If you live in state where medicinal or adult-use cannabis is legal, consider yourself lucky. The cornucopia of green available to consumers is more abundant today than any other time in history. Plus, advancements in the cannabis industry are happening as you read these words. Flower enthusiasts see new strains and crosses pop up daily. In the ever-growing concentrate sector, there are higher potency levels and new terms, flavors, and equipment. With all this innovation and selection, however, how do you, as a new cannabis user, decide if flowers or concentrates are for you?
Flower and concentrates overview
Let’s start with concentrates. Technically, concentrates have been around for some time in forms like the famous Afghani finger hash and, more recently, bubble hash. Hashish is an old-school smoker favorite and usually a smoker’s first trip into the concentrate world. But, take a trip down to your local dispensary and you’ll hear newer terms like shatter, wax, crumble, distillate, honeycomb, budder, and live resin. These terms refer to consistency, texture, and method of extraction. So, depending on the processing method, these products may have the consistency of wax, crumble like a cookie, or break like hard candy.
Deciding between all these choices comes down to user preference and, for some, health. The one thing many of these products have in common is the use of solvents such as butane, hydrocarbons, propane, or alcohol in the extraction process to remove the trichomes from flowers (which are then turned into the concentrates). The modern manufacturing processes leave these concentrates mostly, if not wholly, chemical-free once the product hits the retail shelves. Still, for some this may be a concern. Luckily, solventless concentrates that use water or heat (rosin) are becoming increasingly available to consumers.
What about potency? When compared directly to flowers, concentrates pack a more of a punch. In the concentrate world, potency and flavor (more on this later) is the name of the game. It’s a common sight to see concentrates start at 50 per cent and push into the 80 per cent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) range. For those used to smoking flowers or with a lower tolerance, consuming a product with such high potency can be an overwhelming and sometimes negative experience. The key here is to plan your session and go slow.
Speaking of flowers, the most significant differences you need to know are their growing methods (outdoor, indoor, and organic) and the strain’s medicinal effects. Good strains range from 15-25 percent THC, which can be more than enough for most cannabis enthusiasts. Another benefit of flowers is the minimal processing, although consumers should be conscious of chemicals used during the growing process and opt for clean and tested products.
Effects of concentrates
One of the most significant drawbacks for concentrates is most of the aromas and flavors can be lost during the extraction process. The chemicals used to extract THC strip essential terpenes that add medicinal value to cannabis. Because of this, manufacturers have begun to reintroduce these compounds, resulting in an aroma and flavor revolution. Consumers can now find concentrates that rival or surpass even the most flavorful flowers. Still, connoisseurs may feel the full-spectrum flowers lack in today's extracts.
On the flip side, flowers maintain all their original flavors, aromas, and cannabinoids, which, again, add to the medicinal value of cannabis. For example, the terpene Linalool (naturally found in many strains) can enhance the sedating effect of an Indica. While the terpene Limonene can offer an uplifting feeling for its users. As a full-spectrum product, flowers medicinal value is unrivaled in the cannabis industry. But because of the plant material present, they are beginning to take a backseat to the pure flavor of today's extracts.
Convenience of flowers
A large barrier to entry for many consumers is the equipment needed to partake in concentrates. Many dab rigs look like they can also be found in science labs. But is it that difficult or intimidating? Well, that depends on your definition of difficult and how willing you are to try something new.
Compared directly to rolling papers, pipes, and bongs, dab rigs are not convenient. But they’re not meant to be. After hitting a dab in the comfort of your home, you’ll more than likely make a b-line to the fridge then immediately hit the couch. Concentrates, for many, is a calculated knock-out punch, and highly coveted for this trait. Combined with the purer product, you can begin to see the draw for many to the concentrate world.
For those longing for a portable, extract experience, look no further than vape pens. These convenient, discreet, and precisely dosed vape pens combine the benefits of flowers and concentrates, but in a compact form. This product of the extract world has taken off in recent years, catering mainly to on-the-go individuals. Increased manufacturer competition has benefited consumers with increased variety and competitive pricing. Still, even with these advancements, flowers are still king in terms of available selection. But this could soon change.
Economics of buds vs concentrates
Now let's talk about pricing. Because of the extra steps in processing and their increased potency, concentrates can be considerably more expensive than flowers, especially when compared to mid-grade flowers. Regarding potency, an eighth of flower could be equivalent to a gram of concentrate, or a joint to a small dab. Of course, this is dependent on THC content, strain variety, and provider. But this pricing discrepancy is getting closer each day as industry competition increases.
Also, regular users of concentrates may develop a high THC tolerance and need an increasingly larger amount of product to obtain the same effects. This isn't the best for the wallet but can be remedied with light usage and tolerance breaks.
Even with these economic drawbacks, concentrate value cannot be understated. The pure, potent, and quick effects can have significant medical value in treating patients with cancer, epilepsy, and other major chronic diseases. Even the casual user sees the benefits to cost and value, as is evidenced by the rising popularity of concentrates.
Whether your preference is flower or concentrates, get out there and try something new and enjoy the green rush!