After harvesting and trimming a cannabis garden, a grower is left with two things: well-manicured buds and a bunch of leftover trim material. The manicured buds are already marketable and require no more attention aside from proper curing. The trim material, on the other hand, is not very marketable; however, with a little work and creativity, even trim material can be converted into a number of valuable cannabis products.
To turn this trash into stash, a grower must extract the cannabinoids from the plant material. Thankfully, there is no shortage of extraction methods for cannabis trimmings. In fact, it seems like new methods are continually being discovered.
Before jumping into the extraction game, however, a grower should closely examine some of the different ways to make cannabis extractions. Every method has different advantages and disadvantages, but what it really comes down to is which type of product is desired and the grower’s personal preference.
One of the oldest and most familiar extraction methods for cannabis is making cannabutter, as many of the active cannabinoids found in cannabis are fat-soluble. This means the cannabinoids can be extracted using butter, coconut oil, or any other substance that is comprised mostly of fat.
The most common extraction method used is to slowly cook the cannabis trim material in the butter or oil over a span of several hours. The butter or oil is then strained from the plant material and can be used for cooking, baking, or to simply butter your toast.
Another edible extract commonly made by cannabis growers is tincture, which uses glycerin or alcohol plus heat and time to extract cannabinoids. Once complete, the plant material is removed and you are left with a cannabis-infused glycerin or alcohol that can be ingested.
Instead of edible extracts, many growers wish to create a smokable product from their trim material. Smokeable extracts can be made with or without a solvent. Some of the solvents used in these types of extracts are extremely flammable and this can make the process very dangerous if you do not know what you are doing.
Safety should always be a top priority and growers should avoid making extracts if they are not knowledgeable about the required safety measures. Even when knowledgeable about the process, growers should always take every precaution to ensure the safest work space possible.
Extracting with a Solvent
Extracting cannabis with a solvent can be accomplished in many ways. Many growers invest in a closed or open loop extraction system. These systems generally use butane or propane as the solvent. Other extraction methods use carbon dioxide (CO2), dry ice, or even ice water as the solvent to extract the cannabinoids.
Some of these methods are more efficient at extracting cannabinoids than others. A high-end closed loop extraction system will most likely yield the highest ratio of extract to trim material, but will also be the most expensive system to purchase. In the end, growers should choose a method that they feel safe using and will provide them with enough finished product to feel like it was worth the effort.
Extracting Without a Solvent
Although non-solvent methods will not usually yield as much pure extract as those that use solvents, the ease of use and increased safety are attractive attributes. Sifting trim material with a kief screen to extract trichomes is probably the simplest form of non-solvent extraction. There are even automatic tumblers equipped with kief screens that almost eliminate any labor associated with the process.
After screening the kief, the product can be pressed into hash or used as-is. Using high pressure and heat is another way to extract cannabis without a solvent. The resulting product is referred to as rosin and has become extremely popular due to the fact that it does not contain any solvent residuals.
Cannabis Extracts: Know What You're Buying
Whether extracted with or without a solvent, cannabis extracts are becoming more and more popular for both medicinal and recreational users. While a few are mentioned by name above, here is a more complete list of some common extracts found on the cannabis market:
Cannabutter or Canna-oil − Cannabis-infused butter or coconut oil
Cannabis Tincture − Cannabis-infused alcohol or glycerin
Kief − Trichomes that are separated from the leaf and flower material, usually via specialized filter screens.
Hash − The most common and oldest form of smokable extract. Typically made from pressed kief or dry sieve, or via an ice water extraction process.
Butane Honey Oil (BHO) − BHO is a cannabis extract made using butane as the main solvent. The consistency of the product will further classify it as shatter, budder, honeycomb, crumble, or sap.
Supercritical CO2 Cannabis Oil − Carbon dioxide is a supercritical fluid, which means it converts into a liquid when under extreme pressure. To make this oil, liquid CO2 is inserted into a vessel and pumped through a filter where it is separated from the plant matter once the pressure is released. CO2 extraction methods allow cannabinoids to be extracted with low toxicity.
Rick Simpson Oil (RSO) − Also known as Phoenix Tears, cannabis oil, or hemp oil, RSO is made by cooking cannabis down in a solvent to make a highly concentrated oil. This extract can be smoked, ingested, or applied directly to the skin.
Rosin - Rosin is a solid form of resin that is obtained by using pressure and heat to vaporize volatile liquid terpenes. Essentially, the resinous product is squeezed from your trim material. This extract requires no solvent and is quickly gaining popularity among cannabis enthusiasts and medical marijuana dispensaries.
It cannot be stressed enough that safety should be of the utmost importance when creating cannabis extracts. If you are not knowledgeable about how to properly handle flammable solvents, you should avoid those types of extraction techniques.
No extract is worth injuries or destruction of equipment. However, when done properly, cannabis extractions can help increase a grower’s return on investment by converting trim material into usable, marketable cannabis products.