The world of cannabis used to be a much different place not so long ago. Choices were limited when it came to just about everything…strain, method of growing, and mode of consumption. These days, with the power of science, all that has changed. One quick glance into a dispensary will tell you all you need to know about the abundance of choices we now enjoy regarding our favorite budding weed.
The only issue now is that, with all the options out there, making a decision can be overwhelming. You’re no longer only making decisions about which strain you want to consume, but what form you want your cannabinoids to appear in, and how to consume them. For example, if someone is looking to start using concentrates, how would they know what to buy? Concentrates come in all different forms with different names that refer to their textures, such as wax or shatter. There are also different ways that concentrates can be consumed. Even more importantly, cannabis is finally taking its rightful place as a medicine, so making a selection at the dispensary these days can be just as essential as a trip to the doctor.
To spare you the time involved in scrolling endlessly through the tangled web of the internet, and to save you standing in bewilderment at the counter of your friendly neighborhood dispensary, we did the legwork for you. We spoke with Billy Maddox, co-founder and Chief Investment Officer at Moxie – a brand known for producing the industry’s top cannabis extracts since 2015 – to get the skinny on what to do when buying concentrates.
Why concentrates (aka ‘dabs’)?
Firstly, why even bother trying to figure out concentrates when there’s plenty of bud to choose from? The answer to that question is just as varied as the concentrates themselves. Reasons include higher potency, discretion, and portability. But one of the biggest benefits of using concentrates is that in most cases they’re cleaner and easier to dose with, making them ideal for medicinal purposes. As the name implies, concentrates are a concentration of ‘the good stuff’. In the case of cannabis, ‘the good stuff’ is mostly cannabinoids like THC, CBD, and terpenes. With concentrates, you can mix and match different ratios of cannabinoids and terpenes to produce desired effects, many of which can be useful in treating different ailments. Billy Maddox backs this up. “Higher concentrations of different available cannabinoids with different ratios, as well as different consumption methods will have different effects that have been known to aid in the relief of specific ailments,” he says.
The science of cannabis for treating ailments is still relatively new, and it’s still federally illegal, which means that the science is also limited. However, we do know that cannabis has been seen to treat a wide variety of ailments, from something as simple as trouble sleeping to something as complex as multiple sclerosis. Maddox says that everyone is different and might have different medicinal needs, “However, providing different cannabinoid ratio products can give a consumer the ability to try the different ratio products and gives possibilities to find relief for their specific ailments.”
Because concentrates come in countless ratios of cannabinoids and terpenes, all it takes is a basic understanding of the functioning of various compounds to start your medicinal exploration. For example, the rules of indica and sativa still hold true for concentrates, as do the effects of THC and other compounds, so you can start your exploration there. While most concentrates tend to have higher levels of THC, you can actually find concentrates that use nothing but CBD, for instance. And it’s not at all uncommon to see cartridges labeled with “creativity” or “sleep”, making it easier than ever to find the right medicine for you. It all depends on what you’re looking for.
Maddox also points out that another reason why concentrates are ideal for medicinal purposes is that, instead of combusting plant material, you are vaporizing a concentrated form of it. “This means that this type of consumption is far cleaner for your lungs, as you are not consuming the plant matter and other contaminants that cannabis contains, as well as the carcinogens created by combustion itself,” he says.
Important questions – what to ask the dispensary about concentrates (dabs)
Your body is a temple, so you want anything you put in it to be as pure as possible. Nowadays, with at least some form of legal cannabis in most states, buying clean, safe and tested cannabis is easier than ever. Same goes for concentrates. And because concentrates are usually made with solvents, and making sure your product is pure is pretty high on the importance list. When you’re at the dispensary counter, it’s one hundred percent okay to ask the budtender about the lab information of the concentrate or any product you’re about to buy. One thing to look for in particular is where the solvents used in the making of your concentrate come from. For instance, if the butane listed on the label is sold over the counter, it might be best to skip this one. Instead look for butane from a reputable gas distributor.
You might also want to ask them about trim run vs. nug run. Trim run means that the concentrate is made from the trim of the bud when it’s being manicured. Nug run means that the concentrate is developed from the nug (bud) itself. It is possible to develop a high-quality concentrate from either, but because trim often has undesirables in it (such as the water leaves), there’s a higher chance that trim run concentrate will be lower quality.
According to Maddox, your decision might also be influenced by flavor or potency. “Some consistencies are meant to bring out different attributes in the specific strains that may be desired. For example, badder is a more even blend of both flavor and potency where neither level is super high, whereas a THC-A isolate (or diamonds) is heavy in potency and lacks any real flavor or terpene content.”
And what about all these different textures? How do you know which kind to buy? For people new to concentrates, Maddox says that concentrates with more malleable consistencies like badder or crumble are the easiest to work with when it comes to figuring out your specific dose. This is important, as you don’t want to accidentally dose too high right off the bat. “Malleable concentrates give the consumer the ability to measure and manipulate the shape and size easily and allows them to properly and more accurately measure what size dab to take,” says Maddox.
How to dose and consume cannabis concentrates once you’ve made your selection
Consuming concentrates used to mean having to deal with complicated dab rigs and blow torches that resulted in many a burned finger. But these days there are electric dab/concentrate devices that are much simpler and safer to use as well as more portable and discrete. One of our favorites is EVRI from Dip Devices . EVRI is one battery with multiple attachments which allows you to switch between a variety of consumption methods. These include an electric dab straw, 510 cartridges, as well as a pack-and-go bucket attachment, making it easy to consume a wide variety of concentrates with only one device.
We also love Dip Devices because they make it easy to dose, and because they have precise power settings. As for dosing, Maddox recommends that you don’t take too large of a dab initially. It’s best to start with smaller amounts and wait in between dabs until you achieve your desired effect. “You can also help to regulate your dosage by vaporizing homogenous cannabis concentrates, such as badders or isolates. Once you’ve got the hang of these (and maybe once your tolerance is up), start experimenting with other forms of concentrates such as sauce, which is great, but is often harder for new concentrate users to properly regulate the dosage due to its combination of both THC-A and terpenes and different ratios,” says Maddox.
Possibly even more important is temperature. “Do not hit the dab at high temperature,” Maddox warns. “It should not be combusted; it should be vaporized.” Some say that consumers will start to experience combustion starting at 400 F while others suggest that you can dab effectively up to 700 F. Combusting a concentrate rather than vaporizing it will result in harsher smoke and less flavor from the terpenes. Recent research also suggests that dabbing at temperatures above 700 F could produce toxins. That’s why it’s essential to dab at optimal temperatures has three precise power settings all within the safety zone of vaporization. Some might prefer lower temperatures that allow you to experience the flavor and maximize and preserve the terpenes and cannabinoids, while other more experienced users prefer the effects that they receive from higher temperatures. Either way, with these devices you can safely experiment with temperature preference to find out what works for you.
The best part of this whole thing is that this is an exploration you can design yourself. Knowing the basics of dosing, devices, and safety will equip you to ask the right questions in the dispensary so you can find the right medicine for you.