Over the last decade there has been a steady rise in the use and even more so the manufacture of concentrates here at home. It’s my wish to see a resurgence in non-solvent concentrates that would rival and surpass BHO products…but I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me start by explaining that marijuana concentrates are just that: marijuana—more importantly the active part of the marijuana plant—concentrated into forms like hash or oil.

Back when I started smoking in the early ’70s almost everything was imported. Lucky for me, due to my geographic location in and around the Toronto–Montreal area I had access to good imported hash. Back then we saw a lot of Gold Seal 101, Green Moroccan, and on occasion I was able to score some amazing Red Lebanese. Once I even got my hands on a small amount of Bombay Temple-ball hash that was quite literally one toke stuff; two tokes of it and I couldn’t drive if I wanted to.

Today, concentrates are separated into two distinct categories: solvent-based extraction and non-solvent extraction.

Non-Solvent Extraction

Solvent-less extractions include dry sift hash—either by hand or with the aid of a machine like a Pollen Master, cold water extraction hash—commonly referred to as Bubble Hash, and CO2 extraction hash—using dry ice.

Dry sifting by hand involves shaking or moving weed on a fine screen that’s stretched tight across a frame and then collecting the powder, or kief, on a glass plate or mirror underneath. Press kief into hash or use it as is. Screen boxes are easy to make and nice commercial ones run under $100 CAD. For larger batches, commercial auto-tumblers such as the Pollen Master are available: place the cannabis in the screen drum and it tumbles the weed rotisserie style in a plastic box for the golden powder to be collected later.

Cold water extraction is done by placing ice, cold water, and cannabis into a holder lined with mesh bags of increasing grade and gently agitating the mix to knock the trichomes off to then be collected in the bag system. Once the good stuff has been extracted it must be dried to preserve flavour and potency and prevent mold.  Like dry sift screens, mesh bags can be made at home or bought commercially from Bubble Bag or other sources.

The last, CO2 extraction, isn’t as much a ‘try making it yourself’ concentrate. CO2 extractors themselves aren’t cheap nor can they easily be set up with parts bought at a craft store. But they are non-solvent concentrates and they easily rival solvent-based ones in strength and effect for dabbing.

Solvent Extraction

Common solvents used in making concentrates are isopropyl alcohol, lab-grade naphtha, ether, and butane.

Back in the 1980s my friends and I used to make weed oil with 99% isopropyl alcohol. We used a double-boiler on the stove with all the windows in the house wide open. This is not a smart operation and we were very lucky not to have gotten hurt; more than a few people get burned. We later employed a modified pressure cooker for our task and reclaimed alcohol with a makeshift condenser to capture the vapour.

I had the chance to listen to Rick Simpson give a talk about Rick Simpson Oil (RSO) and its benefits (though there is a lack of scientific research). According to Rick, using laboratory grade naphtha gas—dangerous to the unprepared—is the best choice but it can also be made with other solvents such as ether.

Today one of the most popular methods of making concentrates is butane extraction. Butane Honey Oil (BHO) is also called wax, shatter, or budder (not to be confused with canna-butter used in making infused, edible treats). Budder is whipped to allow the butane to escape and shatter is placed on a non-stick mat or parchment paper and put under vacuum and low heat to remove the solvent. Shatter often resembles clear brown Swiss cheese. There are high-tech vacuum ovens on the market designed just for this process that cost thousands of dollars; the game has evolved considerably from the days of iso-alcohol weed oil.

This solvent-extraction process especially is best left to the professionals as it’s extremely volatile and dangerous. People are killed and homes destroyed when rookies attempt to do this. If interested, first get proper training and equipment; both for safety in the extraction process but also for a safely consumed, quality, final product.

Consuming petrochemicals—isopropanol, naphtha, ether, and butane—can be very hazardous to your health so the importance of smoking clean, well-made concentrates is serious business for the producer and the consumer. Nobody wants to be smoking petrochemical residue so proper purging is paramount.

Or make your own solvent-less concentrates. Cultivate freedom, educate yourself.