You’ve got to concentrate

Cameek33 via Wikimedia Commons

At the risk of sounding old, back in our day you just rolled a joint or packed a bowl when you wanted to enjoy a little marijuana. Sure, sometimes that bowl was an apple. And yeah, OK, maybe once in a while someone would fashion a gravity bong out of a three-liter Coke bottle and a 10-gallon bucket. And then there was that one industrious friend who landed a copy of the High Times Cookbook and made weed brownies. But basically, for the most part, using marijuana meant smoking ground-up herb. 

But in today’s world of legalization, there are more ways to get high than you can shake a(n incense) stick at. Concentrates are all the rage. 

Why? Because the effects are immediate, and the potency is high. 

A marijuana concentrate is a product that is nothing but trichomes — the sticky, amber and translucent hairs (trichome comes from the Greek word for hair) that contain all of the cannabinoids and terpenes that give marijuana its effects and flavor. No stems and leaves, just sticky icky. 

Sometimes people use the words concentrate and extract interchangeably, but there are differences between the final products — all extracts are concentrates, but not all concentrates are extracts. The difference is how the trichomes are collected. Extracts use solvents like alcohol or carbon dioxide to wash the trichomes off the plant. Concentrates are made by mechanically or otherwise physically pulling the trichomes from the plant. 

(Word to the wise: let professionals in labs make concentrates. Using solvents or flammable gases or having poor ventilation while making a concentrate can lead to serious danger, so again, save this for the pros.)

When you start getting into concentrates, you’ll see several words pop up over and over again: shatter, budder, badder, crumble, sugar, sauce and crystalline. These words basically describe the texture of the concentrate. 

Shatter, as the name may suggest, is brittle and glass-like. Budder and badder (these are used interchangeably) are soft and oily, like an oily cake batter. Crumble is a drier version of budder. Sugar is a wetter concentrate, kind of like the body scrubs you may use in the shower. Sauce is thick and viscous, while crystalline is pretty self-explanatory, either powdered or small rocks. 

The oilier concentrates, like budder, can be spread on joints for added potency, while some drier concentrates, like crumble or sugar, can be sprinkled on top of bowls (or mixed in with joints). 

There are plenty of vape pens sold in dispensaries that offer a chance for users to experience concentrates in a streamlined form that’s discrete, but one of the most popular ways to use concentrates is dabbing. 

Dabbing uses high heat to vaporize a concentrate for consumption. Folks typically have “dab rigs” consisting of a blow torch to heat the concentrate, a nail (glass, ceramic or titanium) on which to heat the concentrate and a glass bowl to inhale the vapor from the concentrate. It looks a little extreme, but if done correctly it provides fast effects that can be therapeutic for folks with chronic pain. 

When trying concentrates for the first time, ask your bud tender lots of questions. Start small and see what type of concentrate suits your needs and tastes best.