacturing processes to extract pure materials, compounds and elements. There will be at least a few products in any household that have used distillation in the manufacturing process.
It’s no real surprise then, that we’ve moved onto cannabis distillate, particularly after so many states in the US have legalized the drug for both recreational and medicinal use.
We all know that cannabis is made up from a many different constituents. It’s a complex plant. Distillation is a method to extract many compounds to create a pure end product. In terms of THC, it’s possible to create a distillate that is 99% pure but which is also odorless and tasteless.
Distillate is often called The Pure or The Clear because of this. The liquid is generally transparent and has a high level of purity. In short, it doesn’t look like cannabis, taste like cannabis or smell like it. Let’s take a THC distillate. In a normal bud, you would expect to get around 20-25% in a high yield THC strain. In concentrates, this rises to about 60-70%. With a distillate, you get 99%.
How Cannabis Distillate is Made
People often confuse distillate with concentrates. They’re actually two different things. Products like wax or shatter are made from either using butane (or some other solvent to extract the cannabinoid) or, as in the case of Rosin, a pressure technique combined with rinsing.
At its heart, distillation is a fairly simple process. You have an enclosed chamber with your original matter in it, in this case, cannabis concentrate. You heat this up to a certain temperature in order to make the important compound evaporate. This vapor then rises out of the chamber to a cooling chamber where it is returned to liquid form again in a much purer form.
What you get is a refined product that is free of solvents and a lot safer than concentrates because there is little in the way of additives. You can be sure you are getting 100% the right cannabinoid and this can confidently be infused or added to other products.
Most commercial businesses will extract the cannabis from the plant first using a solvent to create a concentrate and then subject this to the distillation process. If you’ve wondered what that looks like you should imagine an old fashioned still. Manufacturers will use a variety of things to manipulate the boiling point including heat, steam and vacuum pressure.
The main products that are isolated at the moment, of course, are THC and CBD. But there’s no doubt that the process will become more refined in the future as we learn about the various constituents of the cannabis plant and their uses.
Why Distillates Are So Important
We’ve come a long way from the cannabis enthusiast sitting in his or her home smoking a blunt or two with friends. Legalization has led to greater thought being put into the potential of cannabis and it’s uses as well as how to safely mass produce it. This is largely an unregulated market at the moment which means that quality of compounds can often vary from state to state.
To be honest, cannabis users have always been looking for ways to control the quality of their product. In the past, this has been more agricultural than scientific. Particularly for those who use cannabis for medicinal purposes, however, distillate may have huge potential. In fact, this is the prime area where we might see some big advances in the next few years.
It means that pure distillate could be infused into a variety of products such as oils, food and pharmaceuticals. Because they are odorless and tasteless, it means they can be used in cooking products without that often-overpowering cannabis taste you get from making something like cannabutter. For those who love their edibles, once the price comes down, this could be really timesaving.
Tailoring may take the fun out of cannabis for your average enthusiast who values the culture but for many who take CBD or other elements for medicinal purposes, it should certainly help efficacy. It’s easier, for example, to put a few drops of cannabis distillate in your food than spend hours making cannabutter.
The edibles market is already pretty big in many states across the US. For businesses that produce these commercially, it opens up a whole different range of potential cannabis products. What about cannabis chocolate? Or cannabis soda? We could even see a new range of CBD health foods aimed at a medicinal cannabis audience.
The pharmaceutical industry should also benefit. In areas where cannabis is still largely illegal such as Europe, better control with distillates means that medicinal products could soon become available. Companies can extract pure CBD and provide this in various concentrated oils. It could be infused or added to other medication.
Then there’s the topicals and cosmetic industry. What about face creams that have CBD or some terpene or cannabis extract that improves skin problems? You will most likely begin to see more canna beauty products coming onto the market in the next few years. Whether they’re a fad or do real good, still remains to be seen but they’re certainly going to be popular.
Can You Distill Cannabis at Home?
The simple answer is yes, but why would you? Distillation, as we’ve mentioned, is a fairly simple process. Many kids do it in the school science lab around the world.
All you need is a flask with a tube running from it to another flask. You heat up the concentrate until it evaporates in one flask, the vapor travels up the tube and into the cooler flask where it liquifies again.
You can buy distillation kits now and there’s plenty of advice on how to do it online. In some states where cannabis is legalized, there are evening classes you can attend. The problem is that this is quite time consuming and you need to heat the concentrate properly to get the pure distillate at the end. It’s great if you like making your own stuff but for many, it will be more trouble than it’s worth.
The Case Against Cannabis Distillate
There are few real drawbacks with distillate (though a good few dissenting voices) and we’re going to see more of it in the future.
The big criticism seems to be that the heating process destroys all the terpenes (these are particularly sensitive to temperature). We’re just beginning to understand how important these cannabis compounds could be for health and wellbeing. The solution may well be to extract these first and then infuse them back later.
Of course, there are those cannabis traditionalists who feel that the culture is being damaged by the growth of distillates. The term engineered cannabis is being bandied around in many states and it’s certainly the cause of plenty of discussion and argument. The truth is that you can’t really prevent the commercialization of cannabis and these changes will happen anyway because of legalization.
One of the key problems is that distillate is quite expensive at the moment. That’s not unusual with a new product on the market and you should expect the price to come down in the coming years as manufacturing processes improve and market forces drive the cost down.
What Does the Future Hold?
There’s huge potential with cannabis distillates, particularly opening it up to a more commercial audience. If cannabis is to be legalized in every state, then there will undoubtedly be a move to regulate the industry so that it is more accountable and safer. Some worry that commercialization is going to damage small growers and cannabis producers. Others realize that it’s something which can’t be stopped and we should embrace it.
Distillate opens up a whole new range of possibilities where cannabis, in its various forms, can be added. Will we be able to walk into our local superstore and buy CBD infused spaghetti or the latest spray perfume with added THC? Only time will tell.