We would all love having an endless cannabis budget to buy all the top-shelf flower and other products our hearts desire. And not just from a recreational standpoint, but when people are using cannabis medicinally, quality and potency are of utmost importance. Unfortunately, those come at a much higher premium as well. Since these products are not cheap, and also not covered by healthcare plans, finding ways to save money without sparing that quality becomes increasingly vital.
Enter concentrates. Although some are on the more expensive side of the scale, others are very reasonably priced and incredibly versatile. For saving money, my preferred types of cannabis concentrates are crumble, sugar, and shatter – all of which are affordable, potent, and easy to use in a variety of different ways.
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Concentrates Explained – Crumble, Sugar, and Shatter
When comparing price points, you’ll find that “budget” concentrates are similar to top shelf flowers, sometimes even cheaper. At my preferred dispensary in Palm Springs, the concentrates that I purchase are $15-$25 per gram, $45-$75 per eighth, and so on; all of which is on par with national averages. Some of the higher quality flowers available at that store are selling for well over $60 per eighth.
The real difference here is potency: Around 20% THC for amazing buds compared to about 80% for only decent concentrates (and if you feel like splurging, close to 100% for some sauces available on the market); and the numbers are roughly the same for hemp flowers and CBD extracts. Despite similar pricing, a gram of concentrate can last much longer than a gram of flower, so it can save you quite a bit of money in the long run.
Some concentrates, like the sauces and badders, are waxy and not easily handled so they’re typically only used with some type of dab rig, nectar collector, or similar. With the more solid concentrates, you can dab them if you’d like but you can also put them on top of flower in your bowls, joints, and blunts, to make them burn slower, as well as boost the flavor and efficiency. They can be vaped too, which is the preferred consumption method for the health-conscious among us.
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Sugars, crumbles, and shatters all have similar levels of active cannabinoids – the main distinctions between the three are heat levels, moisture in the oil, and agitation used during the process; all resulting in very different consistencies. Many users prefer crumble, because the lower extraction temperatures help preserve more terpenes and natural plant compounds, although that’s not always the case and many are fans of shatter and sugar.
Sugar was originally created on accident, when other types of concentrate eventually “sugared up”. What that means is that over time, various factors lead to the formation of sugar, storage, condensation, and lipid levels. For example, strains with higher levels of lipids in the trichomes (a more waxy cuticle layer), as well as hydrophilic strains that naturally attract water, are more likely to sugar up. Now, with sugar becoming a more popular concentrate, extraction specialists have found ways to create it intentionally.
A Little Bit About Winterization and Dewaxing
While we’re on the topic of concentrates sugaring up, it’s important to dispel the myth that sugar concentrates are inferior or spoiled, as some may lead you to believe. They’re not concentrates gone bad, they have simply undergone a different post-extraction chemical process. One of the main reasons some concentrates are less prone to becoming sugar is because the remaining plant lipids are often removed from the final product.
The process is known as “winterization” or “dewaxing”. These terms are frequently used interchangeably, but that is incorrect. Although they differ slightly, winterization and dewaxing are very similar and both utilize cold temperatures and a polar solvent to remove undesirable plant material from the concentrates, like plant waxes and fats, that often lead to final products with a less-than-desirable appearance.
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The reason many extractors choose to dewax or winterize their products is because some consumers find the flavor of more “natural” extracts to be harsh and overwhelming. However, that is completely a matter of personal taste. While some choose to skip over the sugar, others prefer it over other concentrates, myself included. The reason: it tastes better and it still contains many important plant terpenes.
Also, just because a concentrate has been winterized or dewaxed doesn’t mean that it won’t sugar up, although it is less likely to. If you’re using the product medicinally, then consistency is key and it’s better to opt for a product that is less prone to sugaring, like diamonds.
Cannabinoid Tolerance and the Entourage Effect
There is one obvious problem with using certain concentrates too much: developing a tolerance. As the saying goes, too much of anything can be a bad thing. THC causes tolerance because it works at the CB1 receptor which is eventually downgraded making a person require more THC to reap the same benefit. These receptors become over-saturated, so to speak, and a tolerance develops. After a certain point, even raising the dose or switching to stronger products won’t work. Heavy THC users can attest to this.
There is good news though, and that’s because of how THC tolerance actually works… it’s only temporary. So a short break will clear the THC from your system and completely diminish the tolerance that’s been building up over time. Anecdotal evidence suggests that developing the tolerance takes much longer than reversing it. Because cannabidiol doesn’t directly engage the same endocannabinoid receptors as tetrahydrocannabinol, those using CBD extract on a regular basis won’t develop a tolerance like heavy THC users.
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This leads us to another issue. When you are using only one cannabinoid very heavily, not only is it possible to build up a tolerance, but you’re missing out on all the benefits of the entourage effect. Simply put, the entourage effect refers to the way different cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids work together to offer health benefits you can only get when consuming the entire plant in its natural state.
Cannabis has hundreds of different therapeutic compounds, most of which are stripped out when using products that contain cannabinoid isolates. This is why using whole plant matter is important. Concentrates are a great way to save money and boost the effects of your flower, but we shouldn’t forgo natural cannabis flower altogether.
How To Store Cannabis Concentrates
With cannabis products, proper storage is everything, and concentrates are no exception. To maximize shelf life and extend your weed budget, you should invest in some type of airtight and lightproof containers, as small as possible for the amount of concentrate you have. This will ensure that your concentrates retain their flavor and potency for as long as possible.
Silicone and glass are the most popular materials for extract storage. Silicone is great because you can get any type of concentrate on or off of it, no matter how sticky. Medical grade silicone that is resistant to contamination works very well as a short-term storage solution. Glass is also convenient, mostly because it’s airtight, a trait lacking in the silicone jars.
Remember, for long-term concentrate storage, airtight is a must. Your best bet, whether you end up using glass or silicone, is to vacuum seal the jars and store them in a cool, dark place. Vacuum sealers are an inexpensive, practical way to make all of your cannabis products last longer – it works for edibles, flowers, and concentrates.
To quickly summarize, cannabis concentrates are amazing. While I still use old-fashioned, regular flower every single day, I love utilizing extracts to boost my overall experience and save a bit of money while doing it. Sticking to products like crumble, shatter, and sugar will give you all the benefits of highly concentrated cannabinoid products without breaking the bank.
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