Extracts, or concentrates, are the result of various processes that involve using a solvent or some other means to remove desired chemical compounds – such as THC, CBD, and terpenes – from raw cannabis plant material. Old-fashioned hashish is a concentrate, but newer processes employ petroleum products – butane, most commonly – as well as super or sub-critical carbon dioxide to separate the cannabinoids and terpenes contained in cannabis from the plant material itself. The outcome is referred to in the industry as wax, shatter, or crumble and is generally a substance of golden-brown color that varies in consistency from a resinous oil to something like, well, wax (see photo below). They can be extremely potent, with THC levels of about 70-90% (for context, the most potent cannabis flower tests at just over 30% THC, though anything over 20% is considered quite potent), and are increasingly popular in legal and illegal cannabis markets.
The resulting product is smoked via a process referred to as “dabbing,” which involves heating a metal bowl with a torch and applying a small scoop of the concentrate to the red-hot metal, then inhaling the resulting smoke. This CNBC report provides further context.
Unfortunately for those that enjoy dabbing, an investigative report by The Oregonian found recently that even concentrates that passed state-mandated testing standards contained pesticide residues. Reporters secret-shopped legal medical cannabis dispensaries in Oregon, purchasing 10 extracted products that were then sent to two independent labs for testing. Of the 10 samples, 8 tested positive for residues of 14 different pesticides, only one of which is approved for use in organic production. 6 of the pesticides discovered are classified as possible or probable carcinogens.